6 Ways to Model Emotional Regulation for Your Kids

I like to think of myself as a fairly even-keeled person. I have 20 years of training in the mental health field and I work daily at finding ways to be a more self-actualized mother, daughter, sister, wife, and employee. However, if there is one thing that sends me to the stratosphere, it’s when someone tells me to “calm down.” And yet, I say those words to my daughter all the time.

As I write this, I’m swamped with several work projects, some family commitments, and a pending equestrian competition. In the midst of this stress, the least helpful thing people have said to me is to “calm down.” What I’ve realized, however, is that “calm down” is like an SOS from the people who have to deal with me. What they’re really saying is, “I don’t know how to handle you right now, so please stop.” Could that be what I’m trying to communicate to my daughter when I’m at my wits’ end and feeling desperate and inadequate and have no other tools in my toolbox?

If this sounds familiar, I don’t want you to feel like I’m shaming you for losing your cool. After all, I’m writing this as a mom who has to work hard to relate to my daughter in a different way when she struggles. This all becomes particularly pronounced when I have no patience left. The guilt sets in because with the constant juggling I do—working at a startup, seeing clients in private practice, teaching at the local university, competitions, volunteer days at school—I feel like I do a million things but can do nothing well, including the one thing that is the most important to me: being a good mom.

It is so challenging to dig deeper than a “Calm down!” SOS and find another strategy. But I’ve begun to appreciate that helping kids cope with big emotions is a two-way street. By identifying and managing my own triggers, I’m better-equipped to show my daughter how to identify and manage hers. Here are a few things that I am currently trying myself:

  1. Take a deep breath. When you feel those words (“Calm down!”) about to come out of your mouth, it means that you’re approaching your kid’s level of agitation. Before you escalate the situation, take a moment to consider why you’re so worked up. Are you irritated because your kid is having a meltdown at the DMV, or because you made a mistake at work or you feel guilty that you forgot yet another important appointment? It’s important to remember that our everyday stressors often amplify our reactions to our kids’ behavior. Taking a deep breath, or even stepping away for a moment, allows me to put aside whatever may be bothering me and treat your big-emotioned child with more compassion and less frustration.
  2. Ask a question. You’re probably used to making demands (“Don’t do that!”) when your child is acting out. Instead, try asking a question: Why are you feeling the way you’re feeling? What’s going on that’s making you have a difficult moment right now? Kids have more emotional intelligence than we give them credit for. They’re not often asked to self-reflect, though. Asking a question like “Where is this coming from?” gives your kid the chance to move past the immediacy of their feelings and think about how they got there in the first place.
  3. Check in with their body. Most adults know about the connection between our emotional states and our bodies. Does your kid? When they’re mid-tantrum, see if you can get them to feel their heartbeat. Then encourage them to try to slow their heart rate down. This trick, a type of mindfulness, is one that your kid can use in other situations when they feel themselves losing control.
  4. Use humor! My husband is an expert at cracking a joke when my daughter’s in the middle of an outburst. Ninety percent of the time, it helps defuse the tension in the room. Once, when my daughter was writhing on the floor and we were running late for school, my husband asked her, “Who taught you how to breakdance?” We all immediately started cracking up. You of course don’t want to demean or ridicule your child, but cracking a joke when things are intense can be really useful.
  5. Make a game out of it! If your kid is really struggling, try distracting them with an improvised game like “Who Can Make It to the Car Faster” or “Who Can Make the Dog Come to Them First.” Sometimes a momentary distraction is all a kid needs to forget why they were angry. For something a little more elaborate, try “Tea Party With Mama.” As I explained to my daughter the first time we played this “game,” when I was a little kid and had a hard day, my grandmother would throw a tea party for me. So, when my daughter is in a particularly bad mood, I put the kettle on, have her take out the cookies, and we sit down and talk about what’s going on with her. It’s a great way for the two of us to decompress from a stressful day.
  6. Model how you deal with frustration. To circle back to the first tip on this list, self-regulating is crucial in helping your kid deal with their own difficult emotions. The other day, I found myself getting cranky with my daughter, which I never do. When I realized it, I said to her, “I don’t know where this is coming from. Mama woke up like a gremlin!” I then asked her to feel my heart, which was beating faster than normal, and if she could help me relax. And she did! She put her head on my chest and let me put my head on hers, and that helped me calm down.
  7. Remember: You got this. Most of us, if we are being really honest, wonder at times if we are good enough parents, friends, spouses, colleagues, employees, athletes, siblings. But at the end of the day, tackling our challenges is what makes us grow and be our best. When you believe in your own capacity to overcome challenging moments you show your child that they can, too. And when you got this, they got this.

All of these tips show that helping your kid deal with Big Emotions is a collaborative process. Telling them to calm or stop will only get you so far. What you can do instead is work together to figure out why they’re feeling how they’re feeling, find fun ways to feel better in the moment, and learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthier way in the future.

psychcentral.com · by Erina White, PhD, MPH, MSW · November 21, 2018
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5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Use these ideas to get what you want and need from difficult people at work.

