Individuals who develop resiliency exhibit certain behaviors to guide their actions. In today’s lesson, we will discuss the common traits exhibited by resilient people listed below, and how you can develop them.
- Seeking Knowledge and Understanding
- Emotional Regulation
- Flexibility: The Ability to Learn and Adapt
- Maintaining a Healthy Self-Concept
Seeking Knowledge and Understanding
Knowledge is power.
As you go through this challenging time with your partner, it's important to understand more about the addiction, your spouse and yourself. This is critical because knowledge and understanding empower you to make better decisions on how to move forward. Increasing awareness allows you to better understand how this experience is influencing you and what you can do to overcome it.
You probably already learned that it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of what you have discovered about your partner, leaving little thought to anything else. At times it can feel nearly impossible to step back and reflect on the situation and how it is affecting you. However, self-reflection is an important part of seeking knowledge leading to better decision-making. We have a few suggestions on how you might step back and learn from your experience.
Here are some guidelines that you can use for self-reflection:
- When you feel upset it's important to express your feelings and clear your emotions. Get what’s inside, out! You may consider reaching out to a trusted friend or to writing in a journal.
- Reflect on what you have been feeling and thinking about this experience. As you replay the events in your mind, try to act as an observer. Explore your own emotions and feelings. Try to avoid explanations that either justify or condemn what happened.
- Next, describe the experience, your thoughts and feelings. Again, you can write this in a journal or share this with a trusted friend. Now, ask yourself what you have learned from the experience. If you can’t think of anything you have learned yet, that is okay. Your mind is likely still trying to make sense of what happened. Researchers have found that when you can make sense of the experience or find meaning in it, your mind begins moving forward.
- Finally, as you have been learning about your thoughts and feelings, consider how you have responded to your partner’s behaviors. Would you like to respond differently to him/her? If so, how? Now, rehearse in your mind the new way you would like to respond.
We are beings with deep core emotions. Our core emotions include: sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust and shame. We also have secondary emotions such as embarrassment, jealousy, guilt or pride. Furthermore, there are background emotions such as well-being or malaise, calm or tension.
When we go through difficult or traumatic times, it's easy to get stuck in certain emotions. For example, and as I have mentioned in our research, with women who have discovered their partner’s sexual addiction, over 50 percent indicate they have been experiencing elevated trauma symptoms for more than two years! During the times of trauma the dominant emotions of fear and apprehension are difficult to regulate. In fact, when emotions such as fear and sadness take over our brain, our entire body can end up feeling like it is being attacked. In this hijacked state of mind it is difficult to think and feel other emotions like enjoyment and love.
Fortunately, by developing resiliency traits like that of emotional regu- lation, the dominant emotions of anger, sadness, shame and fear can be less dominant and additional emotions like enjoyment and love can increase. This process is not easy, but it is possible.
To help you begin to learn how to regulate emotionally, here’s a short exercise to help you better understand your dominant emotions:
Before moving on, please complete the exercise “Learning to Observe Your Emotions.”
Download the file here, or find it on our blog here.
As you deal with your partner’s sexual addiction, you can expect that your emotions will be all over the place. Your initial goal should be to understand your dominant emotions and then learn how to regulate the emotions that are overwhelming your mind. The following three- step process is designed to help you in this process.
Increase Your Awareness
Emotional regulation begins with increasing your awareness. If you are like most people, you can easily recognize when your brain is being hijacked by fear and worries. However, when fear is triggered most people don’t know how to respond. They feel the fear and before they know it they are anxious, physically upset, and struggle to know how to respond. In essence what is happening is that your brain is sending out a warning message that something is wrong. Instead of accepting the fear, your brain would benefit by slowing down and realizing what is really happening to it. For example, you may feel a strong desire to cry or scream, or curl-up in a ball. While these are normal behaviors considering your emotional response, they won’t help you assess and understand what is really going on inside of you.
Once you are aware and have identified the trigger behind the emo- tion, you have begun the process of “slowing down” your mind. This is a critical first step that allows the rest of the brain to at least join in the decision-making process.
Observe the Emotion
Once awareness has increased and your mind has slowed down to analyze your emotions, the thinking part of your brain can catch up with the emotional part of your brain. The benefit of slowing down and letting the rest of the brain catch up is that you can observe what is happening inside your mind. Dr. Daniel Goleman indicates in his book Emotional Intelligence that by slowing down it allows “the brain to bring a more analytic or appropriate response to our emotional impulses.” As an observer of your own fear, you can shift your attention away from fear and anxiety to a better response.
Responding Not Reacting
The third element of emotional regulation is responding to the emotion. If you quickly react to your fear, you will likely become upset, angry or depressed. However, if you slow down and observe your emotions, the thinking part of your brain will allow you to respond.
Your response may look like this:
- Allow yourself to feel the fear, and then
- Observe that it is coming from the fact that your husband has done something that reminded you of his relapses, and
- Instead of picking up the phone and calling him in a panic- you dial his number and say, “Hey, can you do me a favor? I am feeling a little anxious and I just needed to talk this out.”
The following cut out is a summary of the three responses for you to hang up on your mirror or refrigerator. We’d love to see where you hang it! Feel free to take a picture and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org where we will be post it on Facebook anonymously.
The third trait of resiliency is flexibility. Let’s explore how flexibility applies to you in your situation. First, the opposite of being flexible is being rigid. When you discover your partner is acting out sexually, it changes your whole relationship. You think and feel different.
In the interviews we conducted for this workshop, many women said, “I had to give up the dream of what I thought my marriage would be like.” In giving up their dream, they had to learn how to be flexible. Eventually, they changed the way they talked about their marriage.
Here's an example of one woman’s story. Notice how she had to give up her “perfect marriage” dream but feels good about her relationship anyway.
"I realized that his recovery was his work and that we could still have a good marriage, but it wasn’t based on my child- hood dreams. While it's hard to say, I think our marriage is better now because we have worked through so many hard things. He has to work out his stuff and I have to work out mine. We are better people because of it."
Maintain a Healthy Self-Concept
One of the most critical resiliency traits that you must develop is about you. Many women struggle with their identity after they discover their partner’s sexual misbehaviors. They wonder if they are good enough, if something is wrong with them or if they have somehow failed. This negative self-talk intensifies the pain and makes it even worse. How- ever, resilient people learn to develop or maintain a strong self- concept and personal identity.
Women who maintain a sense of self-identity:
- Realize that their partner’s addiction is something that they are not responsible for
- Focus on maintaining their own strengths
- Refuse to take on the victim role
- Recognize that they have a choice at any time to stay or leave
- Establish boundaries
- Expect their partner to want to heal and recover because they are worth fighting for
If you have lost your self-identity here’s a short audio reminder of who you really are:
Please listen to "Your True Worth" found here.
This Community Lesson was provided by:
The Addo Recovery Group
Addo has also provided us with a printable version of this lesson, with room for notes, as well as the audio file for "Your True Worth" to download at: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-8biaSNIgpAfmFFT3RSZ3JZa3cxekZvakc0d0w4bGhGYi1YS2cxR3ppdl9TNTV6LXdNRW8&usp=sharing
These and other downloadable files from past lessons can be found at: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-8biaSNIgpAXzZENzdiaG5uaFk&usp=sharing