hopequest blog

Trek – Week Thirty-Eight

If you are triggered, you may suddenly feel very angry — like so angry you want to hit something or quit the program. You may just have the urge to run, like you have to get out of the room and away from people. You might feel overwhelmed by a desire to drink or use or act out in some way.  Your body may be physically responding to your memories — sweating, racing heartbeat, tightness in your chest, feeling like you are going to throw up.  Or you may just feel yourself shutting down, like you are disconnecting from the world around you.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

This (blog post) we are going to examine the dynamics of disclosure. We are going to talk about how disclosure should take place, and what you should learn about your husband’s behavior during a time of disclosure. We will take a look at how disclosure affects us and our husbands differently and also talk about a tendency strugglers have in disclosing which I call the “dribble” method. (Eventually) we will discuss disclosing to family and friends. It is going to be full and probably painful (posts). Are you ready? 

Let’s start by talking about how and when disclosure should take place.

Every couple dealing with sexual addiction needs to have a formal time of disclosure with a third party in a safe environment. Let me say that again.

Anytime a husband has been struggling with sexual addiction, he and his wife need to have a time of disclosure that is:

1.Planned and

2.Mediated in a 

3.Safe Place.

A time of disclosure needs to be planned to allow both husband and wife to prepare emotionally and spiritually for a very difficult conversation. It needs to be mediated (preferably by your husband’s counselor) so that your husband can be held accountable to tell the whole truth and so that you can have someone there to validate your pain and feelings. Having a third party in the room also helps protect you from receiving too much information and helps prevent violent outbursts or other dangerous behavior. Disclosing in a neutral/safe place is wise because it protects you from painful associations and unintentional exposure while allowing both you and your husband to be on equal ground. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Seven

Ignoring the Hunger in Your Heart

We all have a natural desire for intimacy and personal connection. God created us with a deep need for relationships. When we feed this hunger the way God intended, we experience emotional satisfaction, overwhelming joy, and lasting freedom. Our God-given needs are met.

But when our heart is not full, and our hunger not fed, we are tempted to find harmful ways to satisfy these needs. If we isolate ourselves from God and others, we face the danger of making choices that can tragically affect our lives.

If we have an emotional void, we are more susceptible to temptation. It’s essential that we daily feed our desire for intimacy through healthy relationships and spending time with God. Because if our hearts are full, we won’t hunger for things that can hurt us.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-Seven

We experience fear on a spectrum.  On a scale from 1 to 10, we might go from feeling nervous about something — butterflies in our stomach — to feeling utterly terrified — peeing-your-pants kind of fear. Just like anger, fear can be a secondary emotion that kicks in when our senses tell us that we are in physical danger. Our bodies take over and we instinctively do one of three things: fight, flee, or freeze.

Also like anger, our fear indicator can get calibrated incorrectly when we have experienced life-threatening situations or trauma in the past.  Sometimes a disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop with symptoms like these: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of situations that remind us of the event, refusing to talk about what happened, beginning to distrust all people, isolating from others, feeling keyed up and jittery, and being hyper-vigilant for signs of danger.

It’s understandable with these kinds of symptoms why up to 75% of people who have survived abuse or trauma report that they have a drinking or substance abuse problem (National Center for PTSD, 2016).

One of the things we need to be honest about with ourselves and with our counselor as we begin our recovery journey is the presence of some kind of trauma in our past that is causing us to want to numb out or find relief from the emotional pain we are experiencing.  Our addiction will not get better if we don’t deal with the underlying causes.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

(Today) we are going to talk about disclosure. Any idea about what I mean by that word? 

In the context of this lesson what I mean by disclosure is the process in which a man who struggles with sexual addiction tells others about his sexual behaviors.

There are three kinds of strugglers I have experienced on this journey: a struggler who gets caught and wants help, a struggler who gets caught and doesn’t want help, and a struggler who wants help so much that he seeks it before he gets caught. In whatever category your guy falls, probably the first person he told about his addictive struggle with sex was a counselor or a pastor. And then he told you.

Right now I’m thinking back to the phone call in which I heard Troy tell me that he had been unfaithful. I remember that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach and all of the questions that came rushing into my mind. And then the ominous black hole of grief that seemed to swallow me. 