Posted Nov 20, 2018

Source: Pexels

Both in the office and in our personal lives, it is safe to assume that we will encounter difficult people. The key is to brace ourselves with easy-to-apply strategies so that we remain as calm and unaffected as possible.

At work, how you deal with a specific boss, colleague, or subordinate who’s currently making your life miserable depends on the outcome you want to accomplish. However, several general guidelines can help you.

1. Put problem people in proper perspective. You’re nothing but an afterthought to them, so don’t take their antics personally. They’re not concerned about you, because they’re too busy worrying about themselves. You just happen to be either an obstacle or an essential ingredient to them getting what they want. You have to figure out how to break free of their control.

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2. Take your pick: positive or negative. You can’t concentrate on constructive, creative alternatives while you cling to negative feelings. Go somewhere to vent your emotions and cool off. Think about the result you really want, the consequence or outcome that most benefits you. That will help you to let go of the hurt.

3. Don’t expect difficult people to change. They won’t—and in one way that’s good. Because their behavior is often predictable, this enables you to plan ahead, plotting the tactics you’ll use the next time. Troublemakers may not change, but by choosing a better approach, you can change the outcome.

4. Learn to respond as well as to listen. Come forward and state that you feel annoyed, upset, or enraged. No one can read your mind. Sometimes, the offense was totally unintentional and can be easily resolved if allowed to surface. Ask questions instead of making accusations. If you let others save face, you give them room to change their minds.

5. Give and request frequent feedback. Don’t stew about what someone else may be thinking—ask! Use open-ended questions to let emotional people vent their feelings before you try to reason with them and explore options. When you link your objectives with another’s wants, not only do you have his or her attention, but you both win something.

Remember to pause and take a breath before reacting to any difficult situation. Sometimes, just a short pause can help us to gain necessary clarity so that we react in a way that we will be proud of the following morning.

Copyright© 2018 Amy Cooper Hakim

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children

There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels — our children. Through my work with hundreds of children and families as an occupational therapist, I have witnessed this tragedy unfolding right in front of my eyes. Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

How much more evidence do we need before we wake up?

No, “increased diagnostics alone” is not the answer!

No, “they all are just born like this” is not the answer!

No, “it is all the school system’s fault” is not the answer!

Yes, as painful as it can be to admit, in many cases, WE, parents, are the answer to many of our kids’ struggles!

It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment. Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.

Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parents’ best efforts to provide them with a well-balanced environment and parenting, their children continue to struggle. These are NOT the children I am talking about here.

I am talking about many others whose challenges are greatly shaped by the environmental factors that parents, with their greatest intentions, provide to their children. As I have seen in my practice, the moment parents change their perspective on parenting, these children change.

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What is wrong?

Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

Instead, children are being served with:

Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being.

How to fix it?

If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:

1. Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend. Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.
  • Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
  • Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
  • Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
  • Play one board game a day. (List of family games)
  • Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
  • Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom

2. Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:

  • Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.

3. Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom”as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:

  • Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
  • Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
  • Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.
4. Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:
  • Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
  • Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
  • Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.

We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be… -Victoria Prooday

**This story was written by Victoria Prooday, a registered Occupational Therapist, Psychotherapist, founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic for children and parents. It originally appeared on her website.

Confessing Your Porn Struggles Before You Tie the Knot

Silence.

Only ten minutes of it, but it felt like an eternity.

Matt and I had just come from the house of our mentor couple. This was a couple assigned to meet with us once a week in addition to our pre-marital classes. Matt and I were engaged in August of 2006 and were married in July of 2007. We dated for five years before we were engaged. We joined the pre-marital class in the spring before our wedding and knew little of what all it would reveal. We had just heard our mentor couple share their own personal testimony of betrayal, of unfaithfulness, but of ultimate forgiveness.

Silence.

We pulled up to Matt’s apartment and sat there, knowing there were some important things to be said, but not really wanting to go first. Finally, Matt broke the silence that had secretly kept him captive for years.

I had only seen Matt cry once before this night, only after the betrayal of some of his very close friends, in a situation that we really didn’t think could be topped. But, in that car, on a late weekday night, tears of pain, of shame, and of fear fell from his eyes.

Silence.

It had been broken. Matt revealed the ball and chain of his struggles with pornography and the shackles immediately began to fall off, one by one. The shame that was kept so intact by silence was finally in the open and could no longer keep him down. After he received what I could only call supernatural forgiveness from me, forgiveness not of myself, Matt continued to break the silence with others and literally brought peace to his once tainted soul.

Silence.

There is power in silence—both for good, and for evil. We can learn through silence as well as we can be held captive by it. James 5:16 tells us that we should confess our sins to one another. That silence must be broken by confession in order that we might receive help. You see, the break of silence was not the end of this journey, it was only the beginning. That breaking of silence was necessary and redeeming, but it alone could not fix the struggle. It was just that necessary first step to break the chains, but others were now needed to make sure they never returned—that the silence would never again return.

