“NO” is a Complete Sentence


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There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it!  (Jack Canfield)

Looking at the root issues of over commitment whether it is the result of codependency or lack of good boundaries over commitment is something that we often struggle with in our busy world.

No is a power word. It gives a definite sense of self. Children recognize its power very early and go through a stage where it is their favorite word. However, unless we learn to say no we will continue to be stressed and have too much to do and not enough time. And generally it is our ideas, our health, and quality time with our family or our self that suffer. Learning to say NO will release you from the burden of always pleasing others and give you more time and freedom to do what you want and need to do.

Ironically as we learn to say no more, we more than likely feel guilty. Choose to see this as a sign that you are making changes in your life.


  • When it’s someone else’s issue
  • When it’s something you don’t want to do
  • When there’s something you’d MUCH rather do
  • When it takes away from your values and wishes
  • When you think you’re taken for granted
  • When you deserve or need some time to yourself


  • When you’re stressed or overwhelmed
  • When you’re already doing too much
  • When you’re tired or sick, ask yourself: what things in your life do you need to say no to? Don’t overthink it, just write down whatever pops into your heads right now!
  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________
  4. ______________________________
  5. ______________________________

What currently stops you from saying “no” to these things? What are your beliefs about saying “no” and what are your beliefs about saying “yes”? Why do you say “Yes” when you’d rather be saying No? How do you BENEFIT by saying “Yes”? Understanding this is an essential step to saying “No” – and valuing your goals, needs and time!

  • When I say “Yes” I feel ­­­­____________________
  • When I say “Yes” I want other people to think I am   ______________________
  • By saying “Yes”, what am I saying “No” to in my own life? _____________________
  • Remember: Whenever we say “Yes” to something, we are saying “No” to something else – even if that something is simply relaxing!
  • When I say “No” I feel ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________________
  • When I say “No” I worry other people will think I am _________________
  • By saying “No”, I could say “Yes” to these things in my life ______________________
  • Lastly, when I say “Yes”, but I really want to say “No” I feel ________________
  • My biggest fears about saying “No” are ________________________

When we say “No” to something, it’s an opportunity to make room for something else that is truly important to us. In order to say “No” effectively you need to be in touch with what’s important to YOU – to know YOUR priorities in life. It’s then much easier to say “No” because we’re clear on what we want and need instead. Ask yourself:

    • What is MOST important to ME in life
    • How would I like to spend MORE time?
    • Where would I like to spend LESS time?
    • What is my top priority this year?
    • What is my top priority this month?
    • What is my top priority this week
    • If I had a magic wand I would ….

As with most things in life, there is no one size fits all answer. Everything depends on the relative importance of the situation, people affected, what’s going on in your life at the time, the person asking, your history with them etc. Changing gradually is just fine: If, in the past you have been a “Yes” person, you may want to gradually become a person who says “No”. You may want to take your time and practice on small things, working up. When “No” is the right answer for you, say it pleasantly, assertively and with conviction. If it leaves you feeling strong and good in yourself (even if there is a small amount of guilt) then you have made the right choice for you!

Beyond Boundaries


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I have been reading the book Beyond Boundaries by John Townsend.  He and Henry Cloud wrote the original Boundaries books with all the affiliated products.  Understanding boundaries is key in healthy relationships.

When I am involved with a client as a recovery coach, I help the client identify their core values and what needs come from those values.  Here is a synopsis of what Dr Townsend has to say in Beyond Boundaries as well as some of my thoughts for my clients.   I hope it is helpful!

There are two types of boundaries: 1) defining and 2) protective.

You recognized your defining boundaries when you acknowledged your values and what needs come out of those values.   There is as a general rule very little variation or change in those defining boundaries.

Protective boundaries are part of the work you did on codependency as well as identifying (and being) “a safe person” as well as the toxic relationships you identified and created action plans around.

Think of it in terms of your body. Your skin pretty much doesn’t change except for aging through the years. It’s the container that holds us together and by which people recognize us. When people see you, they identify you through your appearance.

Now think about your clothing. We wear clothing to protect us from the elements around us. We change our clothing according to how cold, warm, casual, or formal the circumstances and elements around us are.