Think about that time in your life—not about when you or someone else caught him, but the first time he with his own mouth told you what he had done. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Six

Naaman was an influential man and highly respected. He had made a name for himself—or so he thought—in spite of a shameful and debilitating disease. I can relate to Naaman in that way. I too was respected for my accomplishments. Many affirmed me for all that I had done and was doing but the shame I felt because of my struggles never was silenced. I knew the truth about me, even if others could only see my victories.

It was the Naaman who everyone thought was great who showed up at Elisha’s home that day. He came with his full entourage expecting to be treated like a great man instead of a sick one. Elisha didn’t even darken the door. He sent a messenger with the instructions. Instead of being grateful, Naaman felt disrespected and dishonored. Not only that, Naaman had envisioned a much grander and glorious healing experience—not a disrobing in front of everyone, showing how deformed and disfigured the leprosy had made him, and dipping seven times in the muddy water of the Jordan.

What about you? Are you coming to this group like the guy who everyone else thinks is great? Or are you presenting yourself humbly as a sick man in desperate need of healing? Are you expecting God to heal you in a grand and glorious way and mad that He hasn’t already? Or are you willing to disrobe and let people see what you are most ashamed of so that you can be healed?

You will receive healing and restoration to the degree that you surrender. Don’t belabor the process. Choose surrender first instead of making it your last resort.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Last Week’s Blog about Naaman:

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Five

Trek – Week Thirty-Six

I want you to hear me say that it makes sense why we have been so angry. Of course, we’re mad. And it’s time to deal with the hurts in the only way that can bring healing, change, and growth.

We’ve got to face them — instead of trying to protect ourselves in unhealthy ways that destroy us and our relationships with the people that we love.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

RECENT TREK POSTS RELATING TO ANGER:

Trek – Week Thirty-Five

Trek – Week Thirty-Four

Trek – Week Thirty-Three

Trek – Week Thirty-Two

Journey – Week Thirty-Six

In future lessons, we will talk more about the family systems that birthed the Stormy Sues and Susie Sunshines of this world. Although no situation is completely identical, there are striking similarities in the stories of those of us married to sex addicts. Understanding those dynamics is interesting and helpful. Replacing lies with truth, coming to a place where you trust God completely, and experiencing His healing touch in your life can only happen through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. 

Before we look at God’s Word, I want to make one other comment about Stormy Sue. As a Susie Sunshine, I initially had a hard time accepting and relating to the Stormy women God was bringing into my life. I was both intimidated by their outward appearance and shocked by the depths of their fury. Quite honestly I thought that the sinful ways they were expressing anger should be the focus of my encouragement and teaching in their lives. The more I saw into the hearts of various Stormy Sues, however, the more I came to realize that anger wasn’t really the problem. There was something driving the anger that wasn’t touched by my counsel or prayer or Bible reading or even accountability. We’ve touched on the issue already. Stormy women are driven by fear—just like us Sunshines. The nature of the fear, however, is the challenging problem for dear Sue. You see, in order for the Holy Spirit to work in her heart, she must entrust the control of her mind, will, and emotions to the Father. She must deliberately put herself in a submitted position at His feet and relinquish all control to Him. But that is exactly what terrifies Stormy Sue the most—being controlled and being powerless. Do you see the dilemma? The only way healing can come in her life is for her to do the very thing she fears the most. 

What then is a Stormy Sue to do? We’ll look at that (later). For now, let’s turn our hearts to the Father.

Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

OTHER POSTS ABOUT STORMY SUE:

Journey – Week Thirty-Five

Journey – Week Thirty-Three

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Five

Making Surrender Your Last Resort

Naaman was the commander of a large army. But even though he was a powerful soldier, he suffered from leprosy, a painful skin disease. Naaman traveled to receive healing from the prophet Elisha. Yet he balked at Elisha’s strange directions. Naaman looked in the right place and asked the right questions, but did not like what he heard. This soldier only acted on Elisha’s words as a last resort.

We all understand that surrender is necessary for healing, but there’s a difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Just like Naaman, we can hear truth – and even understand it – but we may not act on that wisdom.

Naaman’s last resort was surrendering to God. We can make the same mistake. Don’t wait until other efforts have failed before you surrender to Him. Make surrender your first choice, not your last resort.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Read Naaman’s story here: 2 Kings 5:1-14

Trek – Week Thirty-Five

Let’s be honest. Hanging onto healthy and helpful expressions of anger when we are triggered can be really challenging — especially if we have grown accustomed to letting our anger control and define our behaviors.