Then we heard about Covenant Eyes. A gift from the Lord to never allow the life-stealing silence back into our lives again. This program literally helped save our marriage before it even began. Allowing Matt an easy way to be held accountable not only to me, but to other godly men who desired to protect our marriage and protect Matt as a man was a precious, precious thing. It is a relief for me to not only be able to trust my husband more fully, but to be involved in his life in such an intimate way. It is also such an encouragement to me to have other men encouraging him on in the process. It is also amazing to see how Matt is now able to help other men as he is now also an accountability partner for others.

The weekly reports from Covenant Eyes help remind me to not only ask Matt about his struggles, but to pray for him as well. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Covenant Eyes keeping that silence broken has truly helped our marriage, quite possibly saving it before it was really in trouble. I’m grateful for the service, and so thankful for a wonderful husband who is willing to do whatever he needs to do to stay pure before me and before the Lord.

Silence.

It is broken and our marriage is set free.

Erin Baxter received her BA in Psychology in 2009 and will graduate with her Master’s in Counseling this August. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Matt, for almost 4 years. They live in North Dallas with their 2 “children”—Kevin the dog and Ella the cat. Erin desires to use her degrees and her passion for marriage to help couples in every stage of their relationship through counseling and marriage ministry. 

 

Chasing Intensity: The Addictive Search for Thrills and Escape – Sex and Relationship Healing

David Fawcett PhD, LCSW

All addictive behaviors are characterized by the desire to disconnect from uncomfortable emotional or physical situations through one of two strategies. The first strategy is numbing, where feelings are deadened and disconnected and there is little awareness of body sensations connected to feelings. The second strategy is chasing intensity, an often-reckless urge to ignite passion and thrills and sometimes even terror. Stimulant drugs and many process addictions (such as sex, gambling, and pornography) accomplish just that. Activities like skydiving can also result in an “addictive” desire to replicate the thrill (or terror) that is experienced.

For addicts, boredom and other low-stimulation states can trigger this desire for stimulation. Thus, open, unstructured time can be perilous for recovering addicts. In fact, many recovering individuals describe boredom or low levels of stimulation as key triggers for relapsing or acting out. Once an addict is in the mindset of chasing intensity, any insight and good judgment offered by his or her higher brain (pre-frontal cortex), which has more abstract thinking powers and the ability to predict undesirable outcomes, is significantly diminished, leaving the addict to the relatively unchecked urges of the brain’s reward center which, put simply, screams for more. When this occurs priorities become clouded, deadlines pass, problem-solving skills become elusive or vanish totally, and chaos reigns.

Such stimulation-seeking is often described as life on a razor’s edge because the thrilling excitement can quickly and unpredictably turn to terror as the potential consequences of recklessness emerge. For example, allowing oneself to be injected by a stranger at a sex party might be a thrilling idea, but it can quickly turn to terror as soon as the syringe breaks the skin. Similarly, pursuing the thrill of sex in a public place can set off a torrent of adrenaline – until one is discovered by an unseen law enforcement officer. And high-risk unprotected sex with several men at a chemsex party may seem “intimate” or validating while under the influence, then morph into a cascade of remorse and despair when the drugs wear off.

Addicts quickly learn that they can manipulate their experience by increasing their chase for intensity. This is particularly true when tolerance develops, where more and more of the addictive drug or behavior is required to achieve the same effect. To combat this, a strategy of “stacking” is often employed, with addicts stacking various drugs and/or behaviors together to get a synergistic effect. Chemsex, for example, combines powerful stimulants with sexual behavior and other drugs. A sex addict may find that taking more and more risks is required to stoke that thrill, or sexual acting out may become darker or more taboo. The longer these patterns are in place, the more difficult it is for the addict to tolerate periods of low intensity.

The good news is that there are tools and skills that can be employed to combat this phenomenon. A few of the more commonly utilized are listed here.

  • Personal Grounding Techniques: Any person in recovery should maintain an arsenal of techniques with which he or she can stabilize mood swings and maintain equilibrium. Simple breathing techniques can quickly restore a sense of calm even in the most agitated states. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth triggers the internal system of self-regulation and has a calming effect. Practicing visualizations, in which a soothing or safe place that is associated with positive feelings is identified, is also useful, as it elicits a state of emotional and physiological calming. Recovering addicts can also employ types of progressive relaxation where, starting from the head and moving to the feet, muscle groups are systematically flexed and released, slowing discharging any built-up tension.
  • Awareness of Triggering Emotions: As noted above, the desire to seek escape through thrills and intensity is typically triggered by an unpleasant emotion that the addict does not want to experience. These are often basic feelings such as fear, anger, and sadness. Addicts may not even be consciously aware of these feelings; they just suddenly get the urge to act out, seemingly out of the blue. For this reason, it is important for people in recovery to practice naming the feelings they are experiencing and to process them accordingly – no small feat for people who may not easily understand what they are feeling and lack skills for healthy expression of emotions. In such cases, developing this skillset is a critical building block for recovery.
  • Maintaining Emotional Equilibrium: The identification and expression of feelings is important for managing triggers and cravings, but the ability to maintain emotional equilibrium – to maintain a relatively even keel – is equally important. Recovery groups convey certain recommendations based on the experience of countless addicts, including not leaving a meeting with unexpressed feelings, distracting oneself by playing with a pet, taking a nature walk, and reaching out to another recovering person to share a concern or make a human connection. Therapists might also recommend listening to self-talk, that internal chatter that is often highly critical and can quickly undermine one’s mood and confidence. When that negative chatter begins, it’s important to be able to “turn down the volume” and to counteract it with more affirming statements. That said, the most powerful source of emotional equilibrium is something that all addicts seek: social connection, which creates healthy bonds between individuals, rewards them with dopamine, and helps them reset the rewards system that has been hijacked by addiction.
  • Self-Compassion: One final tool that is useful in combatting the need for intensity is the ability to generate self-compassion. Recovery requires self-examination and taking responsibility for one’s actions (the 12 steps guide recovering addicts through this process), and many people forget to be gentle with themselves during that process. Changing negative self-talk and becoming vulnerable and open to more than superficial interaction with peers and loved ones are great ways to express and develop this type of self-compassion.