Our defining boundaries might change a little but not that much through the years, like our skin. Our protective boundaries may change based on the elements around us, like our clothing. You adjust them based on how safe you are. In some relationships you may only need the emotional equivalency of shorts and a T shirt. In others you may need bomb squad gear.

Set and keep your defining boundaries—your skin—as a permanent part of who you are. But allow some wiggle room in your protective boundaries based on the amount of safety you need in a relationship.

You have to understand that the other person has a choice. Anyone at any time can reject your boundaries. It is the tough reality. You have to accept that reality. Your choice to have a boundary must be protected and his/her choice to not agree with yours must also be protected.

For example, if your partner is refuses to recognize that his/her actions are destructive to you, it is essential to set a boundary around that behavior. If it is angry outbursts against you, you will need to explain you will leave the room and, if you have to, the house until your partner recognizes how deeply his/her anger is hurting you. Your partner may not accept that boundary and get angrier and meaner. Your partner may decide to leave the relationship rather than change.

So is it worth it to set those boundaries? In a case like this did the boundaries cause the breakup? The problem was not the boundaries. You didn’t leave your partner or your commitment to your partner. It was the partner who made the choice to leave; you did not force the partner out. Your partner’s relational terrorism cannot be allowed to keep you from doing the right thing.

The point is this: your boundaries will create a space, a separation between you and someone in your life. That person will have the choice to bridge the separation by making changes and becoming more loving or to increase the distance by moving further away or even leaving the relationship.

You can do everything you can to keep the relationship together but you can never, in your own power, make a person stay with you. Staying or going is always a choice, one that every person has.

So did the boundaries work? They were set as a protective limit. Boundaries aren’t guarantees of responsibility or concern in someone. But they can:

  1. Bring reality and clarity
  2. Protect you
  3. Show someone the path to change

But boundaries do not remove the other person’s choice. So from this perspective, they do work. They protect you even if the outcome is different than you hoped for. You have to understand that this is still good news. It is diagnostic. It gives you the information you need about the character of the other person and the problem you are experiencing. Better to have a doctor’s diagnosis for a problem than to avoid making the appointment and allow the problem to do more damage.

If you have kept a journal through the process, you can now revisit those early entries before you set the boundary and focus on the peace in your life without anger and blame.

You can grieve the loss of your “dreams” for the relationship but understand that you are being re-created for a better future.

Belief Limiting Labels Influence Our Lives: How to Challenge Them


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What do I mean by labels? They are simply descriptive terms used to describe us and usually have judgments associated with them. For example they can be ‘negative’ (I’m the Office Witch) or more ‘positive’ (I’m the Office Mom). A frequent one today is “I’m fat” whether it is true or not.

We may or may not agree with our labels and they can also be things we feel we’ve grown out of (I’m a typical teenager). And perhaps we think they’re true (I’m Very Reliable or I’m Forgetful). They can also be appearance related –“I’m a Blonde” which conjures up all the dumb blonde jokes. I have a brilliant psychologist friend who was raised in a very judgmental, critical home. He says that even today with all his successes if he opens the refrigerator and the catsup bottle falls out making a mess, he hears that voice from his childhood telling him he is dumb and clumsy.

In therapy our behaviors are “labeled” or diagnosed. Groups of behaviors have been given labels and are outlined in a Diagnostic Statistical Manual used by the behavioral health field. These labels are helpful in knowing how to treat a patient effectively. They are also necessary for insurance payment. It is important to remember that they may not be a lifelong label. If you and your therapist work together to reframe and change your thinking and subsequently change your behaviors on a long term basis, the diagnosis may no longer apply.

It is a complex, remarkable journey to the inner self: to the body, to the soul, to the spirit. In our pursuit of meaning, we often take on roles and define ourselves with labels that no longer work for us and we get exhausted, resentful, and disconnect as a means of survival. There is a way back and there is no substitute for professional therapy in that process.

