Openheartedness

June 15, 2017

Two of the most important experiences of this life is letting another person know us and being known by another. It’s like letting someone come inside and feel like what it’s like to live and be inside our skin.  Be clear, this is no easy journey; in fact, many of us have been taught NOT to let others get that close. Yet, in my opinion, this experience surpasses most others in our life.

Intimacy is much more than having sex; it is risking letting another know what is honestly going on inside us. Couple therapy, when done well, gives partners the opportunity to let protective parts relax back and be openhearted.

There are times when we need to be protective and not be openhearted; these are times when we do not feel safe with those we are around or the time is just not right.  On the whole, the most satisfying relationships are those whose partners can risk being openhearted when feeling safe.

How About a New Way of Having a Conversation?

December 27, 2016

Dr. Croninger recently (late 2016) completed 72 hours of training experience with Toni Herbine-Blank, which focused on helping couples have a new way of having a conversation, whatever the content. Because 80% of disagreements between couples (actually between most persons) often occur because the message sent is not the one received, learning a new way to have a conversation becomes quite important.

Learning how to have an open-hearted conversation with persons close to us increases intimacy (closeness). As couples learn their patterns in conversations, they gain clarity as to how to get more of what they want for their lives. Because all of us have parts (Internal Family Systems), and those parts are often immature or unskilled, our behavior often gets us precisely the opposite of what we desire. As we learn a new way to have a conversation, we strengthen the Self within us, which is seeks to give leadership to all our parts and bring us more of what we want.

Call Dr. Croninger (405-226-8509) to set an appointment so you can receive more of what you want in your important relationships.

What is sex addiction?

April 3, 2016

Sex addiction is both a brain and attachment disorder.

Like when alcohol is consumed and hits the pleasure center of the brain of about 10% of persons, which causes a craving, early sexual experience can operate in a similar way.  Sex addiction, called a process addiction as opposed to a chemical addiction, can be partly driven by cravings in the brain.

This process often works in tandem with another process called attachment disorder.  Research reveals that 80% of sex addicts come from homes that were characterized by being overly protective or overly permissive.  Often in the lives of these children, they hardly had the opportunity to develop a self and discover who lived in their skin. Parents or caregivers either did everything for them or were not available to give them needed direction or protection. Because of these circumstances, a child often grows up unattached to others and, often anxious, depressed, and feeling lost.  When they have their first sexual experiences it brings welcome positive feelings, which they want to see repeated over and over again.  They often think, if a little sex is this much fun, then let’s do this a lot.

Attachment then becomes with sexual experience and not with others in healthy ways.  These kids’ lives are often isolated and filled with finding ways to have sex without having to tell anyone what they are doing.  After a while the guilt shifts to shame and they feel like bad persons; their lives revolve around having sex so they can feel good, all the while seeing their lives spin out of control.

Recovery from this addiction involves asking for help, going to therapy, and attending 12-step recovery meetings.  Since the attachment injury is often so deeply ingrained, the journey in recovery is often 2-5 years, yet quite doable with the help of others.

When there is enough pain a person will often ask for help; this is the beginning of  hope for persons that have often spent years in their addiction.

Two paths to satisfaction

August 10, 2014

There are two common paths that couples face to increase their marital satisfaction.  First, there is the path of learning and practicing tools, like active listening, speaking for self (“I” messages instead of “you” messages), time-outs, and conflict resolution.  As these tools are learned, then practiced, very often marital satisfaction increases.  Just like learning new tools in sports, music, or most any other discipline, these tools improve skill and competency and marriage becomes more fun and and exciting.

The second path is that of identifying hurts and losses and giving opportunity for those hurts and losses to heal.  Facing past traumas and giving them time and energy to heal is a great boost to growing relationships.  Just like a lion with a thorn in the paw, life can be frustrating and relationships raw.  When the thorn is removed, irritations and frustrations are minimized, and relationships have the opportunity to flourish.

Whether you need to learn and practice tools or heal past hurts, or both, greater couple satisfaction and enjoyment can be yours.