Many addicts have learned through unfortunate experience that, when chasing intensity, there is never enough. This adrenaline-pumped state is itself addictive and sets off triggers for their primary addictions. Recovery means slowing down, learning to tolerate lower levels of stimulation, and experiencing and gently releasing unwanted thoughts and behaviors.

Can I Have a Hug? The Surprising Neuroscience of Embracing | Psychology Today

We all need a hug sometimes. There are few places where this is more evident than the departure gate at the airport. More often than not, words fail us when a loved one is about to walk away from us through the security check and fly to a faraway country, not to be seen for weeks or months. A hug can be tremendously comforting at the departure gate, or in all other situations in which we experience intense negative emotions such as grief or fear. But hugs are also an important part of many positive everyday situations. At the arrivals gate at the airport, the world often looks completely different than at departures, and we joyfully embrace our loved ones who we missed so much while they were gone. Similarly, hugs play a huge role in all sorts of situations that encompass positive emotions towards another person, such as romantic love or friendship. If we care for someone, we hug them, and research has shown that hugging can release large quantities of oxytocin, the human pair bonding hormone. Thus, hugging someone literally deepens our relationship with that person on a biochemical level.

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A hug can be so much more than just a movement of the arms and a pressing together of two bodies.
Source: Sebastian Ocklenburg

But what determines how we hug? Hugs are a behavior at the intersection of motor and emotional networks in the brain and, as such, they might be influenced by both of these neuronal networks. When we hug, there is usually a leading arm that initiates the embrace. About 90% percent of humans are right-handed—meaning they prefer to use the right hand for skilled activities such as writing or drawing—so it is likely that most of us would also hug with the right arm. Indeed, this is also what an early South African study (Turnbull et al., 1995) on embraces in the arrival lounge of an international airport showed. Here, about 59 percent of observed travelers hugged leading with their right arm and 41 percent hugged leading with their left arm. Additionally, the authors asked college students to hug their neighbors in a laboratory experiment and found similar results. Here, about 69 percent of individuals hugged with their right arm leading and about 31 percent with their left arm leading. Thus, this study indicated that there might indeed be a rightward bias when hugging, but the authors neither assessed emotions nor handedness directly.

To close these gaps, a recent large study led by German neuroscientist Julian Packheiser (Packheiser et al., 2018), of which I was a co-author, investigated more than 2,500 hugs. In order to assess negative emotional situations, hugs were observed at the departure gate of an international airport. For positive emotional situations, the research team observed hugs at the arrivals gate. Also, in order to get emotionally fairly neutral hugs, the team analyzed internet video clips of people who offered blindfolded hugs to strangers in the street. The result? While most people showed a preference for right-sided hugs in all three situations, left-sided hugs occurred more frequently in emotional situations, no matter whether they were positive or negative. The left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain—which is heavily involved in processing both positive and negative emotions. Thus, this drift to the left side may show an interaction between emotional networks and motor preferences.

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To test this theory, we asked study participants to hug mannequins after listening to stories that induced positive, negative, or neutral emotions. Additionally, their handedness was determined with a questionnaire. Again, the emotionally charged situations led to more left-sided hugs than the neutral situations, but handedness also influenced hugging behavior. Right-handed participants hugged more often with the right arm than left-handed participants. Thus, embracing really seems to be controlled for by two neuronal networks: motor control and emotional processing. This might explain why for anyone in need of some comfort, a hug can be so much more than just a movement of the arms and a pressing together of two bodies. It’s a poignant, powerful gesture of love and support that goes straight to the emotional centers of our brain.

Interestingly, men showed a leftward drift even in neutral situations when hugging other men. We speculate that men might perceive these situations as emotionally negative and hence activate emotion-processing networks.

Embracing is not the only form of lateralized social touch that humans show. Kissing, for example, is often associated with a head turn to one side or the other in order to avoid potentially harmful nose bumping. Moreover, when cradling a child, most mothers and fathers show a clear side preference (Ocklenburg et al., 2018). These fascinating behaviors will be discussed in a future blog post.