In recovery and life coaching, challenging our limiting beliefs is a tool used to assist clients who are struggling in attaining or even setting their life goals. So, here is a simple limiting beliefs exercise using labels:

  1. List the labels you have been given in your life – aim for 10 and hopefully you will get at least 4 or 5 solid labels to work with.
  2. For each label, ask yourself if you see the label as positive or negative. Next ask yourself where you think the label came from – for example society (media, TV, books and magazines) and people (our parents, peers, and teachers). Be as specific as possible and name a specific person if you can.
  3. Then ask, “Do you agree with the label?” Explore what advantages and disadvantages each label has. How does the label HELP you and how does it HINDER or LIMIT you?
  4. You can give this exercise extra meaning by also asking yourself where you think your labels are getting in the way of achieving your goals.
  5. Ask yourself which labels you would like to keep and which you would like to ‘lose’? To do this, explore specific situations where the label comes up and make sure to ask yourself when and who you’re with when you behave like the label.
  6. Develop an action plan to overcome the negative label. Ask what could you do/how could you behave differently to make the label irrelevant or inappropriate?

This limiting beliefs exercise is a great way to raise awareness as well as stimulate and reframe your beliefs about yourself. It also has a broader societal impact because once you connect with how you feel about your labels you will have more empathy for others. Thoughtless words can impact us and the words we use can impact others negatively.

Bonnie Harken NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com or call 1-800-348-0937.



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Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Let’s look at two types of anxiety disorders:

Social Anxiety Disorder is the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations. It is not simply shyness. People with this disorder may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.

  • About 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder
  • Typical age of onset: 13 years old
  • 36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help
  • Usually begins in childhood or adolescence

Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with this disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. Sufferers anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.

  • Affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year
  • Women are twice as likely to be affected
  • Disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age
  • Although the exact cause is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.

If you suffer from anxiety, research suggests that you may run a higher risk of experiencing physical health problems. In the past 30 years, there has been considerable interest in the relaxation response and how inducing this state may benefit health. Currently, there is some evidence that relaxation techniques may be an effective part of an overall treatment plan to relieve anxiety.

Women who use yoga to relax during pregnancy reduce their risk of developing anxiety and depression. Stress during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight and increased developmental and behavioral problems in children.  A University of Manchester research study shows that women who attend one yoga class a week for eight weeks had decreased anxiety scores compared to those who received normal antenatal treatment.  A single session of yoga was found to reduce anxiety by one third and stress hormone levels by 14 per cent.

Coping Strategies for Stress and Anxiety

  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip meals; keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, Aggravates anxiety
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Do your best. Don’t aim for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of how close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community creating a support network and a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
  • Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed. Let them know how they can help you. Talk to a therapist for professional help.For some medications are a necessary part of treatment. Most people with anxiety who seek treatment, experience significant improvement and enjoy an improved quality of life.
    Sources Available Upon Request
    Bonnie Harken, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women in Pekin. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com or call 1-800-348-0937.
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Sticks and Stones: The Truth is that Words Really Can Hurt You!


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You can’t see bruises or broken bones. So you wonder if it is really a serious problem. Emotionally abused women state that one of the biggest problems they face is that others seldom take it seriously. But there are invisible scars that destroy your sense of self and often lead to faulty thinking which negatively impacts your decisions and your life.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. Do you feel that something is wrong with your relationship, but can’t describe it?
  2. Do you feel that your partner controls your life?
  3. Do you feel that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?
  4. Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?
  5. Does your partner get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else or accuse you of having affairs?
  6. Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your partner’s eyes?
  7. Do you get mixed messages, such as the reason you are abused is because he loves you?
  8. Are you told that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?
  9. Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
  10. When you try to talk to your partner about problems, are you called names such as bitch or nag?
  11. Are you prevented from going to work or school, or from talking to others about how you feel?
  12. If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny, or say you don’t deserve anything?
  13. After an argument, does your partner insist that you have sex as a way to make up?
  14. Does he use the children against you in arguments?  Does your partner threaten that you will never see the children again if you leave?
  15. Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?

    Emotional abuse is a choice and a learned behavior so it is difficult to say that emotional abuse is caused by any one single factor. It is not gender specific. Women can also emotionally abuse their partners. The following beliefs and attitudes are common for abusers:

  • Sense of entitlement
  • A belief they should have power and control over their partner
  • Belief that they can get away with it
  • Learned experience that being abusive gets them what they want
  • Belief that their lives should take priority

The effects of emotional abuse:

  •  Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
  • Do you do anything you can to please your partner or not upset him?
  • Do you make excuses for your partner’s behavior?
  • Are you forgetful, confused or unable to concentrate?
  • Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
  • Have you lost interest or energy to do the things you used to?
  • Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed a lot of the time?
  • Have you lost contact with your friends, family or neighbors?
  • Have you lost self-confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it alone?

What can you do about it?

  • Realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and get help.
  • Recognize that emotional abuse is as bad as or worse than physical abuse.
  • Take your safety and the safety of your children seriously.
  • Know that emotional abuse can lead to physical violence or death.
  • Know that you are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • Find people to talk to that can support you. Consider going for counselling.
  • Do not give up if community professionals are not helpful. Keep looking for someone that will listen to you and take emotional abuse seriously.
  • Recognize you have the right to make your own decisions, in your own time, and that dealing with any form of abuse may take time.
  • Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength, and that you already have the tools you need to survive.

My final thoughts focus on your safety if you decide to leave an emotionally abusive relationship. Shelters do accept those who are emotionally abused and have not been physically abused. If you have been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked (followed and harassed) by your partner or ex-partner, you can call the police. Dial 911. If you are considering leaving, especially if you have children, see a lawyer. Abused women are at the greatest risk of being harmed or killed when they leave.

Counseling can help you identify and accept your own definition of normal as part of your journey to happiness.  You need to explore your values and needs and recognize how to achieve your goals. With expert guidance and a supportive environment, you will begin to understand the “whys” and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life.


Sources available upon request

Bonnie Harken NCLC, Founder and CEO, of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Visit http://www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com or call 1-800-348-0937.

Emotional Pain: Does It Have a Silver Lining?


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chinese symbol for crisisChange is inevitable in life and often causes pain. When we experience a crisis we can feel totally hopeless.   If we can learn to face our feelings, we can accept their legitimacy in our journey. When pain happens our natural tendency is to resist and deny the feelings. But are we really denying ourselves when we resist our feelings?

How can we break the cycle and avoid needless pain and suffering? We must allow ourselves to be aware of the feeling. Then we need to acknowledge the feeling. The final step is to accept the feeling. So the thoughts change from “I have lost that person/thing and I can’t go on” (resistance) to “I have lost that person/thing and I am sad.” The suffering lessens as we accept our sadness as a normal response to the loss. Then the process of healing can begin.

I have always found the metaphor of the Chinese symbol for crisis comforting. The symbol has two parts: the first stands for the circumstances (danger) and the second part symbolizes opportunity.

So what opportunities can come from our pain?

  • Pain allows others to be there for you. It is so easy to isolate yourself from the comfort of your friends, family and others who care about you. Not everyone will understand what you are going through but having the support of those who care about you is very comforting. Sometimes sharing a movie, having a pedicure together, or another “girls’ night out” activity is very helpful and doesn’t require an in-depth discussion or understanding of the issues you are facing.
  • Pain allows you to find your own identity. We have many roles in life: daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, and friend are just a few. Pain often happens when life circumstances change such as when the children leave home to begin their own lives and you are now tending an “empty nest”. The loss of a life partner from death or divorce are examples of a “lost” role. In these instances, you are forced to find your own identity. Identifying your core values and needs and finding your own identity is a big step on the journey of recovery and to finding happiness again.
  • Pain allows for major life change and the opportunity for understanding and putting closure on “old” pain, giving relief from repressed hurt and anger. It allows you to get spiritually connected or reconnected and to reassess your life’s goals and priorities.
  • Pain allows you to become grateful for simple things. I recommend keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal. It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive journal. A simple notebook will do. Start out by writing the date at the top of the page and by rating your day from -5 to +5 at first glance. Then begin to analyze your day closer. List 3 “successes” you had during the day. Then pat yourself on the back: what did you do today that required courage? What did you learn about yourself today? What actions, thoughts, steps did you take today on your journey of healing? Where do you need to be kinder to yourself and therefore happier and more productive? What did you do for yourself today (self-care)? And then finally list 3 things that you appreciate and are grateful for today. The last is essential you must list at least 3 things. As you reflect on your written thoughts, re-evaluate your day again from -5 to +5. Did your rating change as you reviewed your day with a more positive mindset? End by writing anything you noticed as you reflected on the day or something you want to do differently tomorrow.

We get stuck in our lives due to many factors: wounds of the past, conflicts of the present, and fears of the future. Professional counseling can help you identify and accept your own definition of normal. On your journey to happiness, you will learn to accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, live one day at a time, enjoy one moment at a time, and accept the world and other people as they are-not as you want them to be. With expert guidance you will begin to understand the “whys” and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life.

Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion.  Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective.  Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Call 800-348-0937 or visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com for more information. All inquiries are confidential.

Learning to Love and Accept Yourself is a Key to Embracing Life!


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Elements of learning to love and accept yourself are:  self care, self compassion, self kindness, and accepting love from others.  Our self image drives how we relate to others and the choices we make in life.  This self care quiz will help you look at how well you are doing on the first element–self care.

Self Care Quiz Instructions:

  • How good are you to yourself?
  • There are no right or wrong answers, just answer however seems appropriate for you right now – and see what you learn about yourself!
  • Score 2 points for each Yes, 1 point for each Sometimes and 0 points for No’s.
    Yes Sometimes No
1. I am up-to-date with my optician, dentist and other health check-ups
2. I am happy with my physical fitness & energy levels
3. I eat well nutritionally most of the time and do not abuse my body with caffeine, alcohol or similar
4. I have plenty of sleep so I always feel well rested
5. I take regular breaks from my work during the day, at weekends and use my holidays for enjoyment & relaxation
6. I like how my hair is at the moment, I am happy with my wardrobe and my ‘style’
7. I meditate, journal, quietly relax or have alone-time with myself regularly (where I am not doing anything e.g.. chores or doing things for others
8. I prioritize how I spend my time and important things always get done in plenty of time
10. I say “No” to myself and others when I need to
12. My home is cleaned regularly to a standard I am happy with
11. My home is organized and tidy and somewhere I love to be
13. My home is a calm haven (or has a place within it) that takes me away from the stresses of the world
9. I recognize my stress signals and know when to take a break
14. I have enough people in my life who love and support me
15. Apart from exceptional situations, I only spend time with people who support, energize and inspire me
16. I listen to and trust my intuition when it comes to looking after me
17. I have a mentor/s that support and encourage me in life
18. I have no regrets and have forgiven myself my past mistakes
19. I have let go of any past resentments towards others
20. I have reserves of things that are important to me or help my life run smoothly (anything from contact lens solution to pens, paper, vitamins or bathroom tissue!)
21. I have things to look forward to in my life
TOTAL NUMBER of Yes’s, Sometimes, and No’s.

The maximum possible total is 42. Write your score here ______

What did you learn about yourself?

Due to the demands and judgments of today’s lifestyle many women have forgotten to love themselves and as a consequence feel dissatisfied and unhappy. Crossroads’ Learning to Love Yourself program is for the woman who wants to believe and achieve new happiness and self-fulfillment.  We help women identify and accept their own definition of normal as part of their journey to happiness.  We provide a therapeutic setting free of judgment or shame to allow women to explore their needs and recognize how to achieve their goals.   Call for details 800-348-0937 or visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com.

Killing Me Softly: Codependency and Love Addiction


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Because I get so many questions from women on both codependency and love (or relationship) addiction, I want to outline symptoms and behaviors of each.  Neither is a designated mental health diagnosis but both cause extreme misery and wreck havoc in many lives.  Both are treated by mental health professionals as a set of behaviors in conjunction with other diagnoses.  They both seem to share the same foundation of symptoms starting with poor self esteem.   So let’s look at some basics that will help us understand:

Symptoms of Codependency

  1. Difficulty loving the self (self esteem)
  2. Difficulty protecting oneself by functional boundaries with others.
  3. Difficulty knowing one’s reality and owning it.
  4. Difficulty with self-care.
  5. Difficulty expressing one’s reality in moderation.

Behaviors of Codependency

  1. Controlling others or allowing others to control them. Both choices cause a codependent to project responsibility on to others for their own inability to be internally comfortable within themselves.
  2. Blaming others for the inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries which leads to resentment.
  3. Impaired spirituality: Makes someone else their Higher Power through hate, fear, or worship. Or tries to be someone else’s Higher Power.
  4. Addictions, or mental illness or physical illness. This inability to face reality stems from lack of functional internal sense of self and sense of adequacy. There is a desire to be taken care of.
  5. Difficulty with intimacy. When a codependent has difficulty knowing who s/he is, and what her reality is, s/he cannot share in a healthy way since intimacy means sharing one’s reality. When one does not share, there is no way to check out immature perceptions, so codependent continues to have painful problems in relationship with others. Codependents often try to fix or change a partner, justify themselves, argue about the other person’s reality, and abuse the partner with sarcasm, ridicule, name calling, exaggeration, or so-called “honesty”.

Symptoms of Love Addiction

  1. Love addicts have difficulty with symptoms of codependency, and then choose addictive behaviors and internal processes to compensate.
  2. Love addicts seek to enmesh, to blend into another person. Underneath all of this is both a fear of abandonment and a fear of healthy intimacy, even if they pretend to look for it.
  3. When a codependent corrects his/her behavior, they can manage their life. But the love addict goes through severe withdrawal because like other addictive processes it is an obsessive-compulsive process used to relieve or medicate an intolerable reality.
  4. Love addicts did not bond well with their original caregivers when they were young children, experiencing a serious sense of abandonment. The message was, “Because you are worthless and unlovable, I will not care for you”. This kind of neglect and early loss creates low self-esteem and exaggerated longing.
  5. Emotional needs are immense. Love addicts have enormous fear about being able to connect emotionally.
  6. Love addicts compensated for lack of nurturing as children by immersing themselves in fantasy. Fantasies of being rescued or being the rescuer abound. Knights, dragons, romance novels- getting high from fantasy becomes habit.
  7. When love addicts play with fantasy, they can get high in about 10 minutes, and stay there for 2-3 hours. Endorphins are released into their system, relieving emotional pain.
  8. Love addicts begin relationships by trying too hard to please and connect. They are driven to find someone to tell them they are loveable and loved; to find someone who will rescue them from their inability to care for themselves; rescue them from their loneliness, emptiness, lack of self-love, inability to feel safe in the world without someone to protect them. They look for a relationship to make them feel whole.

Behaviors of Love Addiction

  1. A disproportionate amount of time and attention is spent on relationships. Love addicts obsessively think about, want to be with, touch, talk to, and listen to their partners. They rate this person as superior to themselves, or having more power. They make this person their Higher Power, but rarely know this is happening.
  2. Unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard from other person. Love addicts want to be cared for and treasured by another, and are always disappointed. No one can satisfy their insatiable desires. They will go to great lengths to get partners to fulfill the big fantasy they have been holding in their minds for so long. They get very angry when their fantasy isn’t matched.
  3. Love addicts neglect to care for or value self while in relationship even if they can fare perfectly well when alone. A common example is a man who never learns to do basic household things, preferring to depend on his partner.
  4. Love addicts often choose partners who might be considered avoidance “addicts” because they are not available for a relationship even if they pretend to be. They are often focused on addictions such as drug and alcohol use, work, or sexual affairs. How can a love addict expect one who is avoiding intimacy to take care of them?

Repeating Cycle of Love Addicts in Relationship

  1. At first the love addict is attracted to the power and adulation of the avoidance addict (or another love addict).
  2. Fantasy is triggered and the love addict feels high. “It’s karma, destiny, fate, we’re soul mates.”
  3. The love addict feels relief from the pain of loneliness, emptiness and not mattering.
  4. The love addict begins to enmesh with the partner, showing more neediness. Partner starts to move away, but the love addict denies the reality of being abandoned by partner. This denial protects against the agony of rejection and abandonment.
  5. Eventually the love addict begins to be aware of the abandonment, and denial crumbles. May rage and get hysterical; may bargain, threaten. Extreme focus on partner; must know or think about what partner is doing at all times. Some will stalk, or obsessively call or text message. Others endure like silent martyrs. May call partner’s boss, announce to others to gain sympathy. May dress more seductively, go on vacation with partner, have affairs, showing extreme neediness to lure partner back. Relationship becomes more and more toxic.
  6. The love addict enters withdrawal. (Avoidance addict fares better – just leaves). Love addict’s original feelings of childhood are activated along with adult feelings of current abandonment. Pain, fear, anger, jealousy, emptiness, overwhelm, hopelessness. Extremely intense depression and suicidal feelings. Fear becomes anxiety and panic. Anger becomes frustration, rage, or homicidal jealousy. As a result of this loss, the Love addict may also face loss of income, house, being a single parent. Love addict may be so overwhelmed that s/he goes into withdrawal or jumps to next point in cycle, obsession. This behavior shifts them outside of their painful feelings.
  7. Love addict now obsesses how to get the avoidance addict to return; or dreams about being rescued; or fantasizes about having a better lover; or ruminates how to get even with the avoidance addict partner; or contemplates indulging in another addiction like food or drugs to numb the pain; or plans another sexual encounter with a new partner to avoid being alone.
  8. The love addict now compulsively acts out the obsessive plans. Get drugs, food at 2am. Burn partner’s clothes. Go and beg partner to return, threaten suicide. Take overdose of pills. Kill partner, children and self. Go get laid.
  9. Repeat cycle either with the returning partner or the ensnared new partner.

Progressive Stages of Love Addiction

  1. Increasing tolerance of inappropriate behavior from others
    1. “Well he only hit me 3 times and I didn’t get many bruises.”
    2. “She was only out once overnight this week.”
    3. “I only threw the telephone.”
  2. Greater Dependence
    1. Surrender more and more responsibility to the other party.
    2. Have them handle papers, make appointments, pick up children because “I just can’t remember”
  3. Decrease in Self Care: Grooming declines, baggy clothes, disheveled look.
  4. Numbness to Feelings. “I’m ok, fine” But they’re feeling pain, anger, fear, shame, jealously
  5. Feeling Trapped or Stuck
    1. Helpless to fix the relationship.
    2. Helpless to escape pain by ending relationship.
    3. Lost the ability to care for and value self. Increasing despair, disillusionment, depression.
    4. Loss of power, Loss of ability to respond. Behavior can become bizarre.

The Final Stages

  1. Feeling abused and becoming abusive.
  2. Can only see out of a negative filter, missing the good things in partner.
  3. Cannot see own immature, irrational, and offensive behavior.

The First Step toward Recovery

The good news is that a mental health professional can help you understand your behavior and help you begin a healthy life style. It is not a quick or easy journey. The risky and destructive behavior involved in love addiction can have serious consequences but love addicts can recover. Codependents can replace their unhealthy beliefs and behaviors and recover. You can change your thinking and change your life. The first step is to reach out and get help.
sources available upon request

The Importance of Healthy Self-Esteem and How to Get It!  Crossroads has opened a new video on demand website that offers therapy lectures with therapeutic exercises and resource materials. These pre-recorded lectures address specific issues including self esteem. We are currently adding new videos daily so check back often! Now you can have help available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Check it out here.

Crossroads’ intensive outpatient programs and therapeutic workshops are intensely focused, action oriented, short term groups facilitated by a credentialed, experienced therapist which help women with eating disorders, addictive disorders and behaviors, codependency, depression, relationship issues, grief, loss and other emotional issues.   They are designed to help you discover the “whys” behind your struggles and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life. www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com 800-348-0937

Buttercups and Porcupine Quills: Women, Anger, and Aggression


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I addressed what makes ordinary women angry day-to-day in my previous blog and how our gender socialization impacts how we view and express anger as women. (In 1993, Thomas conducted the Women’s Anger Study, a large-scale investigation involving 535 women between the ages of 25 and 66. The study revealed three common roots to women’s anger: powerlessness, injustice and the irresponsibility of other people.)

Many of the long term consequences of anger are negative. Yet, anger is part of our biological makeup for both genders. It is part of the fight-or-flight reaction. It had survival value in the past and it has some positives in the present including but not limited to the following:

  1. It can be an appropriate response to injustice (anger may have played a role in social movements that led to equality for women, the elderly, blacks, the disabled, protection of helpless animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving to name a few)
  2. It is an alerting function that may help us become aware of situations in our life that we need to address directly which may lead to problem solving
  3. It may present an increased motivation to right the wrongs we see in the world as well as in our individual lives

Verbal expressions of anger may include yelling, arguing, cursing and sarcasm. Anger can also be expressed physically by raising a clenched fist, throwing a book on the floor, breaking a pencil or hitting a wall.

Anger crosses the line when it becomes aggression. Aggression has a determined intention to harm another person. Often, it reflects a desire for dominance and control. Weapons are often involved. Aggression can be shown by punching, shoving, hitting or even maiming another person, and it can occur in marital violence, child or elder abuse, bullying, or gang and criminal activities. Research shows that 90% of the time, it is acts of aggression arising from anger that wind up in the criminal justice system. But only 10 percent of anger experiences are actually followed by aggression. People often want to act aggressively when angry but most do not actually take aggressive actions. This is not to say that anger may not have negative and long lasting effects on a marriage or other significant relationships.

Facts about anger:

  • Some degree of anger will be with us for all of our lives.
  • When anger is mild, infrequent, dissipates quickly and is expressed assertively (directly to the problem person, in a non-accusatory manner) and without aggression, then professional help is not needed
  • In such circumstances, anger may serve the role of simply highlighting your annoyance and it can lead to problem resolution.
  • Taking a breather using simple tools, such as relaxation techniques and visual imagery, can help soothe angry feelings and may be a good first step before talking to person with whom you are angry.

When is more intensive professional help necessary? There is cause for alarm if:

  • your anger is moderate to intense
  • experienced frequently
  • endures to the point where you are holding a grudge
  • you have plans for revenge and getting even
  • is expressed in aggressive verbal and physical actions

When you experience anger as outlined above, you are likely at risk for the negative relationship, health and sometimes legal repercussions related to inappropriate anger expression. There can be a very high cost to anger. The good news is that mental health professionals can help you understand the triggers for your anger and help you develop strategies to control your anger and improve your life. _____________________

The relaxation techniques used to reduce stress can be very helpful in coping with anger and expressing it appropriately. Crossroads Programs for Women offers on demand video psycho-educational lectures which include resource materials and exercises for relaxation. Check them out here: https://crossroadsprogramsforwomenvide.pivotshare.com/

If you believe your anger has become aggression, please call Crossroads for information on how our programs can help. www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com 800-348-0937

Understanding Our Anger and How We Express It as Women – Part 1

Let’s have an honest discussion about our anger:

Let’s dislodge gender stereotypes about anger. June Tangney PhD has called into question common assumptions about women and anger, such as the notion that women have trouble with anger. Women don’t have a problem with anger–they just manage it differently, says Tangney, professor of psychology at George Mason University.

Women tend not to be as aggressive as men in expressing anger and tend to talk about their anger more, she says. “They are more proactive and use more problem-solving approaches in discussing a problem with a person they are angry with,” says Tangney.

And what makes ordinary women angry day-to-day? In 1993, Thomas conducted the Women’s Anger Study, a large-scale investigation involving 535 women between the ages of 25 and 66. The study revealed three common roots to women’s anger: powerlessness, injustice and the irresponsibility of other people.

While research has not yet suggested that different factors trigger men’s anger, researchers continue to uncover differences in how men and women experience it. Raymond DiGiuseppe, PhD, chair of the psychology department at St. John’s University in New York, in his research to develop a new anger disorder scale surved 1,300 people ages 18 to 90. Dr DiGiuseppe investigated 18 subscales of anger, including how individuals experience their anger, how long the anger lasts and what they get angry about. While he found that differences in men’s and women’s total anger scores were not significant, he did find differences in the way they experience anger. Specifically, men scored higher on physical aggression, passive aggression and experiences of impulsively dealing with their anger. They also more often had a revenge motive to their anger and scored higher on coercing other people.

Women, on the other hand, were found to be angry longer, more resentful and less likely to express their anger, compared with men. DiGuiseppe found that women used indirect aggression by “writing off” a higher number of people–intending to never speak to them again because of their anger.

Dr DiGuiseppe’s research seems to contradict Dr. Tagney’s assumption about women being more proactive about resolving issues around conflict.

I have witnessed this frequently during my years in management and consulting, while men seem to disagree at work they still go out golfing or another social setting or activity after work. Women stop speaking to each other unless it is absolutely necessary which is fundamentally a huge problem in a working environment and generally counterproductive in life. I have often wondered whether it is our inability to understand competition in the same way our male colleagues do or whether we take ourselves too seriously or what?

What have your experiences been? How do you deal with anger at work? Do you agree with Dr. Tagney’s assumptions about women and anger and does that assumption hold true in a work setting?  Is it possible we get too invested in the problem solving process as a way to support our position rather than find a place of compromise?