Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency

Dot is the wife of an alcoholic. When she and her husband met and married, she knew that he drank, but she didn’t know how much, because he kept much of this behavior hidden. As their marriage progressed, she became more aware of his drinking, and she started to find empty pill bottles in the trash — prescription opioids that didn’t belong to her or her husband.

Dot loves her husband and has no interest in leaving him, so she’s done what anyone who loves her partner would do — she’s tried to manage the problem by controlling his drinking and pill abuse and prevent him from driving while intoxicated. Sadly, life for Dot has become less about her needs and more about “managing the situation.”

Despite Dot’s best efforts, her husband recently got arrested for driving while impaired. His attorney encouraged him to get treatment. At the same time, Dot decided to see a therapist for advice on how to help her husband. The therapist heard Dot’s story and immediately said, “Wow, you’re a classic co-addict. You’re an enabler and a caretaker, and you need to go to CoDA (Codependent’s Anonymous) to deal with your problem.”

Guess what? Dot never went back to therapy, and she never went to a CoDA meeting. Instead, she feels hurt, angry, ashamed, and confused about why the therapist blamed her for her husband’s addiction. So instead of seeking support that could help her walk through a difficult time, she has retreated to her marriage, and she now speaks only to her husband about her feelings. Of course, as an addict who is (understandably) keen to maintain the status quo, he is of little help.

Moving Beyond the Codependency Label

Prodependence is a term I have created for use in a forthcoming (2018) book, co-written with Dr. Stefanie Carnes, to help loved ones of addicts. I use this term to describe healthy interdependence in the modern world. Essentially, prodependence occurs when attachment relationships are mutually beneficial — with one person’s strengths filling in the weak points of the other, and vice versa — and this mutual support occurs automatically and without question.

The term prodependence is, rather obviously, a play on an older term with which most readers will probably be familiar — codependence. Codependence occurs when one person tries to control the actions of another, in the guise of helping. so that he or she can feel better about himself or herself and the relationship with that other person.

The codependency concept came into vogue in the mid-1980s, mostly with the publication of three specific books: Janet Woititz’s Adult Children of Alcoholics(1983)1; Robin Norwood’s Women Who Love Too Much (1985)2; and Melody Beattie‘s Codependent No More (1986)3. Based on these works, the 12-step fellowship Codependents Anonymous was born, with its first meeting taking place on October 22, 1986.4

One of the best explanations of the early codependency movement, especially in relation to addictions, appears in the foreword of the 2003 edition of Pia Mellody’s book, Facing Codependence. There, Andrea Wells Miller and J. Keith Miller write:

“It was actually the families of alcoholics and other chemically dependent people who brought [codependency] to the attention of therapists in treatment centers. These family members all seemed to be plagued with intensified feelings of shamefearanger, and pain in their relationships with the alcoholic or addict who was the focal point of their family. … One irrational aspect was that most of the family members had a deluded hope that if they could only be perfect in their ‘relating to’ and “helping” the alcoholic, he or she would become sober — and they, the family members, would be free of their awful shame, pain, fear, and anger.”5

This statement recognizes and summarizes the feelings that many loved ones of addicts experience. They mistakenly think, “If I can just control the other person’s addiction in some way, everything will turn out the way I’d like.” That belief is the crux of codependence in its purest form.

Unfortunately, the concept of codependence has morphed into a negative, pathological-sounding label, indiscriminately applied to almost any person who tries to help an addicted loved one. So instead of being encouraged to care for yourself as well as your addicted loved one, you are encouraged to care for yourself instead of your addicted loved one. Basically, there seems to be a consensus that you really can love and care for someone too much. That is not what the progenitors of the codependence concept intended. But it’s what we’ve got.

Today, if you are the spouse, parentsibling, or friend of an addict, you’ve almost certainly had perfectly loving people tell you to step away from the relationship, to stop rescuing, to stop enabling, to “detach with love,” and to “stop being so codependent.” If you’ve experienced this, you’ve likely asked, “How can I possibly abandon a person I love, especially in his or her time of need?”

Still, plenty of people — family, friends, clergy, and even therapists — will try to convince you that caring about a person you’ve been close to for a very long time (perhaps his or her entire life, if you’re a parent or a sibling) is somehow irrational on your part, and counterproductive for both you and the challenged individual. Very probably, these well-meaning folks have suggested therapy, interventions, and participation in support groups like Al-Anon and CoDA as a way for you to fully and completely detach from what they think is a bad situation that’s taking you away from your own needs, goals, and personal fulfillment, while keeping your loved one mired in the problem.

As an addiction and mental-health treatment specialist who has worked for decades with addicts and their families, I admit that in the past I have espoused this outdated and potentially harmful opinion. This is the stance I was taught to take, both in school and in my continuing professional education. In training I was told, “If a loved one cannot emotionally detach from an active addict, that person will be dragged down into the murky depths of despair. Thus, loved ones must be coached to let go.” So when I saw spouses, family members, and friends refuse to distance themselves from an active addict, I told them they were enmeshed and codependent, and encouraged them to detach.

Unfortunately, this tactic ignores the ways in which human beings are wired for survival.


Human beings are meant to work together, not to go it alone. Think back to prehistoric times when people lived in tribes. If we went hunting, we went in a group; otherwise, we were as likely to be eaten as to eat. And hunting trips could take a very long time, so other members of our tribe stayed behind in the cave and tanned hides to keep the group warm, gathered nuts and berries to eat, collected sticks for fire, and maybe even did some rudimentary farming.

For thousands of years, this type of communal living was our standard for survival and our brains evolved in ways that encourage interpersonal bonding. Thus, we are evolutionarily wired to be dependent upon others. We enter the world reliant on others for shelter, nutrition, and emotional support, and these core requirements do not change as we grow older. What keeps us healthy as infants and children also keeps us healthy as adults.

Yet somehow, as we move into adulthood, our intrinsic need for emotional connection (i.e., love) gets discounted, despite the fact that people who spend their lives “apart from” rather than “a part of” do not function as well as those who feel emotionally connected. In fact, an immense amount of mental and physical health research shows that isolated/separated individuals suffer both emotionally and physically.6 Conversely, people who place a high value on developing and maintaining meaningful connections tend to be happier, more resilient, and more successful.7 They even tend to live longer.8 So, emotionally intimate connections are as essential as more obvious needs like food, water, clean air, and shelter. Without healthy dependency and connection, we may survive physically (for a while), but we won’t be as healthy or as happy as we could be.

Importantly, this deeply ingrained need for emotional connection does not abate simply because a person with whom we feel an intimate bond is challenged with an addiction or some other serious issue.

I think about it this way: If your spouse, child, sibling, or best friend was diagnosed with cancer and needed your help with doctor’s appointments, household chores, and maybe even his or her finances, would you walk away from that person? Most likely not. And nobody would blame you or label you or try to pathologize you for temporarily pushing your own needs to the side. But when you try to help an addict in a similar fashion, people will label you in all sorts of ways—and tell you to stop.