References

Ocklenburg, S., Packheiser, J., Schmitz, J., Rook, N., Güntürkün, O., Peterburs, J., Grimshaw, G.M., 2018. Hugs and kisses – The role of motor preferences and emotional lateralization for hemispheric asymmetries in human social touch. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 95, 353-360. 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.10.007.

Packheiser, J., Rook, N., Dursun, Z., Mesenhöller, J., Wenglorz, A., Güntürkün, O., Ocklenburg, S., 2018. Embracing your emotions: Affective state impacts lateralisation of human embraces. Psychological Research. 10.1007/s00426-018-0985-8.

Turnbull, O.H., Stein, L., Lucas, M.D., 1995. Lateral Preferences in Adult Embracing: A Test of the “Hemispheric Asymmetry” Theory of Infant Cradling. The Journal of Genetic Psychology 156, 17–21. 10.1080/00221325.1995.9914802.

Preaching About Porn Without Filling Your Email Inbox

Your Church Probably Needs to Talk More About Pornography

“Now, I know I’m going to get a lot of emails about this…”

It was a joke Noel made often. Noel is the lead teaching pastor at a megachurch in Michigan. As such, he’s the church’s most public face for several thousand people, and that means he receives a lot of emails, ranging from clarifying questions about the week’s message to the quality of the coffee to the volume of the worship band. And, of course, plenty of angry emails whenever he stepped on someone’s toes, or preached the Gospel truth that someone didn’t want to hear.

Eventually, Noel figured out two strategies. First, he handed email control over to his assistant, who responded to as many emails as possible and only passed along the truly important ones, the ones that couldn’t be handled by the assistant or one of the other pastors. Second, as a last resort, when the questions after a service got too overwhelming he hid in the A/V booth.

Now, I’m being a little facetious with the second strategy, and the first is impractical for most people. After all, very few pastorates are large enough to require an assistant. So what can you do when you get those emails?

The truth is, when speaking about hot-button issues like pornography, you are going to get emails. Sensitive subjects lead to sensitive questions that require sensitive answers. And questions can be good things. They can indicate that the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s life. This is especially true if the email is about a particular passage of scripture, or even a first-time confession of ongoing porn struggles.

But those aren’t the emails most pastors fear. The ones they fear are from the offended flock: the parent, appalled at the use of the “p” word in an audience with children present, or those who speak out of paranoia and accuse you of talking about them personally, or those who just hate that it was brought up at all.

The good news is, as you prepare to preach about pornography, there are a number of steps you can take to mitigate some of the emails, so you can focus on the people who really need your help.

1. Be more empathetic (do your homework)

Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus, our great High Priest, was tempted in every way without sinning… but because He was tempted, He is also able to empathize with our weaknesses. As leaders, our job is to model that empathy to those in our midst who are struggling with ongoing temptations, like pornography.

So how do we prepare to be empathetic? First, we need to be careful not to make assumptions about pornography use in our church (and especially not preach based on those assumptions).

This is especially true if you are one of the 57% percent of pastors who either currently struggles or has struggled with porn in the past. It can be very easy to project our own particular temptations and assumptions onto our congregations, but people are drawn to porn for many different reasons.

We also need to remember that porn isn’t just a man’s issue, and referring to it as such can be incredibly damaging to the women in your congregation who struggle with porn themselves, forcing them to feel even more ashamed.

As part of your sermon preparation, then, do research so you can be empathetic to the needs of your congregation. In particular, our ebook Ashamed: 4 Reasons Women Look At Porn will help you understand some of the unique ways women are drawn to porn, and the unique challenges in ministering to them. Make sure you also read resources written to those impacted by others’ porn use, such as spouses and parents. This research will help you speak from a point of empathy, allowing people to take steps toward healing.

2. Know your congregation – and preach accordingly

The time to prepare your church for sensitive topics is before you preach about them. This is especially true if you tend to avoid sensitive topics.

Several pastors I know have prefaced sermons on pornography and other sexual issues with advanced notice. In one case, the pastor mentioned that his next sermon was going to be on these topics a week ahead of time, to give parents a chance to prayerfully consider whether their children should stay in the service with them or not. Another pastor announced it several minutes before the message, giving parents an opportunity to send their kids to the church’s robust children’s ministry during the final worship song. Other options include bulletin announcements, or reminders via social media or your email list.

If you don’t normally have a children’s ministry, you may want to consider recruiting trusted volunteers several weeks in advance for a one-time church childcare option. This does not have to be complex! It could be as simple as sending young children to a separate room during the sermon itself, where an adult reads to them from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and maybe leads them in a few simple songs. Then have a volunteer fetch them after the sermon to rejoin their parents for Communion.

(If your church offers a one-time children’s option, make sure you have at least two non-related adults in the room with the kids at all times. Having multiple adults in the room will reduce opportunities for abuse, as well as offer your church more protection from a legal standpoint in the event of an abuse allegation.)

By the way, don’t forget that adults may not be prepared to hear your message for multiple reasons. The wounds of sexual abuse are often hidden and run deep. While your message will ideally offer healing, some people may simply not be ready for it yet. Consider having a few spiritually mature leaders available to pray with anyone who needs it. And don’t be offended if people leave before or during your message as well.