This is particularly true for those of us who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or trauma. Because of our past experiences, we may be hyper-vigilant—always looking for danger, always distrustful of others—and we may be very sensitive about how others relate to us.

…What I probably won’t do once my old wounds are triggered is hit the pause button and take a moment to question my perception or put myself in my co-worker’s shoes.  My anger has clouded my ability to have empathy or to think about the situation in any other way than from my self-protective stance.

That’s why anger is so tricky.  If my emotional thermostat is not calibrated correctly because of past abuse or hurt, I may believe that others are out to get me or that they are intentionally hurting me when they are not.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Read recent Trek posts relating to anger:

Trek – Week Thirty-Two

Trek – Week Thirty-Three

Trek – Week Thirty-Four

Journey – Week Thirty-Five

Let’s take a peek into Stormy Sue’s heart. (We looked at two different ladies in Week Thirty-Three) What do you think is triggering all of Sue’s anger?

Sue is terrified of losing control. To say it another way, Sue’s greatest fear is that someone will control her or that she will be powerless in a situation.

Now that presents a big problem. Why? Because Sue cannot control her husband. She is powerless to change him, and that means her anger will be continually triggered as she relates to Chad. Chad may actually be very repentant and broken. He may be hungry for God and passionate about his recovery. But Sue, because she feels she must be in control, will scrutinize him mercilessly. If he says the wrong thing or responds to her in a wrong way or, God forbid, masturbates or has some other kind of sexual slip, Sue will rage all over him again. If this dynamic continues in the relationship, Chad will either give up on his recovery (he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, so why bother) and lose the relationship, or he will remain in recovery and leave the relationship (the better-to-live-on-the-roof-than-in-the-house-with-a-contentious-woman thing). If Chad doesn’t believe in divorce, he may “leave” the relationship by sinking into a deep depression or by getting a job which forces him to be away from home all of the time. 

Unlike Susie Sunshine, Stormy Sue has a good grasp on reality and is more than able to express anger. That is where the differences end, however. Both kinds of women usually express anger in unhealthy ways.

Most Sues are very sarcastic. They are very adept at putting others down and making very cutting remarks. Even as believers they may struggle with using profanity when they are angry. And they are more likely to blame others for their anger rather than taking responsibility for their emotions. You can guess that Stormy Sues would be great at both covert and overt revenge. When a Stormy Sue is angry her primary goals are to wound as she has been wounded and to regain a sense of power and control over the situation. 

As you might expect, it is very easy for a Stormy Sue to get stuck in her anger as she grieves. Some have referred to her as an avoidant/persecutor enabler. I call her a controlling damager. Her life is spent managing and controlling situations and people in an effort to protect herself from injury and to meet her own needs for significance and worth. From the outside, she looks like a person who has it all together. People trust her to get the job done. Of course, you don’t want to get on her bad side. From the inside, she looks like a scared kid desperately trying to protect herself from getting hurt. Her motto is: I can endure anything as long as I am in control.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Four

Every journey begins with a destination in mind. That destination determines how we plan for the trip. And with any good plan, we should anticipate the challenges we may face.

Imagine you’re planning a hiking and camping trip in the mountains. While you’re excited about the adventure, it’s always wise to prepare for an emergency. You anticipate a safe trip, but you will probably pack a first aid kit. While the weather report predicts clear skies, it makes sense to pack your rain gear. And even though you want to escape from an always-available world, it won’t hurt to have your cell phone for emergencies.

As with any journey, the path to healing and freedom is filled with potential obstacles that can get us off track, or even derail our progress.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-Four

“So how can we express anger in a way that is healthy and actually helpful in strengthening emotional intimacy?”

Great question.

…We can define helpful anger as:

Honest – I use an IFAB statement to express my anger (“I feel furious with you right now about your behavior because it was disrespectful and hurtful.”)

Kind – I do not use cutting or sarcastic remarks.

Responsible – I recognize that no one other than me has power over my emotions; others can’t makeme angry.

Fair – I do not use humor to attack others (in public or in private).

Contained – I don’t get back at others or hurt others when I am angry. I trust God to deal with them.

Controlled – I invite God to help me manage the expression of my anger.