That is the wrong approach. Instead of being confrontational with spouses and others who love and care for addicts, we need to be invitational. We need to meet them where they are and teach them not to walk away, but to support in healthier, more prodependent ways. Rather than preaching detachment and distance over continued bonding and assistance, as so many therapists, self-help books, and 12-step groups do, we should celebrate the human need for and the pursuit of intimate connection, using that as a positive force for change.

Rather than labeling and pathologizing the supporters of challenged individuals when they refuse to abandon their caregiving roles, we should encourage them to continue their pursuit of love and emotional intimacy as best they can. At the same time, we can provide an outline for developing and maintaining healthy, prodependent boundaries — margins within which caregivers can love unconditionally, while not enabling or doing things their loved one could and should be doing for himself or herself. In so doing, we will create a fresh paradigm for useful and healthy support, an evolved prism through which caregivers can examine, evaluate, and improve their daily lives despite the oftentimes debilitating presence of an addiction.

by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S


What Do You Bring to the Dating Table?

Dating can be stressful under the best of circumstances. Despite the glut of advice for relationship seekers, it is as hard as ever to find a long-lasting and compatible partner.

As I listen to stories of sequential failed relationships, it becomes clear to me that many well-intended daters continue to make four significant mistakes: They choose the wrong people; yearn for improbable outcomes; don’t learn from past mistakes; and/or are not able to recognize the early cues that signal they’re on the wrong path.

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Most often, people continue to make these mistakes because they do not have a deep enough understanding of what compels them to act the way they do. They have not known how to access the knowledge of self they need to change.

If you are one of those determined, well-intentioned souls willing to delve more deeply into your relationship psyche, you can gain the information you need by answering these five questions before embarking on a new relationship. If you fully and courageously answer them, you should recognize what drives your behavior in intimate relationships — and more easily understand why your prior presentations have not worked.

Sometimes in the course of digging deeply into these areas, you may find that you negatively judge or blame yourself. To gain self-compassion and the desire to continue searching, refrain from doing that: Guilt and shame are the enemies of transformation.

As you answer the questions, do not be surprised if you begin thinking of others that may be more unique to your own relationships. Take time to answer in detail, and perhaps even return later to add more thoughts and feelings to your original notes. Many of my patients have found that just the process of answering these five questions evokes a desire for more self-exploration. It often becomes a fascinating maze of self-revelation.

1. Who are the people who have affected you most deeply throughout your life, both positively and negatively, and how has that affected your choice of partners?

From the beginning of your awareness, those upon whom you were dependent for survival and approval will have had the most impact on the way you have learned to give and receive love. But anyone who has touched you deeply, even for a short time, can affect those capabilities.

Those impacting interactions, whether short-lived or long-lived, will directly or indirectly change the way you view and experience every succeeding relationship. Those relationships from your past can leave you traumatized and fearful, or strong and resilient. Sometimes their impact can strongly affect the way you respond to people who are similar in your present life.

Make a list of the most significant people who have deeply influenced what you believe about intimate relationships. Then write down next to each how old you were at the time of the encounter; what the nature of the relationship was; and how it has affected your ability to love and be loved in the present.

Then ask yourself if you consciously or unconsciously avoid those kinds of people in your life, seek them out, or allow them to get away with things you would not tolerate in others. Explore in your mind how you might have been changed by knowing them, and how those impressions affect the way you seek and interact in your current relationships.

2. If you could magically put anyone with whom you’ve had an adult, close, intimate relationship in the same room, and they were 100 percent honest, in what ways would they agree with who you were to them, both positively and negatively?

These descriptions might be expressed in several ways:

  • How did they experience you sexually?
  • How did they experience you intellectually?
  • How did they experience you emotionally?
  • How did they experience you spiritually?
  • What did they enjoy most about being with you?
  • How did they wish you’d been different?

Looking at yourself through the subjective lenses of others is not easy, but most of us already have that information somewhere in our hearts and minds — if we’re courageous enough to access it.

In which ways do you agree with this imagined consensus, and in which ways do you see yourself differently? The answers to that will help you understand if you are realistically appraising how you are seen by others.

3. What are the things you fear most in getting close to another person?

Most people believe they know what kind of a partner they want and actively seek those qualities in prospective possibilities. Sadly, when most relationships end, those initial positive qualities are often still intact. What more often causes relationships to die are the fears that arise in each partner as closeness evolves.

Many people are limited by their anticipatory thoughts like:

  • Most relationships don’t work.
  • Human beings are basically untrustworthy.
  • Everyone is out to get as much as he or she can and give as little back as possible.
  • Once people get to really know you, they won’t find you as lovable.

Thoughts like these can kill a potentially good relationship before it gets off the ground. Write down your fears and how they have played out in past relationships. Recall if you saw those fears realized early in the relationship, but were so attracted to the good things that you didn’t pay attention.

Many people are attracted to combinations of good and potentially destructive traits. Often those diabolically different qualities attract us from our memories of childhood nurturers who treated us similarly, yet we were dependent on them for survival and saw it as the way things are supposed to be.

4. What keeps you from breaking the bonds of your past limitations?

The natural way that people learn about the world begins with the experiences and explorations they had as children. Those adventures are often limited and curtailed by people who impose their own biases and prejudices on what you are allowed to do and feel.

Children take in those limitations without questioning, or even understanding them. Fearful of challenging them, most children blindly accept those limited views of reality and do not believe they are changeable. As adults, they unconsciously limit what they see or feel when they are exposed to similar experiences in their relationships.

Everyone must judge whether or not a new partner will be someone worth pursuing. But if that person is seen through a warped lens of stereotype, bias, prejudice, or condemnation, he or she is not likely to even be considered.

Write down what you’ve been taught to judge as impossible, unlikely, undesirable, or unworthy in another person. Those are your inbred dealbreakers. Then consciously challenge those biases, and ask yourself if you still believe as you were taught. If you allow those internal impressions to hold, no matter the actual truth, you will be unable to break out of your own limited love prison.

5. Are your expectations of yourself and potential partners realistic?

There is a fact of the dating world that many relationship seekers cannot come to understand and accept: You can only be as valuable as the current dating market estimates you to be. It takes courage for anyone to realistically evaluate that formula. Current and realistic social marketability may be a painful concept, but it is a truism that cannot be denied. These “markets” do change over time, in different places, and with different social groups. Certain traits go in and out of style, and availability of matched-quality partners often shifts unpredictably. For example, a woman’s age may be a detriment in certain places, but put her in a town with a plethora of unattached men and she will be immediately more valuable without any need to change in any way.

An insecure young man, striving to find his career path, may be unable to compete if the women around him seek someone with a more stable future. Five years later, the women he encounters may be searching for someone who feels passionate about what he does, regardless of how much he earns.

Also, many people are unable to see their own or others’ values clearly in whatever market they are currently competing. Your own level of confidence and self-esteem often affects the way you see a potential partner. If you see yourself as lower in value than you are, you may reach out for less than you deserve. Or if you have an unrealistically inflated value, you may reach for someone who will not respond.

Those who are realistic about their marketability are much more likely to succeed in their relationship search. They also know that being authentic about those qualities early on is more likely to result in a clearer picture of where a relationship is headed.

by Randi Gunther Ph.D.

How to Recover From a Narcissistic Parent


One of the oldest clichés about parenting is that we begin to have newfound respect and compassion for our parents when we raise our own children. If you have chosen to read this post, however, your experience was probably quite different. You likely already had a sense that your parents were odd — unusually self-absorbed and inattentive to your needs — but it wasn’t until you had children of your own that you began to more fully grasp the significance of their indifference. In short, something in the experience of raising children broke through longstanding denial and rationalization to a disturbing realization that you were the victim of profound childhood neglect.

As a clinical psychologist, it has been my experience that while these reactions are deeply unsettling, they can set the stage for self-understanding and even healing.

The past decade has seen an outpouring of research on the profoundly negative psychological effects of childhood neglect, as well as abuse, predisposing victims to adult depressionalcohol abuse, anxiety, suicide, and risky sexual behavior (Norman, et al., 2012). The psychological needs of children can be neglected for all sorts of reasons, including parental addiction, family breakup, poverty, violence, and serious mental illness. But in my experience, the effects of emotional neglect by narcissistic parents are particularly pernicious and difficult to acknowledge, let alone overcome. In part, this is because the neglect is generally rationalized and normalized by the parent in accord with inherent personality characteristics that are extremely confusing to the developing child. Such a child is apt to grow up believing that his or her needs were not important, and that the parent’s treatment was actually appropriate and loving. The child may even engage in self-reproach for feeling a lack of love and appreciation toward the (ostensibly caring) narcissistic parent.

A defining feature of a narcissist is a virtually exclusive attention to and focus on self-inflation or enhancement. The narcissistic personality is organized around the need to deflect, neutralize, or negate a sense of shameful deflation (Zaslav, 2017). We are all familiar with the emotion of shame, a global experience of feeling deficient, damaged, or bad. Unlike guilt, in which regret over actions that may have harmed another can promote efforts to make amends or apologize to the person harmed, the shame experience tends to be private and asocial. The characteristic defenses against shame, such as angerenvy, or blaming others, are fundamentally alienating and expressed through conflict or avoidance (Zaslav, 1998).

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For the narcissist, relationships are dominated by the theme of self-enhancement. They tend to seek out others who will provide attention and admiration. Thus, the other parent may have accommodated to life with the narcissist by learning to promote a stream of inflating input, while protecting and making excuses for his or her vulnerability to criticism. Young children provide little buoying currency for the narcissistic parent. Needy and helpless, the child’s needs may be experienced as a burden. Worse yet, the child’s needs may trigger resentment by reminding the narcissistic parent of what he or she failed to receive in their own childhood.

In a scene of new parents interacting with their newborn child, we witness how successfully evolution has shaped our inherent attention and interest to the needs of our children. Bowlby (1969) emphasized the critical importance of early experiences with caregivers in shaping the future ability to establish relationships and to internalize a stable, positive sense of self — “secure attachment.” Of course, evolution does not demand the impossible. Adequate parenting does not require perfect attunement to the child’s needs. In fact, it is through periodic attunement failures and subsequent repairs that the child develops internal emotional self-regulatory resources (Schore, 2012). But parenting does require a motivation to be interested in, and an ability to empathize with, a child’s needs and reactions.

The narcissistic parent presents several characteristics incompatible with secure attachment scenarios: First, there is simply a lack of motivation or interest in sustaining attention to the child’s needs. With a personality style predominantly hostage to the need to inflate the sense of self, narcissists have little interest in the needs or feelings of others. Further, narcissistic parents lack the empathy or “other-mindedness” (Fonagy, et al., 2005) necessary to understand a child’s needs. The result may be disinterest mixed with anxiety at feelings of inadequacy as a parent. This anxiety will immediately be projected onto the child, who’s seen as overly needy, difficult, and unappreciative of the narcissist’s parenting efforts. For the child, the resulting insecure attachment experiences in the first few years of life may imperil development of optimal self-regulatory capacities. As Schore (2015) summarizes, “Insecure attachment histories are effectively burnt in the infant’s early developing right brain.”

Insecure attachment (e.g., fearful, avoidant, disorganized) may in itself predispose a person to some of the negative outcomes associated with childhood neglect as described above. But it is my clinical experience that we often find subtler, more enduring impacts related to continuing childhood exposure to a family environment organized around narcissistic dynamics. The fundamental principle of the narcissistic milieu is that any dissent from the premise that the parent is healthy and free of fault or deficiency is unacceptable. The developing child gradually becomes aware that the narcissistically organized family psyche will neither acknowledge nor admit the obvious incongruity of his or her perceptions and reactions with the permitted parental narrative. Linehan (1993) has referred to this situation, in which the child’s own experiences and emotions are effectively labeled as wrong or off limits, as an “emotionally invalidating environment.”

The downstream effects of being raised in the emotionally invalidating, narcissistic family environment are myriad, depending upon biology, attachment outcome, gender, and specific developmental experiences. Attention by the narcissistic parent may have varied from overt neglect and lack of interest to intrusive efforts to control the child in accord with the parent’s narcissistic needs. An example of the latter would be to burden the child with the parent’s fears, resentments, or intimate concerns. Invalidation will continue into adulthood. Achievements or accomplishments by the now adult child will go unacknowledged or dismissed to the extent that they elicit the envy of the narcissistic parent. Lack of acknowledgment will accumulate, making it difficult for the adult child to internalize a sense of pride.

In my clinical experience, when adults who were subjected to these forms of neglect and abuse present for psychotherapy, there are generally issues with self-image involving difficulty feeling worthy, cohesive, and whole. There may even be a sense of not really existing at all. There are accompanying highly charged, ambivalent feelings toward the parents. A defining struggle for the adult child of narcissistic parents often centers on the need to find and maintain an optimal level of self-regard. The person may have learned to associate even appropriate and deserved self-esteem with an ugly reminiscence of parental grandiosity they abhor.

If you seek healing from the neglect and trauma of being raised by one or more narcissistic parents, the first step will be to explore your actual developmental history. It is important to note that even if your parents are living and sound of mind, they will likely be of little assistance. Having paid scant attention to your needs, they will produce a highly distorted picture of events, if they even remember them. Therefore, this is where the support of a competent, experienced therapist can be of great value as you identify and confront your actual history of trauma and neglect.

It will probably be necessary for you to relinquish any expectation that your parents will acknowledge any part in your difficulties or change their behavior in any appreciable way. Owing to their need to distort or disavow deflating truths and to turn away from honest self-evaluation (Peck, 1983), their version of events will be dramatically different from your own. But healing will inhere as you begin to dissent from internalized parental invalidation and take ownership of difficulties developed in response to very real childhood neglect. When provided emotional regulation tools, and through modeling of self-compassion absent during childhood, psychotherapy can be enormously beneficial in helping resolve the conflicts naturally resulting from childhood trauma. In turn, you will become a more available, loving parent and role model to your own children.

by Mark Zaslav, Ph.D.


5 Teen Behavior Problems: A Troubleshooting Guide

To be fair, no one has ever pretended that parenting a teenager was going to be easy. Still, until your own kids reach that stage, it’s tempting to believe your family will be immune to teen behavior problems. No, you tell yourself, your teenager will never talk back, stay out too late or pierce her eyebrow.Dream on.

Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents, says Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively,” he explains. “It’s the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. With the right approach, you can troubleshoot the following teen behavior problems in a relatively civilized fashion.

Teen Behavior Problem 1:

Your Teen Seems To Hate You

One minute your sweet child is begging you to come on the class trip or to lie down with her while she falls asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, she starts treating you like dirt, discounting everything you say and snickering at your suggestions. If you look closely, you’ll see that you’ve been through this before, when she was a toddler — only instead of shouting “no!” like a two-year-old would, a teenager simply rolls her eyes in disgust.

“It’s so hard for parents when this happens,” says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a psychologist specializing in kids and families at Emory University in Atlanta. “But part of adolescence is about separating and individuating, and many kids need to reject their parents in order to find their own identities.” Teens focus on their friends more than on their families, which is normal too.

Teen Behavior Problem 2:

Communication Devices Rule Their Lives

It’s ironic that teenage forms of communication like instant messaging, texting, and talking on cell phones make them less communicative, at least with the people they live with. In today’s world, though, forbidding all use of electronic devices is not only unrealistic, but unkind. “Being networked with their friends is critical to most teens,” says Goldman.

Your Solution

Look at the big picture, advises Susan Bartell, PhD, an adolescent psychologist in New York. If your child is functioning well in school, doing his chores at home and not completely retreating from family life, it’s probably best to “lay off.” It’s also OK to set reasonable limits, such as no “texting” or cell phone calls during dinner. Some parents prefer not to let teens have computers in their rooms, since it makes it harder to supervise computer usage, and this is perfectly reasonable. Many experts also suggest establishing a rule that the computer has to be off at least one hour before bedtime, as a way to ensure that teens get more sleep.

One good way to limit how many minutes your teen spends talking on his cell and texting: Require him to pay his own cell phone bills. And do your best to monitor what your child does when he’s online, particularly if he or she is using networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. You still own the home and computer — so check into parental Internet controls and software to monitor use of any questionable web sites.

Your Solution

Sometimes parents feel so hurt by their teens’ treatment that they respond by returning the rejection — which is a mistake. “Teenagers know that they still need their parents even if they can’t admit it,” says Goldman. “The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they’re feeling internally.” As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.

But no one’s saying your teen should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you; when this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. One solution is the good, old-fashioned approach of: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” By letting your teenager know that you’re here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he’ll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while, which is a rare treat.

Teen Behavior Problem 3:

Staying Out Too Late

It’s 10:30 p.m. and you told your daughter to be home by 10 p.m. Why does she ignore your curfew again and again?

“Part of what teens do is test limits,” explains Goldman. “But the fact is that they actually want limits, so parents need to keep setting them.”

Your Solution

Do some research before insisting that your child respect your curfew because it’s possible that yours is unreasonable. Call a few of your kids’ friends’ parents and find out when they expect their kids home. Goldman suggests giving kids a 10-minute grace period, and if they defy that, to set consequences — such as no going out at night for a week.

If it seems like your child is staying out late because she’s up to no good, or doesn’t feel happy at home, then you need to talk with her and figure out what might be going on. However, if your curfew is in line with what’s typical in your teen’s crowd, then it’s time to set consequences and then enforce them if your teen continues to break your rules. When you make a rule, you have to mean it. You can’t bluff teenagers — they will always call you on it.

Teen Behavior Problem 4:

Hanging Out with Kids You Don’t Like

You wince every time your son traipses through the door with his greasy-haired, noisy buddies. Should you suck it up, or say something?

Your Solution

Kids can wear weird clothes, pierce their lips, act rudely and still be decent kids, says Bartell, who advises parents to hold off on criticizing something as superficial as fashion in their kids’ friends. “Teenagers are so attached to their friends that it’s like criticizing them directly.”

On the other hand, if you know that your child has taken up with a group of troubled teens who skip school and do drugs, a talk is in order. “Without putting him on the defensive, tell your child you’re concerned about who he’s hanging out with and that you’re worried he’s doing drugs,” says Bartell. While you can’t forbid your child to hang around with certain kids, you can intervene and try to nip dangerous behaviors in the bud. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help about hanging out with a crowd engaged in negative behavior. Counseling or family therapy can help.

Teen Behavior Problem 5:

Everything’s a Drama

Every little thing seems to set your daughter off lately, and the more you try to help, the more she sobs or shouts or slams the door.

Part of being a teenager is feeling things intensely, so what may seem like no big deal to you is hugely important to her.

Your Solution

Parents tend to trivialize the importance of things in teenagers’ lives, says Bartell: “What happens is that kids feel misunderstood, and eventually they will stop telling you anything. Right now it is the most important thing in the world that her best friend is flirting with her boyfriend, and you need to take it seriously.”

Don’t offer advice, disparage her friends or try to minimize it by saying that one day she’ll see how silly high school romances are. “Just listen and sympathize,” says Bartell. And put yourself in her position — because, after all, you were once there yourself.

 Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 22, 2011

Needing to Win — Ten Mean Fighting Strategies


All intimate partners have conflict from time to time. When people blend their lives together, they are bound to see some situations differently and need to resolve those differences. Disagreements are stressful for everyone and, depending on how partners treat each other during conflicts, they will either bring a couple closer together or increase the emotional distance between them.

Disputes that lead to greater understanding and new perspectives can actually increase excitement and continuing discovery in a committed relationship. Romantic partners who have learned how to argue productively while maintaining respect for each other can create a new emotional universe that neither could have created alone.

In contrast, many partners fight in ways that consistently hurt their relationship. One or both become need-to-win combatants, establishing a superior position at the expense of their partner’s. As disagreements escalate, they use any behaviors and strategies they can muster to win the argument. The result of these adversarial styles is often mutual isolation, unresolved anger, and painful wounds.

Need-to-win fighting styles are often unconscious behaviors learned in childhood that continue in subsequent relationships. Many are not even aware of when or where they learned to fight this way, or why they continue to do so. They can easily see that they are having difficulty resolving their disputes, but they have not connected their need-to-win fighting style with their lack of successful outcomes.

In the four decades, I’ve worked with couples in relationship distress, I have witnessed this destructive fighting style in many forms, but 10 appear most often. When I point these out to couples as I see them emerge in their interactions, they are often surprised to see that the way they fight is the actual reason they fail to resolve their disagreements. When they understand that a different way of handling disputes can turn them from combatants to an effective debate team, they are often enthusiastic to learn how. And as they become a mutually supportive team, they begin to come up with innovative solutions to problems they had never been able to resolve.

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The 10 Most Common Need-to-Win Fighting Styles

1. The Silent Treatment

Often accompanied by crossed arms and a supercilious expression, the silent treatment is one fighting style designed to get the other partner to expose his or her thoughts and feelings without doing so yourself. As the silent partner stays disconnected, the other’s distress tends to escalate, giving the winning edge to the one who stays hidden.

2. Invalidation

When feeling attacked or unnerved, many people fight back by challenging and devaluating any reasons the other partner has for feeling the way he or she does. These focused fighters often bring in other people’s confirmations of their own point of view to beef up their position, or go after the ways their partner has failed in the past. The goal is to create self-doubt in the other person.

3. Escalation

In most relationships, one partner tends to be more dominant, more able to be direct and stronger in the way he or she feels and thinks. These people are often in relationships with partners who tend to be quieter, more methodical, and more reflective before they voice their opinions. When these couples argue, the need-to-win dominant partner is highly likely to use powerful and intense energy to escalate the argument into greater emotional intensity. The other partner’s ability to fight back is quickly overpowered.

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4. Piling on Other Issues

When need-to-win partners feel that they might be losing an argument, they often respond by diverting their opponents with other issues. They may do so by rehashing the past, talking about other problems, or trying to get the other partner to focus on his or her own flaws. The goal of bringing up additional issues is to confuse the one at hand by overloading the situation with past conflicts that are not pertinent at the time. When this strategy works, the other partner cannot stay on point and is unable to resolve the initial issue.

5. Character Assassination

When they feel cornered and losing, many need-to-win fighters resort to this effective but terribly destructive response. Instead of sticking to the situation at hand, they challenge the other partner as to how he or she is basically flawed in some way, using every example they can to drive home their point. They attempt to convince the other partner that their core personality deficits make them unworthy of challenging the issue at hand, or any other issue. The response of the accused is usually feeling as if he or she is on a symbolic witness stand, defending those painful devaluing judgments.

6. Arguing From a Distance

The farther away partners are from each other during a conflict, the easier it is for either of them to hurl accusations and insults without feeling responsible for the effect on the other. The distance also allows the need-to-win partner who claims it to more easily assess the weakness of the other, and to take a more protected stance. It also can alleviate guilt, because the intimacy of closeness is diluted and responsibility for causing pain is easier to ignore.

7. Hitting Below the Belt

During any disagreement, partners who care for each other know what they can use in an argument and what they should never say no matter how heated the conflict becomes. They trust each other to never use the special knowledge they have of each other’s deepest vulnerabilities to win an argument. The most serious and relationship-destructive conflicts occur when one or both partners break that trust by using the information they know about the other to gain an unfair advantage in a confrontation.

8. Martyrdom

An insidious but often effective strategy to win a fight is to begin beating oneself up on the other end of any accusation or challenge, and then blaming the other partner for the exaggerated self-destruction. These kinds of fighters act as if the other’s accusations were much worse than they were intended in order to make the attacking partner feel guilty and then back down.

9. Intimidation

In any committed relationship, threats of abandonment, exile, and escalated aggressiveness are needing-to-win fighting styles that are intended to make the other partner feel insecure and fearful of loss. The goal is to use that response to have him or her focus on what could be lost if the fight continues.

10. Feigned Indifference to Outcome

Whether they feel differently inside or not, partners who pretend they don’t care about whether they win or lose can actually win an argument by acting as if they are giving in without really agreeing. The other partners can feel the ruse and know that they have essentially been robbed of power or influence by the “playing dead” posture of the other.

Moving Forward, Together

None of these fighting styles will ever lead to productive resolution of conflict. Rather than listening, respecting, or being open to each other’s experience, partners will continue to see only their own positions and do whatever they can to wipe out the other’s reasonableness. The arguments that ensue from these battles create deepening grooves of resentment that become harder to overcome over time. Once these styles are identified and stopped, couples can begin to deal with conflict in more productive ways. There are multiple sources available to help intimate partners learn how to fight productively. The following is a simple synthesis of the wealth of knowledge in this area.

7 Simple Rules to Begin Changing Negative Conflict

1. Avoid arguing at all if you are tired, frustrated, or there isn’t enough time to adequately resolve the situation.

2. Sit close to one another, preferably physically touching in some way.

3. Listen completely to the other’s point of view. Support does not mean you have to see things the same way.

4. Argue only one issue at a time. If others get brought up, agree to talk about them separately and only after you resolve the one at hand.

5. Don’t add support to your position by using your partner’s opinions or past arguments to bolster your argument.

6. Stop the conflict if either of you escalates the need to win.

7. If you cannot stop from employing a needing-to-win style when you disagree, seek out the support of a mutually respected professional or trusted witness to observe.

Following these guidelines may initially seem hard, but it gets easier over time. The compounding rewards encourage most couples to continue practicing them. Disagreements that are handled with mutual respect and support both enhance and strengthen the connection between the partners in committed relationships. My clients who have left a negative combat style behind and practiced this new way of conflict resolution not only have fewer conflicts and more successful results, but heal more rapidly when they do disagree.


The Psychosocial Risks of Social Media and the Internet

As we approach just over a decade from the founding of and the rise of social media, we still seem to be plowing ahead in uncharted territory with regard to the psychological dynamics of this human experiment in action. Mainstream psychology and research seem to be barely catching up with the mental fallout from this tidal wave of technology-driven activity, even as it upends and influences our society in unexpected direction, such as the recent election and effects on everything from the media, , shopping, music, etc.

On the positive side, the internet economy and social media have permitted connections and free flow of ideas that were never possible to this vast extent before. Initially it felt like a democratizing force, where anyone who wanted a say could have a say, could put forth blogs, videos, businesses, and more.

But there has been a dark side as well to social media and the internet; at times it has felt anarchic and shadowy, where people can also hide behind the anonymity of an online avatar to enact mischief. There has been a disinhibiting effect to this avatar universe; people who perhaps in real life feel more bound to social convention or are held more accountable go “wild” online.

On the good side, people may become less “shy” online and can connect with others they normally wouldn’t meet; this can be helpful to people with or other conditions that affect their in-person interactions. On the bad side, people may feel free to indulge in malice or mischief without of direct disapproval or consequence; they may be more ready to engage in or deceit or other toxic behaviors. “Trolling” is one well-established behavior now, epitomized by recent episodes of South Park where a mild-mannered lawyer father secretly becomes the world’s most notorious troll when he harasses and slanders others with hate speech and more. Trolls are felt to be attention-seeking malcontents who get a rise out of provoking others with socially unacceptable or hostile comments. Comments sections of most media publications are riddled with trolling behaviors and have become a major dilemma for editors; where to draw the line with free speech.

Even beyond frank trolling, the of internet communication allows for heightened and heated opinions and conflicts, leading to amplification and polarization of viewpoints at times. Some have postulated that the recent presidential election may have been influenced by this social media polarization. Aggravating matters is the clickbait media economy, where provocative stories in all major media outlets induce “clicks” which drive revenue. Even worse are sites that serve up “fake news” where misleading or even frankly erroneous stories are circulated as is. Overall, the information online becomes gasoline to the flames of human and anxiety—tendencies that can and have been manipulated by people recognizing those trends.

Another behavioral factor being manipulated by some is the addictive nature of social media; the instant gratification that the internet provides can be highly alluring. Right away, at a moment’s notice, you can go online and access people’s commentary, videos, postings, all of which gives one an instant source of stimulation and interaction. This interaction can certainly be pleasant and positive, but when it turns into excessive distractions from real-life activities or interactions, the constant stream of stimuli may not be a great thing. And social pleasantries as mentioned before can turn on a dime into heated conflicts and arguments, or overexposure to news or events, all of which can quickly turn into dangerous emotional strain and toxicity. Social media amplifies human nature, which can become dark and stressful when its worse tendencies are encountered. Some recent studies and reports indicate that social media may worsen and for some vulnerable individuals.

Overall, pundits and researchers need to continue to step back and examine the overarching psychological fallout and tendencies of the rapidly growing internet and social media universe, and provide caution as needed to the public. In many ways, this new world can be a force for good, for the best aspects of community building, opportunity, and human connection. But the power of social media and its influence on the human psyche cannot be underestimated or ignored as well; we need to stay vigilant towards its negative effects and how human social tendencies can be manipulated or mislead towards darker ends by its capabilities.

5 Ways our Culture is Grooming Your Daughter for Porn

Whether your daughter is seven years old or seventeen, our culture is grooming her for an appetite for pornography. If you have a daughter or know someone who does, listen up.

Millions of well meaning parents have a sincere desire to protect their daughters from pornography. They check their daughters’ Internet history and even install protective filters, thinking they’re in the clear.

However, if you’ve believed the lie that pornography is something hidden in the deepest corners of the Internet, you’ve been duped.

Long before your daughter is ever exposed to a pornographic site, she has already gone through years of soft porn grooming. As a woman not too far past my teen years, I know this first hand.

We often think of porn as being some form of intense adult content only targeted at men…but it’s not.

With your daughter in mind, listen to how the dictionary describes porn:

“Sexually explicit videos, photographs, writings, or the like, produced to elicit sexual arousal.”

Did you catch that last part? “Produced to elicit sexual arousal.” How many mainstream movies, songs, books, TV shows, and magazines are created to elicit sexual arousal? Try…a large majority of them.

If your daughter is the the habit of watching mainstream TV shows, secular music videos, reading magazines like Glamour or Cosmo, and shopping at the mall regularly, she is being groomed for an appetite for porn. Welcome to the 21st century.

Your daughter’s innocent mind is being slowly desensitized one day at a time. If you want to spare your daughter from a future porn addiction, you have to do way more than guard her from the “biggies.” It’s the little things that will get her today.

Here are 5 subtle ways our culture is grooming your daughter for porn:

1. Mainstream Movies

When your daughter is little, Hollywood tells her that true love is nothing more than butterflies and happily ever afters. But, when she hits her teen years, true love is portrayed as steamy sex scenes and one night stands.

Chick flicks are a huge culprit and they’re targeted at your daughter. Many of these movies are filled with glorified premarital sex scenes, steamy adultery, sexual innuendos, and nudity. “Eliciting sexual arousal” is an obvious goal.

Every time your daughter watches these so-called “innocent” movies, her conscience and sensitivity to purity and morality is weakened. Her view of sex is watered down. She is one step closer to viewing porn as a harmless pleasure.

2. Secular Magazines

I was chatting with a young mom recently who shared with me how destructive Cosmo magazine had been on her as a teen. She said, “I read that garbage and soaked up their worldview about love, sex, and happiness. As a result, I moved into my adult years with an extremely distorted worldview about sex.”

Magazines like Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour, and others are targeted at young single women. These magazines are filled with raunchy (premarital) sex advice, scandalous images, and dirty secrets. Nothing will groom your daughter’s appetite for porn quicker than reading this trashy material. “Eliciting sexual arousal” is an obvious goal.

The more she reads, the more her sexual compass is weakened. She is one step closer to viewing porn as a “harmless pleasure.”

3. Music Videos

Music used to be an experience for the ears. Not anymore. Music videos are now an extremely popular form of entertainment for young people. If you think your daughter is watching harmless videos on MTV or YouTube, think again.

Music videos aren’t about the music anymore…they’re about the sexualized dance moves and seductive clothing. If your daughter is a fan of singers like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, and Rihanna, she is undoubtedly watching their music videos. And these videos are bad news. From total nudity to illicit sex moves, your daughter is being exposed to soft porn.

Every time she fills her mind with these raunchy and illicit videos, she is unknowingly building a craving for more. Diving headfirst into heavy pornography would not feel that extreme to her anymore.

4. Romance Novels

Girls are dreamers. We love imagination. We flock to “love stories.” Romance novels are written with the female gender in mind. They’re written in a way that draws the reader in and provokes her to vicariously experience what’s happening.

Secular romance novels (and some Christian) are written with the purposeful intent to “elicit sexual arousal.” I’ve heard it said many times that romance novels are porn for females. The recent mainstream acceptance of erotic books like Fifty Shades of Grey is as close as it gets to reading porn. If your daughter enjoys reading, there’s a good chance some of her friends have passed a copy of this terrible book her way.

Reading this explicit material will pollute her mind and leave your daughter with a strong desire for darker and heavier content. Romance novels and erotica push your daughter one step closer to falling into a porn addiction.

5. Social Media

If you have a daughter over 12 years old, chances are she’s on social media.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) have a good side and a dark side. Unfortunately, there’s not a large chasm separating the two.

I have personally, and unintentionally, stumbled across nude and highly provocative images on several of these platforms. I was innocently going about my normal business, clicked on an innocent hashtag, and wham. I was shocked.

If you think all social media sites are safe, think again. It’s extremely easy to stumble across sensual, sexualized and even nude images. All it takes for your daughter is a little exposure to create an instant curiosity and appetite for more.

By seeing these unhealthy images on a regular basis, your daughter is unknowingly taught that it’s normal to see naked/half-naked people. And if she’s “accidentally” exposed to heavy porn one day, she will have been well groomed to receive it.

Living in a raunchy, sensual, and over sexualized culture isn’t easy.Especially for those who are trying to raise children.

I hope you can see that it’s not just the “biggies” that you need to be concerned about for your daughter, but all of the many little things that groom her appetite every day. If your daughter has a personal cell phone with Internet access, that’s most likely where most of her unhealthy sexual exposure will come from. And before you write off you daughter as being “smarter than that” or “wise enough to make good choices,” check these out:

  • “In a 2010 national survey, over a quarter of 16 to 17 year olds said they were exposed to nudity online when they did not want to see it. In addition 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a ‘sext’ (a sexually explicit text message).”*
  • “After an analysis of more than one million hits to Google’s mobile search sites, more than 1 in 5 searches are for pornography on mobile devices.”*
  • “More than 7 out of 10 teens hide their online behavior from their parents in some way.”*

So with all of this information in mind, what’s the solution? Hide your daughter in a box? Keep her away from all technology. Make her wear a blindfold? Probably not. The solution starts with your relationship with your daughter.

She needs you to guide her and protect her as you see appropriate for her age and season of life. She needs you to proactively set boundaries for her and lovingly hold her accountable. She needs you educate her on the dangers of porn and help her build a worldview that’s in alignment with God’s plan for sex. She needs your tough love to put your foot down and say, “no, you can’t watch that movie and here’s why.” These are some of the best ways you can help your daughter avoid getting groomed for porn.

I would love to hear from you now. Do you have a daughter or know someone who does? In what ways do you see the culture grooming her for porn? What solutions have you come up with to protect her from this sexual onslaught?

* Source: “Get the Latest Pornography Statistics · by Kristen Clark · July 28, 2015

Linking Attachment Issues & Addiction Issues: An Interview with Dr. Susan Johnson


In 2008, Dr. Susan Johnson, published her groundbreaking book, Hold Me Tight, bringing the concept of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a treatment approach she’d been developing for more than 20 years, to the masses. For me, this was a was an “our world has shifted” moment, as it crystallized and codified a methodology for couples and family therapy that made perfect sense to me and worked beautifully with my clients.

As my practice has always focused on intimacy issues and addictions (which I view as intimacy issues), learning about Sue’s approach to healing within relationships – an approach that does not push partners and addicts into the self-reliance trap, and asks them instead to work together for the betterment of all concerned – was a welcome relief. Recently, as part of my research for a new book of my own, I was able to converse with Sue about EFT, its development, and its role in the treatment of addictions. I have decided to share a portion of that discussion below, in Q&A format, as other clinicians (and laypeople) are likely to find it both interesting and enlightening.

Can you talk in a general way about EFT, including the basics of what it is and how/why you developed this approach?

Emotionally Focused Couple and Family Therapy is a treatment methodology that shows the best outcomes of any intervention for troubled relationships. And these outcomes appear to last! You can look on the EFT website,, for a summary of the many research studies and articles showing the efficacy of this approach.

EFT does not teach communication skills or give advice. It basically sets out clearly how partners trigger each other, lose their emotional balance, and pull each other into an escalating dance of emotional disconnection. EFT therapists understand the dynamics of distress and, because we have learned how to work with emotional signals, we know how to help troubled couples change their emotions – the music of their dance. When the emotional music changes, they can move together in new ways.

EFT is also the only approach to couple and family therapy based on a clear and scientific understanding of adult love – why it matters so much, and what is needed to make it work and last. EFT understands that love is not just about sentiment and sex. It is an ancient, wired-in survival code designed to keep a few people you can really count on close so they are there when you are vulnerable and need support. This longing for connection is wired into our nervous system, and when partners can be attuned and emotionally responsive to each other in what we call “Hold Me Tight conversations,” they can deal with almost any personal differences and stressors. This scientific approach to love allows us to be on target and to help people actively shape their love relationships.

In Hold Me Tight, you write about resistance within the treatment field to the idea of EFT, in particular the belief that only dysfunctional people need or depend on others (leading to terms like enmeshed, codependent, merged, and fused). Has the field come around in recent years, or do you still encounter this resistance?

One of the blocks to the acceptance of EFT was the belief that adults should NOT need each other, that they should be self-sufficient, that it is a weakness to need others, so we should not be helping people learn how to reach for each other and pull each other close. However, the new science lays out just what constructive dependency looks like and how secure emotional connection makes us stronger, more resilient, and more confident, and creates a stronger sense of self within us. When we are valued by and can count on others, we move out into the world with more assurance. We can explore with confidence.

People now understand more about healthy attachment, so there is not that much resistance. Still, there are some folks who persist in believing that we must always stand on our own two feet and we should deal with difficulties by ourselves, despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. What they see as pathological neediness, I see as people desperately trying to get others to respond to them but not knowing how to reach out effectively.

In my experience, most addicts (and maybe most people in general) would rather eat dirt than ask for help, even after they’ve repeatedly tried and failed to stay sober on their own. When you face this type of resistance with your clients, how do you handle it?

Unfortunately, our society has taught people to be ashamed of their need for the support and care of others. When this comes up with clients, we validate that someone taught them this, that someone taught them to deny their wired-in natural need for others. We help them access their fear of this need and their expectations about what will happen if they let others see their soft places. We normalize this need. We let them know that the human nervous system was designed reflecting the fact that we are born and remain oh so vulnerable, and we stay this way for much longer than other species. We are not designed for splendid isolation but for connection with others. To counter this shame and fear, clients need a direct and real experience of allowing themselves to be vulnerable and showing this to another human being who then responds with caring. We try to create this experience with EFT.

Traditionally, partners of people who struggle with addiction (or some other disorder) are told they should “detach with love.” Your EFT approach is very different. Instead of labeling loved ones as enmeshed or codependent and urging them to detach, you encourage them to become more emotionally connected, but to do so productively. Can you describe this, also talking about why it is so much more successful than the traditional approach?

Teaching people to detach and face the dragon of addiction alone is a mistake. The natural place for us to deal with our hurts, fears, and vulnerability – all of which lie at the heart of most addictions – is WITH responsive others. Safe connection with another tranquilizes our nervous system. The fear here is that non-addicted partners might, to keep the relationship with the addict intact, encourage the addiction rather than confront it. And in some relationships this can happen. But the answer to this is NOT to promote what we call avoidant attachment, thereby insisting that addicts face the hurts that turned them to addiction without support.

In a sense, addiction is a desperate replacement for the natural way we have of dealing with difficult feelings – by turning to others. Instead of becoming vulnerable in that way, addicts get high as a way of avoiding that very natural need. When people learn to stand together, however, they help each other keep their emotional balance. As a result, they are much more effective in problem solving and dealing with painful issues.

This sense of secure attachment, where individuals can turn to others as a safe haven and to provide a secure base that allows for resilient coping in the world, is the ultimate goal of EFT. This kind of bond makes people stronger and less vulnerable to becoming caught in the web of addictive substances and activities. Essentially, secure attachment fosters a positive and functional way of dealing with our hunger for comfort, positive emotions and sensations, soothing and relief from pain, and a sense of ourselves as valuable and strong. As such, it could perhaps be thought of as an antidote to addiction.

In my experience, and as you mention above, some partners of addicts truly mean well, but they try to do too much, which helps neither the addict nor the loved one (which is probably why so many partners are labeled as codependent). In your work, how do you help these individuals define, set, and stick to appropriate, useful boundaries that support but don’t enable? And how do you help their addicted partners respect these new boundaries?

You are talking here about how we help partners who, in their anxiety and caring, end up rescuing the addict in ways that prevent the addict from growing beyond the addiction. If we see this, we do what we always do in EFT: We reflect this dance, we help them deal with their anxiety about setting limits, and we let them know that they and the addict can learn constructive dependency habits rather than simply living in the addiction. We guide them from negative patterns of blaming and withdrawing into more secure connection, where the addict and the partner can respond to each other in ways that make the addiction or the partner’s indirect support of the addiction – a protection that has become a prison – irrelevant.

As one addict told his wife in a final session, “I never knew how to be close, how to show anyone what I need, or that what I needed was okay. Now that we can do this, I never want to let it go. I am not going to let a bottle come between me and you, between me and what we have. I don’t need the bottle when I have you. You were right to tell me to choose between my affair with booze and you. I choose you.”

Put another way, people become addicted when there is no safe haven with others on offer. They have to find an alternative way to calm their panic and pain and bring themselves into the light for a moment. Once you have this kind of habit – alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or any other addiction – you will not let go unless there is a better way, a way that answers your need for connection with others. So trying to change addiction without building the addict’s attachment relationships is like trying to drive a car that has no wheels. Difficult. We are social bonding animals, and the best remedies for our struggles acknowledge this and use the power of relationships to help us heal. · by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Has your porn addiction made you absent?

Louise worried her husband was way too busy and buried in work. She had more than noticed that he stayed in his home office most of the evening and late into the night, even after she went to bed. She felt there was almost a vacuum where her husband should have been. So she shared her feelings with Tom. He told her that he was working on an important project. For six months? Really?

Folks, if you have been where I have, down in the pit with pornography, or you know someone who was, then you have a pretty good idea of exactly what Tom was doing and looking at, and it had nothing to do with his job.

Pornography is an insidious snare–a snare that Tom fell into and couldn’t get out. Men, the pull of pornography is like a creeping plague–a powerful drug. Do it once, we think it’s okay. Do it twice, and we’re hooked. We are sucked in and trapped before we know what happened.

Pornography enslaves and then destroys! Christians, I cannot tell you how many men I have worked with who were in the same fix as Tom. And although he went to great lengths to conceal his misdeeds by keeping the door closed, constantly deleting history and cookies from his PC, quickly shrinking the image on his monitor at any inkling of someone approaching, she will find out. Be assured, she will.

If Tom was fortunate and had a truly forgiving wife in Louise, he might not receive the same treatment that a popular television psychologist so often prescribes, that is, “Kick his butt to the curb.” Oh! So many divorces result from just this one obsession.

Ways porn can damage your marriage

Please mentally weigh this–when we husbands are so “absent” while having sex with ourselves or the women in those images, our wives know that something is terribly wrong. They know! They just can’t identify the culprit.

Wives miss all the things that a loving husband can give, i.e., his attention, his affection, his honor, his affirmation, his loving touch, his listening ear, his romancing, his intimacy, his caring. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, how could we possibly make her feel secure in our love? But in that scenario, we are so gripped by our love of porn and of self that we have nothing to give her.

I promise you that the plague of pornography can only lead to crushing ruin. I’ve already mentioned divorce. Many such addicts have lost their jobs, gone to prison, had to step down from the ministry, and more. How do I know? I have talked with these men and counseled them, one-on-one, during the past fourteen years–more than four thousand men, each with his own story of destruction through the cancer of pornography and its seeming irresistible attraction.

How we can begin the freedom journey

Admittedly, we’re not going to get porn removed from the Internet or anywhere else, at least not by next Tuesday. The world does not have Christian values. And our church is not in charge of the media. But individually, we can confront this enemy. If we are even slightly tempted to go there, there is hope for each of us. Here is a way to start:

1. Cut off access to porn on your various electronic devices. That’s what Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering is for, right? That would be a strong beginning. The Filter will help block access to pornography, and the Internet use reports can be sent to a trusted friend or mentor to help keep you on track on your journey toward freedom.

2. Get help! Talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. Search the Internet for ministries that help with sexual addiction. Yes, addiction. If you are looking at porn once a week or more, you are hooked. Please do not believe the lie, “I can stop anytime I want.” Get help!

There are lots of Tom’s out there, and Joe’s and Larry’s, who have their own stories and struggles with porn. It’s time to get going and do something about it! · by Guest Author · December 14, 2016

Warning: May Cause Erectile Dysfunction

One of the questions I get asked all the time is why are there so many guys out there interested in quitting their porn habit. In today’s culture, it’s pretty much expected that men will watch porn. But several years ago, GQ magazine ran a thought-provoking article about a community on called NoFap, which is a online community of mostly men who’re challenging each other to put away porn and masturbation from their lives.

What’s interesting about this subreddit is that this group wasn’t originally formed because these guys had a moral problem with porn, but because they had a biological problem with it. A lot of these guys had developed what doctors call “Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction,” which basically means they can get physically aroused by porn and only porn. They might be with their wife or girlfriend, trying to get an erection or trying to climax, but they can’t do it. As of making this video, the subreddit now has over 170,000 members in it.

Consider the stats. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health¹, about 30% of young guys have E.D. The Journal of Sexual Medicine² says one in four guys who are seeking medical help for E.D. are now under 40 years old. Urologists are saying this is a major shift compared to a generation ago, because not only are these generally healthy men too young to be seeing E.D. problem, but also these patients aren’t responding to E.D. medications.

What’s interesting, though, is that quitting porn and masturbation helps these guys. Why? Because the problem isn’t in the penis, but in the brain.

Now, I did a whole video about how porn impacts the brain, so I won’t repeat everything I said in that video, but we now know from neuroscientific studies that porn does impact the brain in a big way, which can lead to sexual health problems.

One study from Cambridge University³ found that among guys who are porn addicted, “as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials [subjects] experienced diminished libido or erectile function.” Even among guys who aren’t verifiably addicted there are negative impacts. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry4, researchers actually measured how the amount of porn used correlated to changes in brain structures and how different regions of the brain responded to sexual images. Basically, they found that the more years of porn you watch and the more hours per week you watch, the lower your brain activation is. Researchers said the more intense your porn exposure, the more your brain has a down regulation response: a.k.a. the more porn you watch, the less sexual arousal you have.

The good news is that a lot of guys are getting over their E.D. by quitting porn and masturbation. I had the pleasure of talking to the founder of the subreddit group NoFap a while back. His name is Alexander Rhodes, and he told me that he has now spoken to thousands of guys who simply believe they are better off without porn. They don’t want to train their brains to be turned on by only porn. He said, “I like to compare pornography to cigarettes. For the consumer, it is always a harmful thing to consume.”

Learn more about how porn can cause E.D. and how to reverse the process in our free e-book, The Porn Circuit.

Download “The Porn Circuit”

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2. Capogrosso P. “One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man–worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice,Journal of Sexual Medicine, (2013) 1833-41, doi: 10.1111/jsm.12179.

3. Voon V, Mole TB, Banca P, Porter L, Morris L, Mitchell S. “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals With and Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours,” PLoS ONE, (2014) 9, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419.

4. Kühn S, Gallinat J. “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption The Brain on Porn,” Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, (2014) 827-834, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93.

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