3. Gather (and share) stories

One of the biggest ways porn keeps people trapped is by making them feel isolated in their sin. Because porn is so secret, so hidden, many men (and women!) look around in church on Sunday mornings and think they’re the only ones struggling.

While you can cite statistic after statistic, the best way to help people feel less isolated is to tell stories of others who have struggled—a principle Jon Acuff calls “the gift of going second.” By sharing stories, especially stories from within your church, those personally dealing with pornography (whether for themselves or within their families) will realize they aren’t alone even within the church family, and everyone else will understand the urgency of the message.

There are a couple of ways to approach personal stories. First, if you personally know someone in your church who is struggling, ask if they would be willing to give their testimony about it, or at least ask their permission to share their story anonymously. Don’t forget to include your own story of struggles, if relevant, though if you are actively tempted by pornography you should speak to your church’s other pastors or elders before you announce it publicly from the pulpit.

Consider sending out an anonymous survey a few weeks in advance as well. Ask both for general questions and for personal stories. Make it clear that you may share what people wrote, though you will keep details as anonymous as possible.

Finally, it’s entirely possible that people in your church will simply not feel comfortable sharing details, even anonymously. Even so, don’t neglect the power of story! You will find plenty of stories on our blog and in the comments, and our ebook Hope After Porn is built around the stories of four wives whose marriages were restored.

4. Elevate the message

Sexual temptation is common, but different people are tempted differently. Some people may be tempted to seek security with a person by giving themselves over sexually outside of marriage. Others may feel a rush of power when they solicit and receive sexts, or when they intentionally break the bonds of a marriage through adultery. Even within pornography, different people seek out different things: different ages, different ethnicities, different fetishes.

Now, there are reasons for this. Dr. Jay Stringer, for example, points to how specific childhood abuses leads to specific temptations. (I also highly recommend that you read his article about how blaming lust can actually intensify sexual sin.) However, this post is not about the causes of porn use. My point in bringing this up is simply to remind you that you must put pornography in its proper context as one of many sexual sins, and in fact sins in general. Porn’s impacts cannot be handwaved away, but pornography use is one of many counterfeits to what God designed in marriage.

It’s also important to put porn use next to all of the other forms of idolatry. Every sin we commit, whether pornography or lying or covetousness, is a failure to reflect a perfect and holy God, and an indicator of the specific ways we personally fail to trust in God and His goodness completely. Use your discussions of pornography and other sins (sexual and otherwise) to point our church members to see where they have opportunities to strengthen their faith and trust in God.

5. Provide easy access to help

Hopefully, your message will stir up the desire for recovery among your congregation. Even so, the potential shame of being outed for their porn use may prevent people from seeking help. To help your members recover, you need to provide them resources in such a way that it is easy to access them privately. For example, consider providing a printed list of resources directly in your Sunday bulletin. Your church could then share that same list of resources as a download on your website or via social media, or through an emailed newsletter. Any of these methods will allow your church members to review the resources or visit the websites without fear of being “caught” and labeled a porn addict.

But what are the best resources to provide?

The resources you provide may depend on the specific angle you take in talking about pornography in your church. Are you approaching it from the relatively safe angle of parents protecting their kids? Then most of the resources you list can be focused on parenting resources, such as our partner website Protect Young Eyesand the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. If your sermon is focused on some of the deeper roots of sexual sin, consider listing Jay Stringer’s book

Covenant Eyes offers a number of resources, including ebooks and email challenges. Nearly all of these are offered for free. The following are just a sampling of some of our most-tailored resources to help anyone in your church who struggles:

6. Exude grace at every turn

Yes, we’ve already talked about exuding grace, but it’s so important when addressing sensitive issues like porn. Many members of your congregation may feel utterly helpless and hopeless in the battle. The college students in your church (male AND female) may have stumbled on porn before they hit puberty. That young couple may be on the brink of divorce because they have no idea how to handle one spouse’s lifelong porn addiction. That mom may be sleeping on her teen son’s bedroom floor to keep him from turning to porn at 3 a.m. And there are even more families with a porn bomb looming over their heads, waiting to explode into their lives.

The good news is, because we have a High Priest who can empathize with our weaknesses, we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Pastor, your congregation is thirsting for that grace and forgiveness. Pray throughout this entire process for that grace yourself, that you can lead them to the true source of grace and mercy: God’s great throne.

Next step: Leading your leaders

All of the previous steps could be done by any teaching pastor without bringing your leadership team on board, and they would be an immense help to your church. But pornography is one of the most widespread sins threatening the church today. One sermon is merely a start.

To make lasting changes in how your church handles discovery and recovery from porn, both in leadership and among individual members, you and your leadership team should take porn training and make a strategy for protecting your members from porn. To get started, download our free ebook READY: How to Heal and Protect Your Ministry from Pornography. You can also contact us here to get a free consultation and learn how we can help set your church up for success.