Interactive – I express my anger in safe relationships where it can be talked through and worked out.

Expressed – I deal with my anger by acknowledging it and expressing it appropriately instead of stuffing it or obsessing over resentments toward others.

Authentic – I express anger in order to repair relationships instead of to manipulate the emotions of others.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Four

Based on the glimpse I gave you into Susie’s heart and thoughts (last week’s blog), what is Susie (Sunshine’s) greatest fear?

Susie is terrified of being rejected.

Obviously, she’s afraid of being rejected by her spouse and other people, but she is also afraid of displeasing and being rejected by God. On the outside, she looks like she has it all together. On the inside, she is dominated by fear. 

For this reason, when someone does something to offend or hurt Susie, she finds it difficult to express her anger. Perhaps in the past any expression of anger was seen as rebellion and dealt with harshly or abusively by a parent. Maybe she has been incorrectly taught that all anger is sinful. Perhaps the only anger she has ever seen was very hurtful and sinful and she has vowed never to let herself be that way. For whatever reason, even when anger is appropriate and necessary, Susie is unable to express (and sometimes even feel) anger in a healthy way. Of course, Susie does feel anger—even if she can’t or won’t identify it as anger. So how does an angry person act when she is afraid of being rejected, condemned, or hurt (physically and/or emotionally)?

The Susie Sunshines I have met typically deal with their anger with what I call the “TNT approach.” Susie will take and take and take abuse. She will be put down, belittled, controlled, manipulated, and lied to for long periods of time—always rationalizing behavior and making excuses for her husband (and others). Eventually, though, all of the anger that she has been pushing down into her soul in an effort to respond “spiritually” to her husband or to keep from getting hurt will come flying out of her in a magnificent explosion. Kaboom! The explosion usually only lasts a few minutes and is followed by an emotional meltdown complete with tears and remorse. Usually the controlling man she is married to is able to use her fear of rejection to manipulate Susie’s emotions, and she will find herself apologizing profusely for her angry outburst and doing everything she can to make it up to him.

Susie Sunshines also usually struggle with passive aggressive anger—undercover anger—because it is less intense and seems less sinful. Susie may not even be aware of passive-aggressive behavior in her life, especially if she is still denying a problem in her marriage. Susies also tend to withdraw from relationship when they are angry, and they may struggle with depression and physical ailments as their unexpressed anger eats them from the inside out. 

We’ll talk more about Susie Sunshine in future lessons. Others have referred to her as an avoidant/compliant enabler. I like to refer to her as a damage controller. Her life is spent rescuing and caring for others in an attempt to meet her own needs for love and acceptance and significance. From the outside, she looks great. Of course, she has to— since what people think really matters to her. From the inside, she looks like a scared kid desperately looking for love. Her motto is: I can endure anything as long as you keep loving me.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Three

Deadly mindset #3 is a close cousin to the deadly mindset of blaming. I’m calling this mindset re-naming, but a more familiar word is rationalization. When we rationalize our behaviors, we acknowledge that we did them but then justify our actions with a reason or excuse. “I was stressed out,” or “I had a really bad day at work,” or “It’s my job to take clients out to eat wherever they want to go.”

Re-naming can also be a strategy we use to try to spin the truth: “I did not have sex with that woman” is a classic example of re-naming.

If I re-name sex in my mind to mean intercourse only, then I can tell the world that I didn’t have sex, when in reality I may have had oral sex or cybersex or some other sexual experience with or without another person.

This mindset is deadly to recovery because it excuses sinful choices instead of repenting from them. God already knows the truth. He just wants us to be honest – without offering excuses.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-Three

…And here is the tricky part. Because anger is always a secondary emotion meant to protect ourselves from hurt, it is often expressed in hurtful or intimidating ways to others. When others feel hurt or scared, they generally either try to calm us down, withdraw from us, become defensive, or get angry back. This can throw the relationship into a very negative cycle in which we are constantly reacting to each other’s anger instead of talking about the hurt and fears underneath it. Instead of fighting for emotional connection and intimacy, we end up fighting each other.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Three

We are going to be discussing two different kinds of women. You will totally relate to one of them and the other one you will see as totally wacko. I want you to understand both dynamics because it will be helpful for you to understand how other women struggle (and perhaps your husband struggles) as it pertains to anger. Are you ready?