 

How to succeed at being highly miserable

January 1, 2014

Recently I read an article by Cloe Madanes, The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People: How to Succeed at Self-Sabotage (Psychotherapy Networker, Nov.-Dec., 2013, pp. 42ff).  What struck me was that if we want to be (and stay) miserable, we can make it happen.

Here’s how to succeed at being highly miserable:

  • Feed your sense of entitlement, never ask for help, stay isolated, take all that is said and done to you personally, and commit to not practicing gratitude.
  • While there are many resources for support all around us, to succeed at being highly miserable you just have to ignore them, make yourself the center of the universe, and do only those things that make you happy.
  • Even though your mind and heart are capable of growth and maturity, choose to allow only those things into your life that bring you pleasure.  Ignore the pain you cause and blame everything wrong on others.
  • Instead of keeping part of your heart open and supple, shut yourself off from everything except your own thoughts and desires.
  • Though you could give to others and relieve their suffering, practice greed and the arrogance that keeps everything you own always in your grasp.
  • Despite the power of hope, never believe things might change and get better.

Yes, practice these principles and you will be quite successful at being highly miserable.

 

 

 

What you feed grows

January 1, 2014

Inside all of us live two natures.  The one we feed is the one that grows.

While there are many parts within, when we work to increase self-energy, we give those parts the opportunity to heal and return to their preferred roles.  When we are wounded, experience losses, are betrayed, abused, or neglected, our self-energy is diminished or even goes into hiding.  When that happens, it like the designated leader abdicates and the children are left to run the home.  While all parts are always welcome and well-intentioned, they are not equipped to lead.  It is important to help our parts heal and invite and strengthen self-energy.  How do we do this?

This brings us to what we feed.  When we feed our fears, feed our isolation by refusing to ask for help, and feed our immature behaviors, we grow deeper into darkness.  We we feed our anger, selfishness, and sense of entitlement, we fall deeper into despair.

Yet, when we feed hope, belief in our God-given goodness, and belief that things can change and we can change, we grow larger.  When we feed the belief that a power greater than ourselves can bring a bright present and future, we grow stronger.  When we feed awareness that when we do our part with openness and honesty  that the outcome will be OK, then we grow in character and integrity.

What are you feeding?

What not to expect from marriage counseling

January 1, 2014

Getting married is easy; staying happily married is hard.  One of the overlooked requirements for getting and staying married is being an adult, which includes the maturity to give and receive.  All healthy relationships reflect the universal law of taking turns.  Just like many of us had the opportunity to learn in kindergarten, everybody gets a turn; none get to eat the whole candy bar; we share.

Don’t expect to enter marriage counseling to get your partner to change.  Enter prepared to make changes yourself.  Actually, whether your partner changes or not is none of your business.  Don’t let the pain keep you focused on blaming.

For each behavior you desire from your partner, be prepared to give your partner their desired behavior.  For each change you desire, be prepared to make a change yourself.   A satisfying marriage relationship calls each partner to make regular deposits in each other’s emotional bank accounts.  When we have sufficient emotional reserves, we can tolerate more frustration and give more grace to those close to us.

Getting married is easy; staying married in a satisfying relationship is effortful; it will make you sweat.  Yet, when we learn effective relational skills and practice them, we grow.  When we get stuck and don’t know what to do next, we ask for help.  All this requires that we be adults who are open to growing and maturing.

 

What if I am a partner of a sex addict?

July 2, 2013

One of the things partners of sex addicts experience is called “gaslighting.”  This is when a sex addict turns all the impact of out of control behavior back on the partner.  When that happens, it is the partner who often feels crazy.   Sex addicts will do most anything to be able to continue acting out and won’t want to disclose their activities unless they are about to lose that which they value the most.

Recovery for both the addict and partner takes time and courage.  As far as the addict goes, he/she must ask for help, enter individual and group therapy, attend 12-step recovery meetings for sex addicts, and, if married, enter marital therapy.  For the partner, if they want to recover from this insidious disease, they, too, must enter therapy and attend a 12-step group for partners. Research has shown that this process takes 2-5 years.  Why does it take so long?  Mainly because sex addiction is not a behavioral disorder, but an attachment disorder that has causes a disruption in the brain.  Sex addiction is a profound boundary failure; it is the loss of control of behavior that has causes great pain, and the addict continues to act out despite the negative consequences.

One of the common things that sex addicts, and often partners, have in common is past trauma.   When a person is traumatized, they tend to “freeze” emotionally.  If they were, say, 10 years old when they experienced a life-changing trauma, their body continues to mature, but they remain 10 years old emotionally until they enter a recovery process.  It is then that they have the opportunity to “thaw” and grow again emotionally.

Partners struggle with trying to understand this disease and attempt to cope with the out-of-control behavior they have been living with.  They have to focus on their own self-care so they can survive the craziness and be there for themselves, their children, and other family members.  They have to challenge their partner (and themselves) to enter a process of disclosure so trust and intimacy can be restored.  It is clear that isolation is the enemy of healing.  Recovery is rooted in the courage to ask for help and follow a courageous path to return from the darkness of addiction.

I encourage you to call me or another CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) or CSAT candidate.  Together, with professionals who know the way, you can find help to heal and recover.

Understanding sexual addition

February 28, 2013

Some many be surprised to learn that sex addiction is not a behavioral problem, but rather an attachment disorder. Just like an alcoholic reaching for a drink, sex addicts use sex to numb feelings and escape from the painful parts of their lives which have resulted from their inability to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships (attachments) with others. Sick, misguided attempts at relationships are traded for healthy ones, and the sexual experience becomes mood altering to the point that, in time, it becomes the central part of the addict’s life. That is why a few sessions of “talk” therapy don’t work.

Perhaps not surprising, trauma is often part of an addict’s background. An original long-term study by sex addition expert Dr. Patrick Carnes showed that 81% of addicts reported being sexually abused. Research has also shown that when family systems are examined more closely, sex addicts often come from families that were rigid and disengaged. Basically that means that rules were in concrete and usually decided by one person, and there was little opportunity for healthy closeness. It seems to make sense that addicts seek what feels good from unhealthy sources because they didn’t learn and had little practice at making healthy connections.

One of the dynamics of sex addiction is that addicts search for “intrigue.” Addicts dissociate from reality (often because of their lack of healthy attachments) and seek something more exciting.

Another interesting piece is related to how an addict’s brain changes when viewing pornography, especially moving pornography. Some studies have indicated that it is not uncommon for children as young as 4 to 8 years old to view these kinds of images for the first time, and the impact on their brains is similar to that of crack cocaine. This leads us to embrace addiction as a brain (as well as an attachment) disorder.

I work at Family Solutions Counseling.  My colleague, Josh Nichols, and I are both Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Candidates and welcome new clients.  We have an ongoing sex addictions therapy group and more are planned for the future.  Contact me or Josh and we will be glad to provide more information or get you enrolled.

Understanding and intimacy

November 4, 2012

One of the most important things that brings us closer to one another is when we feel heard. When conflicts arise we need tools to make sure we clearly hear each other. When we have heard what has been said, then we have a chance to understand and be understood.

Often couples seek agreement in conflict. In reality, we seldom entirely agree with another’s opinions, but we can seek to understand where they are coming from. Most all of us love to talk about our favorite subject (ourselves!) and enjoy it when others give us attention. Even when we disagree with our partner, both benefit from listening to one’s story and how they arrived there. We deepen intimacy (openness to share feelings with one another) when we listen without interrupting.

Another tool that helps us feel closer to our partner is using “I” instead of “you” language. “I” gives our partner the gift of discovering what is going on inside us, while “you” often causes another to feel accused of wrongdoing.

Intimacy is built when we reveal what is going on inside our minds and hearts. Thoughts (from the mind) reveal our opinions while feelings (from the heart) reveal our gladness or sadness or curiosity. We need to hear both from our partner and our partner needs to hear both from us.

Another great tool that works for couples is a simple and effective conflict resolution process. I will show you that nifty tool in my next blog.

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