One Tool We Need After a Tragedy | Psychology Today

A few years ago, my husband and I were having a late dinner at a café in Paris on a vacation when people started to shuffle and panic around us. An older man leaving the restaurant stopped to tell us that something terrible was happening; there was a terrorist attack a couple of miles away, and several parts of the city were still under attack. We left immediately and walked to our hotel without encountering the violence, although each step was serenaded by the sound of sirens. For the next 24 hours, we sat in our hotel, glued to the news, uncertain of how we’d get home, and overcome by how quickly a city of light could darken in mourning. I know I was lucky. I know that I had no idea what it felt like for those who had been in danger from the attacks, desperately hiding or fleeing from a split second that could end their life.

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It took a long time for me, a peripheral person who had never been under direct threat, to resolve the symptoms of trauma that resulted from the experience: the knot in my stomach, the increase in my heart rate, the fight-or-flight impulse that resided just below the surface ready to spring forward. It’s a feeling that’s returned a troubling number of times since then. Today, it was there when I learned that at least 13 people were killed and more injured in a bar in Westlake, California, just about an hour away from where I live.

In my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, I’ve worked with my colleagues at The Glendon Association and the Santa Barbara Response Network to offer psychological first aid to people who have been affected by tragedy. In 2014, a mass shooting of students near UC Santa Barbara left our community in shock. Just last year, a devastating wildfire resulted in deadly mudslides that killed 21 people overnight, with two missing to this day. These days, it seems we hardly get a break between hearing of mass gun violence or a disaster resulting from extreme weather. In a short span of time, our own small, sunny city has been affected by both. When these events hit close to home, we cannot underestimate the impact of the trauma that results.

When tragedies occur, we may feel hopeless, paralyzed, powerless, or defeated, but there is something we can do to support one another and help the individuals most affected. We can learn and practice Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA is an evidence-informed modular approach to assist individuals in the immediate aftermath of catastrophe. It is designed to help people cope with the stress, shock, confusion, fear, feelings of hopelessness, griefanger, guilt, and withdrawal that arise. Perhaps the most important element of PFA is being a caring presence for a person impacted by a traumatic event. The principle actions of PFA are to help establish a sense of safety, security, and connection, restorative resources, foster adaptive short and long-term coping, and enhance natural resilience for the people who have been impacted (rather than preventing long-term pathology).

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The steps of PFA are as follows:

  • Engage with the person: Make contact and offer help. Ask permission and be sensitive. Resist offering false reassurance or making any demands
  • Provide safety and comfort: Ask the person where they could go or what would make them feel safe and comfortable.
  • Stabilize the person. Speak calmly and reassure the person, while encouraging them to engage in self-soothing actions, like taking deep breaths.
  • Gather information: Find out whatever you can do to meet the person’s basic needs, such as bringing them water or a blanket). Ask the person about their concerns.

When you have taken these immediate steps to help calm the person, you can then take the follow-up actions of:

  • Helping connect the person to practical assistance.
  • Connecting them with social supports.
  • Giving the person information on coping strategies.
  • Linking them with collaborative services.
  • Creating coping groups.

In addition to familiarizing ourselves with the things we can do that are helpful, we should learn the “Psychological First Aid Don’ts,” which the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene lists as follows:

  • Don’t force people to tell their stories. Focus on keeping them calm and meeting their needs.
  • Don’t offer false reassurance with statements like, “Everything will be okay.”
  • Don’t instruct people on what they should be thinking or feeling.
  • Don’t make promises that cannot be kept.
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Giving aid and support to others following a trauma does not just benefit them, it also benefits us. Studies have shown that when our response to a threat is to “tend and befriend”—tending to the needs of others and connecting with them—as opposed to “fight or flight,” we don’t suffer the negative psychological and physical effects of trauma. Offering care can even enhance our own resilience and response to trauma.

While psychological first aid addresses a person’s immediate needs following a crisis with the goal of preventing harmful long-term effects, we also need to recognize that people may need more in-depth, long-term help, especially if they have suffered complex trauma. It disturbed me greatly to learn that dozens of witnesses to the Westlake shooting were present at the mass shooting in Las Vegas just over a year ago. One young man who survived the Vegas shooting was killed in Westlake. The increasingly common rate of catastrophe we seem to be experiencing, whether from acts of violence or forces of nature, alert us to a very human need for connection. They call on us to draw from a well of compassion and understanding and to educate ourselves on how we can be there for one another. Though I hope to never need to use PFA, it is one thing I am grateful to carry in my toolbox, to have at hand and be able to extend to another person should that person face the unimaginable.

You can learn more about PFA here.

A Table for One, Please | Psychology Today

How is it that loneliness has become a growing concern in this age of increasing digital connectivity? Headlines detail an epidemic of loneliness, leading to people feeling more detached from one another. In the U.K., loneliness has become a topic of national interest with the prime minister appointing a Minister for Loneliness. Is it still possible to be alone without succumbing to the problems arising from loneliness?

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The problem with loneliness

In a 2010 review, Julianne Holt-Lunstad reported the risks associated with social isolation. She analyzed 148 studies that looked at loneliness and adverse outcomes. In her analysis, study participants with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival compared with study participants with weaker social relationships. The effect of loneliness on mortality was similar to the effects of smoking and alcohol consumption, and exceeded the effects of obesity (measured by body mass index) and physical activity. Clearly, the experience of loneliness can have a significant impact on long-term health and wellness.