The first woman we are going to meet is like me. Let’s call her Susie (as in sunshine). Now unfortunately Susie has gone off and gotten herself married to a verbally abusive and controlling sex addict. When people look at Susie they see a nice, helpful, caring, sensitive, good-listening, merciful kind of person. And since it is very important to Susie that she has the approval and affirmation of others, she rarely gets angry or frustrated. Susie thinks that anger is a very immature emotion, that people who have a deep walk with Christ don’t get angry, and that the best policy is always to say a kind word instead of saying something that might hurt someone’s feelings. She isn’t exactly dishonest when someone does something inappropriate, but she isn’t completely honest either. Looking for the best in people or in a situation is one of her best traits, she thinks. She can always find the good in someone.

…The second kind of woman typically married to an addict… Let’s call her Sue—Stormy Sue. 

Hang on, Mel. That’s not fair. The other woman got a nice name—Susie Sunshine. What’s up with the storm imagery anyway? 

My codependent, people-pleasing self is trying to make a comeback, but I am going to risk your rejection and press on. Hang in there with me while I describe dear Sue.

Sue is a self-made woman. She is magnificent, really. She is the multi-tasker of all multi-taskers and always seems to be able to juggle a million things at once. Talk about your problem solvers. This gal knows how to manage people and situations. More often than not her physical appearance reflects her great ability to manage life. Usually slim, fit, and confident, Sue looks like God’s gift to everyone. (By the way, we Susie Sunshines are usually greatly intimidated by Stormy Sues. What in the world could we possibly offer someone like you who has it all together? We fear that pleasing you is out of the question, and so we tend to avoid relationship with you.) Now the only small dent in Sue’s perfectness is her temper. You see, when things get out of her control or she feels attacked or wounded, the gentle rain storm that brings refreshment to all living things turns into a raging hurricane, destroying everything that gets in its way. Sue knows she has a volatile temper and even feels guilty or convicted about it at times. Overall, however, she feels pretty good about herself and usually justified when she does get angry. When things get back to being manageable, Sue’s anger always subsides, and life is good again.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Two

There is a huge difference between shame and conviction. Conviction is when we are made to see our sin for what it is. Shame is when we are more consumed with our “badness” than our sin. It is simply another form of self-obsession, and that is the reason it leads to more selfish acting out. Christ took our shame on the cross. If we are in Him, we will be convicted of our sin and see it as He sees it. Then we can CONFESS IT – agree with Him about it – and receive His forgiveness.

When we focus on Him, both His view of our sin and His provision of forgiveness for it, we can move on in grace! Christ took our shame. We are no longer defined by our sin.

And that is very good news.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-Two

Anger is an emotion God gave us to enable us to move to protect ourselves or others from danger or harm when something hurtful or scary has happened.  Anger is accompanied by a physical rush of adrenaline and other neurochemicals which impact us physiologically.  Our senses are more acute, our muscles tense, preparing for action, and our facial expression and body language communicates to others to back off.

So, here is the important part to remember.  Anger is always a secondary emotion that arises because of some kind of hurt or fear of being hurt.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-Two

Today’s blog is a continuation of: Journey – Week Thirty-One

None of the types of anger I have listed will help you to connect with others. In fact, they all sabotage healthy, interconnected relationships with the people that you love. Does that mean we can’t get angry?

Of course, not! Anger happens. How we deal with that anger, however, is very important. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26 to be angry and do not sin. Is that really possible?…

If we use the types of anger I have listed above as opposites of healthy, godly anger, then we can define good anger as:

Honest“I’m really angry with you right now.”

Kind – No cutting or hurtful remarks allowed.

Responsible – You recognize that no one other than you has power over your emotions; he can’t “make” you angry.

Fair – Cruel jokes (in public and private) are off limits.

Contained – We don’t “get back” at our spouses. We trust God to deal with them.

Controlled – We invite the Holy Spirit to take control of our anger.

Interactive – Healthy anger always takes place in relationship where it can be talked through and worked out.

Outward – Again, no under-cover anger is healthy. Anger turned inward either hurts others or ourselves.

Real – It is dishonest to use your anger to manipulate your husband.

It is very important for you to be able to recognize the different faces of anger both in your own life and in your husband’s. If you can’t discern what is happening during conflict, then you will never be able to resolve problems in a healthy, healing way. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One