What is the difference between being alone and loneliness?

Dictionary.com defines alone as being “separate, apart, or isolated from others.” The site defines being lonely as being “affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome.”

Being alone is a state of being, voluntary or involuntary. It does not specify an emotional experience, and in fact the emotions associated with being alone can vary from individual to individual. Loneliness is an emotional experience resulting from the circumstance of being alone. The resulting emotions often lead to negative emotional states, such as depression.

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You can be at peace and alone sitting on the beach at sunrise. You can be lonely in a room full of people when no one takes notice of you or offers you a kind word.

Source: free-photos/pixabay

As Holt-Lunstad’s article explains, loneliness is not only a negative emotional experience, but it can also have serious health outcomes, especially later in life. Loneliness is a public health issue that should be addressed for emotional and physical wellness.

Being OK by yourself

There are times when being alone can be beneficial and even necessary. However, as developmental psychologist Kenneth Rubin suggested, to realize the true benefits of solitude, certain benefits should be met: “Solitude can be productive only: if it is voluntary, if one can regulate one’s emotions ‘effectively,’ if one can join a social group when desired, and if one can maintain positive relationships outside of it.”

Solitude should be voluntary. When someone seeks alone time, it is often to get away from too much stimulation or intrusion from others into an individual’s internal world. When we voluntarily search for time and space to be alone, we are doing so in a response to a perceived internal need. We do so trusting that there is benefit to be gained from time out of social groups. We are less likely to see this choice from the perspective of exclusion from a group or lack of group affiliation.

You should seek solitude only if you can regulate your emotions effectively. The purpose of time alone should be to improve your emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Ideally, your experience in solitude should leave you feeling better than you did before you spent your time alone. If you find yourself engaging in patterns of negative thinking or emotional experiences that leave you feeling worse than before you spent the time on your own, you might reconsider how you spend alone time. In typical circumstances, spending time alone in a voluntary, purposeful way should not lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression. If it does, you might need to seek help in dealing with negative emotions.

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Solitude is healthy if one can join a social group when desired. When choosing to spend time alone, it is important to also to have a supportive social network to return to. As discussed above, social support and regular social engagement are crucial for our emotional and physical health.

Solitude is healthy if one can maintain positive relationships outside of it. Solitude should be an active choice to experience the benefit of time alone, not an involuntary consequence of absent or negative social relationships with others. If you experience difficulty maintaining positive social relationships, then it might be helpful to seek professional help in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

Source: rawpixel/pexels

So, what are some of the benefits of solitude?

Many people seek solitude to allow space for their creative selves to be expressed. Many musicians, writers, and visual artists describe how time alone is crucial for allowing their work to evolve.

Self-reflection — Time alone creates an opportunity for you to contemplate your own identity separate from the groups you engage with. It is important to allow yourself time to reflect on how your thoughts and feelings impact your self-perception, behaviors, and relationships with others

Rest — In schools, it is sometimes called a brain break. Our brains are bombarded with constant external input, sometimes from many sources at a time. Our brains need breaks to absorb, sort, and arrange all of the information coming in. Quiet time gives us a chance to process what we have seen and heard and to arrive at a deeper understanding of our daily experiences.

So take a walk, sit on the beach, or find a quiet chair at home. Explore what you can gain from a few moments of getting better acquainted with you.

References

Holt-Lunstad, Julianne; Smith, Timothy B.; Layton, J. Bradley (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine

Psychology Today · by Tracy Asamoah, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Austin, Texas.

Saying No Isn’t Easy

Verified by Psychology Today

September 2018

10 Signs You Know What Matters

Saying No Isn’t Easy

Rejecting an advance is often more difficult than suitors appreciate.

By Ilana Herzig, published September 4, 2018 – last reviewed on November 5, 2018

Shutterstock

Anyone who has built up the nerve to express romantic feelings for someone, only to be rejected, knows how painful it can be. But new research shows that being on the other side of the exchange is often more difficult than suitors appreciate.

In two studies, researchers asked grad students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs about actual experiences with people in their field or workplace and surveyed online participants about hypothetical scenarios. Both the real and imaginary situations included ones in which participants were the pursuers of someone who wasn’t interested in them as well as instances in which they were pursued.

“Targets of the advances recalled that it was more difficult to say no than suitors imagined it was,” explains lead author Vanessa Bohns, a psychologist at Cornell. Targets also reported feeling guilt and concern about suitors’ hurt feelings to a degree suitors didn’t realize. Bohns attributes this underestimation to an array of reasons, one being that the hopeful throes of a crush may blind individuals to the other person’s perspective—and to how, even unintentionally, they make that person uncomfortable.

The findings suggest recipients of unwanted advances in a professional context may worry about work-related repercussions and diminished reputation. The team first looked at STEM students in particular, Bohns explains, because of ongoing concerns about the retention of women, who are underrepresented in those fields. Not surprisingly, researchers found that women in STEM were the targets of advances twice as often as men.

Psychology Today © 2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC