(This post is an excerpt from Choosing Change #14: Living, Loving and Leaving a Legacy, which is a chapter in the book “Cultivating Love: Choosing Change” by Dr. Ken McGill
When you think of your bedroom and all that is shared, enjoyed, celebrated, protected and honored between you and your partner, one of the most difficult ordeals a person could encounter is to learn that your partner has been unfaithful. Words like “devastated, traumatized, worthless, numb, abandoned and enraged” are often expressed when speaking about the betrayal, yet they seldom capture the enormity, magnitude or pervasiveness a person feels deeply throughout their body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Among other things, learning about the behavior destroys the “offended” partner’s sense of safety, trust, value, and worth, and the traumatization that ensues creates physiological symptoms like pain, distress, exhaustion, panic, fear, confusion, depression, and disempowerment, and these are only at the outset of discovery. Equally, the “offending spouse” may feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, impatience, callousness, and depression as well, which may hamper their ability to be empathetic with their partner, which happens to be one of the most necessary and curative of all behaviors that is desperately needed in the season of life that the couple has now entered.
If a person (much less a marriage) is to recover from the effects of unfaithfulness or infidelity and the deep psychological, spiritual and relational wounds that have occurred, then immediate and ongoing medical, psychological (possibly pharmacological), therapeutic and spiritual attention and treatment are recommended. Also, knowing your pace of recovery is more akin to a 26.2-mile marathon versus a 100-meter sprint may help you to realize you can recover, but it will take time, effort, commitment, good resources and your need to connect with people who are knowledgeable about what it will take to facilitate change, healing, and growth in your life and marriage, especially when you think about the “sexual row in the garden of your marriage.”
As a Psychotherapist who has been a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (or “CSAT,” a specific type of Therapist who specializes in infidelity and rebuilding relationships) for the past 20 years, I have immense respect for the process it takes to treat and rebuild (and in some cases, dissolve) relationships. Based on the severity of the experience, it’s not uncommon for me to work for months before I hear a couple laugh or years before health, trust, reconnection, and restoration are experienced. If you’re reading this, it may not take years for you to personally feel better, however, it’s my experience that pain, anger, ambivalence, and mistrust are commonly felt when the couple talks about the facts, behaviors, plans, issues, and needs that revolve around their experience.
So what follows are my thoughts as a CSAT where I briefly offer for your consideration some “non-negotiables” that I think need to be present, up-front and thoroughly involved in your treatment, activity and recovery process. In doing so, allow me to say “what this is not,” and equally “what this is” in an attempt to provide clarity to the steps you’re about to take as you read this subsection.
What this is “not”:
1) This is not an exhaustive review of all of the treatment processes that you’ll want and need to access to recover from the discovery and traumatization that accompanies infidelity. When you think about the breadth, depth, and width of all that factors into how and why a person was unfaithful, and who and what will be involved in your overall recovery process, it may seem that I’m leaving out or not touching upon some processes that have impacted you in this subsection. If this is what you’re thinking and feeling, you’re correct. However, it’s my hope that based on your unique needs, you’ll discover, consider and add skilled people and resources that you deem necessary and critical for your personal healing and recovery. If I do my job well in describing this process, then hopefully, I’ll point you in the right direction where you’ll identify issues that need further discussion, areas that need further treatment and behaviors that need to be eliminated or developed as you go forward. To this point, I’ve tried to include hyperlinks to people, places or processes that could help you as you plan your next steps; as time permits, please visit these online portals of good information!
2) This is not a “quick fix” nor “formula” that will have you up and running in 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months. Neither is this a “checklist” to be accessed where at the end of the month you’re able to say “well I tried, but it can’t be done…” Again, I have too much respect for the traumatization and psychotherapeutic processes that accompany recovering from infidelity. If I do my job, then hopefully, you’ll understand the nature, process, gravity, weight, responsibility, and commitment that it will take to start and maintain your healing. What I offer (and what you’ll probably need) is psychotherapy at it’s most basic and “lowest” level of care, which is out-patient treatment (1 hour a week, for individual, couples or group psychotherapy). For some of you, based on an assessment that takes your experience into consideration, a higher-level of care (Intensive Outpatient, or even Residential Treatment) may be suggested, sought or recommended. A good rule of thumb to consider is if you’re not reaching or achieving your goals connected to healing from infidelity, then perhaps a higher level of care is necessary to hit your targets. Please consider this, and discuss this with your CSAT.
What this is:
1) An integrative (and hopefully thorough) recommendation of the basics or “staples”that you’ll both will want to consider that deserves to be included in your interactions and relational processes to experience healing. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? In his model of human motivation, the “lower-level” needs that a person has are to be worked on and satisfied before their “higher-level” needs are met. Well, allow me to be audacious and present to you “McGill’s Hierarchy of Needs,” where the levels of this triangle suggest there is a similar level of progression with your process and healing from infidelity, in that before higher levels of healing are experienced, then lower-level commitments and behavior are to be integrated, acted upon then maintained.
I’m going to take one liberty with the Triangles presented above: I’m going to suggest that you turn my triangle “on its side,” and in doing so, suggest you could vertically and simultaneously work on and in each of the areas as if they are rows in your garden. That way, you’re also working and being truthful, while you’re also working to be a safe person, while you’re also engaging in acts that demonstrate healthy expressions of love.
2) I’ve endeavored to keep this model simple and therefore, doable. By focusing on five simple but potent areas, it’s my hope that you can and will do something on a daily basis to bring about personal and relational change and healing. To that end, you’ll see that each of the five areas (Truth, Safety, Empathy, Care and Connection, and Love) have five critical points for elaboration, along with “Q’s” and “A’s” (that is, Questions and Action items) for you to think through, discuss, implement, then measure to determine if you’re accomplishing your objectives related to the entry you’re reading. The Q’s and A’s are meant to be insightful, practical and based upon your needs, I encourage you to use your creativity to modify or enhance the principle that is presented, as you work to bring about the necessary change(s) to satisfy the needs you’re seeking to meet.
3) Just as we’ve done with the other areas in your home, we’re inviting “treatment team specialists” to this area of your relationship whose models and work reflect years of contribution to the treatment of the person, marriage, family, etc. You’ve been introduced to some of the Specialists and their models in previous chapters of this book, or in my Cultivating Love book series, or, this may be the first time you’re introduced to their work. The specialists cover the range of trauma, addiction, neurobiology, and sex education to name a few areas. Also, I encourage you to access authors and resources from your own library, as you focus on integrating that material with the information you’re receiving from me.
4) Finally, it’s my hope that these suggestions will help and guide you in your endeavor to exit the dark forest of pain, devastation, helplessness, and hopelessness, and to enter the meadow where light, clarity, safety, good decisions, and self-/other love is realized.
Some think the only way out of the forest is to scorch the earth (and everyone involved) and burn it down. That’s the behavior of the Adapted Adolescent part of you versus the wiser, more discerning Functional Adult part of you.
When viewed in this manner, the Adolescent seeks quick fixes and immediate gratification, and will impulsively “work” to remove obstacles or seek to resolve the challenges that impact the two of you with impatience, recklessness or without expending sufficient energy or appropriate effort, which typically results in unnecessary suffering and consequences.
On the other hand, it’s the Functional Adult part of you who diligently does the work to learn how to integrate and utilize tools to effectively find the path and reach the clearing without sabotaging yourself or inflicting additional damage to others involved in the recovery and healing process.
So there you have it. A maxim that I operate by is “therapy should be therapeutic,” and if it’s not therapeutic then there could be something amiss with the behaviors, either suggested or implemented. When infidelity occurs, the last thing couples need is more pain. In order to heal, everyone and everything in the crucible needs to be considered and added because of it’s therapeutic and curative value. I hope you realize and experience this when you apply these suggestions. I wish you the best in your work toward healing and recovery, starting right now.
Level 5: Truth (Alethes)
1) The Truth is not Lethal. The Greek word for our English word Truth (and Integrity) is “Alethes,” which is a compound word: “A,” which means “No, not, without” + “Lethos,” from which we our English word“Lethal”). There is nothing that is “life-giving” about infidelity; to the contrary, it ruptures trust, contaminates love and connection, inflicts PTSD symptoms (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and if not ceased immediately, could threaten the very life of your marriage and family relationships. So the very first step in dealing with infidelity is to engage in behavior that is not lethal, and one of the most helpful behaviors to contribute is to tell the truth.
The Truth, even though it is painful to hear, will never kill off anyone. It’s the lies, half-truths (“fractionating”) or lack of integrity that damages the opportunities to create safety, adult-to-adult communication or relationship repair.
Finally, it goes without saying, there needs to be zero-tolerance with infidelity. When you think about the horrific devastation that occurred after Hurricane Katrina hit the City of New Orleans in 2005, the only way they could survey the damage done, engage in a clean-up process and begin to rebuild the city was to first repair the levee walls so that no new leaks (infidelity or other addictive behavior) would occur.
Question: Have I told the truth? What have I left out? What relationship-threatening behavior do I need to cease immediately? Do I know the truth? What questions need to be asked and answered?
Activity: Locate a CSAT Therapist and set up an appointment to discuss what a Disclosure of the truth entails. Download and read the book “Disclosing Secrets” (and for the Partner, “Surviving Disclosure“) to gain an adequate picture of what your next steps need to entail.
2) Know the Truth: Remember the Hebrew word for“Future” (Ahar) is the word picture of a person in a rowboat. When you’re in a rowboat, you never see where you’re going, but you’ll always see where you’ve been. When you think about the behavior of unfaithfulness, I’d want you to know and understand what were and are the factors that got you to where you’re at.
To do that, you’ll want to look at your personal history, and specifically how psychological, traumatic, addictive, familial and spiritual factors to name a few, got you to a place like Darth Vader, whose psychological development we looked at in Choosing Change #6, #7 and #8, eventually thought that blowing up planets (or in your case, a marriage and family) was a good thing to do. You’ll need to know how you got into your own “dark forest,” and what factors and resources will help you to “exit” that place. Equally, you’ll want to intimately know and become very familiar with the truth and the pain your partner is currently experiencing.
Among the many insightful and practical strategies that Carol Juergensen Sheets conveys in her book “Help.Her.Heal” is to Acknowledge the issue(s) your partner is bringing up, Validate the feelings that are conveyed (or what you think is being felt) and to Reassure them of their right to the feelings, interpretations, and conclusions that are communicated, and hopefully, your expressed desire to help her heal.
Question: What are some of the reasons and factors that caused you to become unfaithful? Revisit Choosing Change #6 – #8 and record some of those factors here. How could the implementation of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model or LoveWorks help you to correct some of these factors?
Activity: Schedule time to read these posts (or other sections of in this book) over the next 2 weeks. Read and incorporate the Imago Dialogue Charts right now (Imago Dialogue – Instructions, Sender, Receiver and Appreciation Flowcharts) to help you to empathetically listen to, talk about and begin to understand the thoughts and feelings of your partner. Since this is a “two-way street,” I encourage the “offended” partner to use these tools as well to improve your ability to be heard. Think seriously about purchasing “Help. Her. Heal.” It could prove to be a very worthwhile and wise investment to help you exit the dark forest!
3) Tell the Truth: Remember in point #1 that the “Truth is not Lethal.” This also means that your speech and the content of what you’ll both convey will need to line up with this fact. Not telling the truth “gaslights” a person and delegitimizes their reality, which tends to set off PTSD triggering, firing and suffering experiences that are downright cruel and unnecessary.
Equally, telling the truth and inquiring about the other person’s reality creates an environment where your communication helps you to “co-regulate” versus dysregulate each other, which is a critical skill to learn because it helps to lower the distress that you both may be feeling.
I suspect there will be moments where, if I were to hold up a quarter between the two of you and asked you to tell me what you see, I can promise you that you’ll see two different presentations (Washington’s head on the “biological side” and one of the 50 States on the “geographical” side). Healthy and respectful communication occurs when equal amounts of time are spent looking at the biological, then the geographical sides of issues without defacing, dismissing nor devaluing the other person’s side (their truth) and the conclusions they may reach.
Finally, Dr. Katehakis reminds us that curse words and other passionate communication originate in the right hemisphere of our brain, and when such language occurs, we understand that you’re expressing intense feelings that beg to be acknowledged and validated because you’re wanting and looking for an emotional response.
That may be the case, however, it’s the practice of Emotional Balance (Level 2, #3 below) that will help you to validate the right-hemisphere emotions you feel without losing the “logical left-hemisphere” skills that are necessary to discuss the critical issues that need to be discussed, understood and acted upon. So please, speak your truth, but be aware and responsible with the use of words, behaviors, and processes that will either bring you closer to or push you further away from your overall goals.
Question: What thoughts, feelings, issues and “passionate truth” do I wish to convey to my partner?
Actions: Write the “raw” first draft of your thoughts in your journal (remember, journaling is a spiritual discipline), then write a refined second draft of your entry and schedule an uninterrupted time to share it with your partner. Since you’re in essence taking a “time-out,” take a look at “the effective use of time outs” and incorporate these suggestions as needed. Make sure you include ideas and solutions that might help you to achieve any of the personal, behavioral or relational goals you’re aiming for which when implemented, might help you to feel better.
4) Truth/Integrity: Since the English words “Truth” and “Integrity” are the same Greek word (Alethes), take a look at and consider how the following words which originate from our English word Integrity could be beneficial to your overall effort to facilitate healing.
Know that Integers are whole numbers. This means you’ll want to work hard so you and your partner see the whole picture of the “inglorious truth” (versus revealing only fractions, or convenient parts of it). Doing this helps to create transparency and clarity with your actions because you and your partner need to know what you’re dealing with. Integral means “nothing essential is lacking.” In relation to the Truth, you’ll want to speak the truth, but you don’t want to leave out the practice of containment and love.
You’ll also want to work to eliminate cognitive distortions and other “Killer D’s” that dampen hope, and you’ll want to practice Empathy, Emotional Restitution and any of the other “Empowering E’s” with your partner, who may feel as if their soul is struggling to survive a homicide attempt.
Question: What critical parts and behaviors are still left out of the equation? What behaviors integral behaviors need to be added to the equation, for their therapeutic and curative value?
5) River of Integration: Finally, I’ve mentioned to some couples that discovering infidelity is like having a bomb dropped on you. I’ve likened the Offender’s behavior as being the pilot of the plane, who may feel enormous guilt for the “surprise attack” and the damage that was caused by unfaithfulness. On the other hand, the Offended or Partner’s experience is the recipient of the explosion, and tends to have a significantly different and difficult time trying to survive and recover from the effect of the “ground-zero” hit (which you learned about when you read “Understanding and Empathizing with Survivors of Betrayal Trauma”; if you haven’t read it yet, it’s assigned reading in the Empathy subsection below!).
Getting to a CSAT Therapist or an APSATS Therapist (Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists) and integrating the suggestions that make sense to you and that’ll help you to survive this initial and traumatic crisis is crucial at this time, much like having an Emergency Medical Technician attend to you after you’ve been traumatized due to being in an unexpected accident.
Both of you will want to thoroughly understand the trauma and the subsequent behaviors connected to it, and the treatment that needs to be immediately accessed and integrated if healing is to commence.
I can’t underscore this enough! I encourage both of you to dedicate yourself to learning about trauma, how to effectively support your partner when traumatic reactions hit, and about behaviors that will extinguish psychological and physiological triggers, flareups and retraumatization.
Finally, when you’re able, take a look at the concepts we discussed in Choosing Change #12, about the River of Integration. I encourage you to focus on committing actions that’ll help you to stay in the River (mental health) and as best as you can avoid behaviors that are akin to hitting the sandbars or shore (mental disorder).
One such behavior that could prove to be very helpful is to take a “strategic time-in.” A strategic time-in is like a strategically called time-out, but its purpose is to give you time to “S.I.F.T” whats going on in your mind.
Remember, “SIFT-ing” means you’re focusing on your Sensations in your body, Images that are coming to mind, as well as the Feelings and Thoughts you’re currently experiencing. Sometimes, you might wish to include a Therapist, Psychiatrist, Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, or a safe friend to assist you in determining what “your next right step” could be.
For the “Pilot,” I’m reminded of the words of Marnie Ferree, CSAT and Founder of Bethesda Workshops, who would pass along three bits of information: “You’re probably going to be in the doghouse longer than you’d like, this is going to take longer than you have the patience for, and you’re going to have to work harder than you think you’re working.”
Which leads me to suggest to you as we close this first section about how vital the Truth is, I encourage you to get rid of the drill and toss it overboard (self- or other sabotaging behavior), grab the oars, and keep rowing into your future. If you keep rowing (working each day and throughout the day), you may find that you’ve moved past the burned and scorched earth landscape on the shore of the river, and into a future that is safer, greener and most certainly desired!
Question: What books or resources do you have, or who among your friends or associates could help you to understand the traumatization associated with infidelity?
Action: Read (PDF’s Below). Dr. Omar Minwalla’s Thirteen Dimensions of Sex Addicted Induced Trauma Model and Michelle May’s When it all breaks bad: Ten things to do (and not do) after betrayal offer excellent insight about where you are, validation for what you’re truly going through, and help to illuminate the next steps in your journey.
Level 4: Safety (Teros)
1) Feeling safe is essential! In addition to the infusion of the truth, safety is probably the second most needed behavior that could serve your marital dyad well. If the Offender has engaged in the self-serving behavior of unfaithfulness that was kept secret from their partner for months, years or even decades, it’s not only shocking and traumatizing to discover the infidelity but it’s also disorienting to the Partner because to them, the person who they once thought was safe, trustworthy and reliable, is seen and could be experienced as threatening, unsafe and mired in mistrust. Identifying and ceasing unsafe behavior, while simultaneously (and consistently) implementing behavior that reflects and increases safety could not only stabilize a rocky relationship but also serve as a catalyst to begin healing.
The Greek word for our English word “Safety” is “Tereo,” and we’ll explore the meaning, different nuances and practical expressions of Safety that originate from this word in this subsection.
The first description of the word Tereos is that of the “Watchman,” as the word is used in Matthew 27:35-36, 55. These verses describe the behavior of the soldiers and of the women who watched and observed Christ as he hung on the Cross. It’s interesting that excruciating and crucial are other words derived from the word Cross because I suspect, like Jesus, the Offended Partner may feel and experience excruciating pain and suffering.
Equally, it’s crucial that the Offender not only observe and bear witness to the suffering their behavior has caused, but like the women who stayed and cared for Jesus, the Offender will want to “watch, work and engage in” actions that heal, while simultaneously “watching out for,” guarding against or work to eliminate harmful behaviors that do not need to be committed.
Question for the Offender: As you integrate the knowledge you gained from the section on Truth, what agonizing behaviors are you observing in your partner, and beyond saying “I’m sorry,” what actions are you engaging in that result in the alleviation of suffering in your partner?
Question for the Offended Partner: As you inventory your head, heart, body and the trauma you are feeling, are you able to express where and how you are hurting, and even more important, identifying and taking in behaviors from the offender that could help you to begin healing? What hinders this from occurring and what internal changes will you make to validate his contributions?
Action: Take a look at the 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart below. Read the instructions then answer questions #4 and #5 to identify what your Red (Intense) and Blue (Cold) behaviors are, in addition to receive insight from your spouse regarding what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your behaviors. (Note: If you’re the Partner doing this exercise, please know that any behavior you identify and move to become responsible with does not constitute cause, fault nor blame for infidelity).
2) Empathy facilitates Safety: In his Complex PTSD book, Pete Walker reminds us that trauma impacts your spouse’s Sympathetic Nervous System, so that if she detects a threat it “locks in the ‘on’ position,” which means it’ll be difficult to have her Parasympathetic Nervous System and all of it’s calmning functions available to help her regain her emotional balance, so that the two of you could create and benefit from attuned communication.
This matters because even though we’ll look at the subject of Empathy in greater detail in Level 3, at this time it’s important to understand just what Empathy means and how it could help you to introduce calm to your family system, so that safety is established in your head, in your relationship and in your home. Empathy, coined and defined by Psychologist Edward Titchener in 1909, means “to project yourself into what you observe.”
One way to accomplish this is to use the Imago Dialogue Charts to inquire what your Offended Partner thinks and feels about her experience with betrayal trauma. Using the Imago Charts to mirror what you hear, validate what makes sense to you (as shared or explained to you by your partner) then empathize with what she may be feeling means you’ll use your energy constructively to create safety and co-regulated connections between the two of you.
Equally, I encourage the Offended Partner to use the charts as well to hear, validate and empathize with the sorrow and contrition that the Offender is hopefully conveying to you. The temptation is to make this a one-way street, where the Offender hears about and receives predictable rage response(s) from his Offended Partner for his misgivings. However, Empathy is always a two-way process; remember, we don’t want to deface either side of the coin because the humiliating and dehumanizing shame associated with betrayal as well as projected shame (rage) that’s triggered and delivered as a response serves no one and is toxic for your body, relationship and home environment.
Do you remember Dr. Janis Spring’s comment in How can I forgive you?: “She will pay attention to her pain until you do?” If so, then to the Offender, I say the sooner you understand, validate, empathize with and provide comfort to your Partner’s hurt, pain, grief and devastation, the sooner she might move to a position to release it and let it go from her body and your home.
Question: What are you learning about your Partner’s pain, anguish and fear that needs acknowledgement and validation, as you use the Imago Dialogue Charts? Is there anything you’d like to convey to your spouse that you appreciate, as you use the Imago Appreciation chart?
Action: It goes without saying that I’d like for you to use the Imago Dialogue Charts to facilitate good communication, understanding, validation, empathy and appreciation with each other.
3) Comfort creates Safety: Here’s something that I think could help that I’d like to offer up for your consideration. I don’t want to be preachy, and I encourage you to take what you can use, but I did say this was going to be integrative. That being said, I’d like to introduce a few passages from the Bible over the next couple of points.
First, know that your Higher Power/God desires to help versus harm you (Jeremiah 29:11), by providing comfort to you in moments when shame, rage, guilt, anger, fear, pain and devastation threaten to overtake and tear down all that is precious to you, important to you, and perhaps remains inside of you.
Even though you both may be struggling to receive or give to each other because you’re doing the best you can to hold onto yourself during this painful season of your life, I want to remind you that the Holy Spirit is called our Comforter, Counselor, Encourager and Inspiration, which happen to be behaviors that could benefit the Right Hemisphere of your brain in your guilt-laden or emotionally reactive moments, and are activities that could be produced by your Middle Pre-Frontal Cortex, or said another way, the Functional Adult part of you. I’m focusing on comfort because of this scripture in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God.”
So what am I suggesting here? My hope is that you’ll consider how connecting with your Higher Power could help you to access and experience comfort (or fulfill any other longing or need you have) so that after you’re empowered and replenished, you’ll offer up to “your neighbor” the same attribute (and specifically comfort), that your brain, body and spirit received from your God, especially when you think about the amount of suffering that needs to be tended to and reduced. Remember the “66% – 33% solution” and other helpful principles from Choosing Change #2 and #3: Connect with God to receive, be loved, be fed and be empowered, then as you’re led and guided by your Higher Power, give what is appropriate to satisfy the needs that are before you.
I’m reminded of Ambrose Bierce’s quote in The Mirror of Intimacy by Dr. Alex Katehakis: “While your friend holds you affectionately by both hands, you are safe, for you can watch both his.” Comfort, when aptly and tangibly applied, conveys care, concern, interest and safety, and more than likely, will be an ongoing need that your brain, body and home will benefit from when delivered, but also when connected to the next point below.
Question: Are you open to being comforted by your God? By your spouse? In what way would you like to be comforted? When are you prone to avoid comfort, because it feels too vulnerable?
Action: Have a talk about when and what form of comfort will be delivered, especially to be applied when emotional flashbacks are experienced. Create, discuss then practice a 3-point (simple) plan that you could implement to help you to regain calm and to be open to (or deliver) comfort to yourself then to each other (i.e., call a time out for 20 mins., look at Walker’s Emotional Flashback material, read scripture passages that help you, and when you’ve regained composure, move to comfort or deliver support to your spouse).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6: 9-10 (TNIV).
4) Safe people guard against unsafe behavior: You’ll recall that our Greek word for Safety (Tereo) infers that safe behavior will be kept and obeyed, per the “Warden and the Guards,” which are part of the “Tereo-making” process. This means that your internal safeguards may need to work overtime to monitor your thoughts, feelings, experiences and behaviors that if left unchecked, could threaten to sabotage the safe person and the safe environment that you’re working to create, especially when care, concern, comfort or other curative behaviors are sorely needed!
To create and maintain internal and external safety in your environment, I’ll encourage you to revisit then keep in mind the principles connected to the A-C-T-I-V-E Model from Choosing Change #6, #7and #8. Why? Because safety in your head, in your relationship and in your home is achieved when you’re aware of, then guard against any possible “jailbreaks” by your maladaptive schemas, maladaptive schema modes, ego defenses and cognitive distortions.
Being aware of how, and having a plan to foil an uprising that could happen at given time is the responsibility of the Warden (i.e., your Functional Adult), who protects those within the walls (your Brain) and the community outside (your Neighbors) from the “bad guys” (your Harsh Internal Critic or other pathological tendencies) who, if left to their own devise, would create havoc, confusion, sabotage and mayhem, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to facilitate healing from infidelity.
Question: Are you aware of which, and how any of your maladaptive schemas, maladaptive schema modes, ego defenses or cognitive distortions could wreak havoc with your goal(s) of guarding against unsafe behavior? How might you sabotage your effectiveness and create unsafety?
Action: Review your answers to questions posed in Choosing Change # 6, #7 and # 8. For that matter, include your responses in Choosing Change #5 as well, because you’ll want to identify when you’re not “traveling with intention” as well. Finish up by applying the A-C-T-I-V-E Model suggestions to determine what choices and changes you need to make to maintain and protect your mind and others, in addition to applying your 68° – 72°-degree Target Chart Worksheet responses to focus on additional solutions that could be beneficial to you.
5) Safe People have an eye for what is valuable to them: In addition to using the A-C-T-I-V-E Model and the 68° – 72° degree Target Chart to help you create safety, the Apostle Paul reminds us of a plan and process in Galatians 6:14, which when it’s implemented, could help you to regain your focus regarding what’s important and a priority in your life. It’s my hope that by enacting this “cognitive shift” you’ll not only see what’s valuable and needs your protection, but that it will also help you to produce behaviors that establish safety, will lessen emotional triggering and reactivity, while also assisting you to protect the curative ingredient of Safety. Here’s the scripture:
“May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (TNIV).
To me, the Apostle Paul is saying (with insight from Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, in the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, 1996) may the world and all that it has to offer to him, generate no more appeal to him than a corpse on a cross would appeal to him. Equally, when the “roles are reversed” and if he were on the cross, the Apostle is saying that he would take no more delight in the things of the world than a man who is dying on the cross would delight in the things he sees before him.
This imagery strikes a very sobering chord. When life or death circumstances are part of your current life experience, what captures your attention, and (how) will you demonstrate what’s important and what matters to you? It’s my hope that embracing this cognitive shift will challenge you like no other one will, and that it will lead to some form of behavioral change whereby you demonstrate what’s important to you, which at this time is demonstrating that safety and creating a safe environment takes precedence in your thinking and your behavior.
So as we close out this subsection on safety, have you “checked your psychological guns at the saloon door,” so that others (and you) will feel safe having a conversation at the table with you?” Are you working to observe, keep and live by the (Tereos) principles that deliver the intangibles of humility, gentleness, grace, patience and peace, along with the tangibles of speaking truth in love, using words to build others up and eliminating impatient and mean-spirited behavior? If you are making progress with the development and delivery of these behaviors that are oriented in eliminating dishonesty, coercion and gaslighting, but on the other hand are focused on depositing behaviors that convey worth, value, honor and esteem, then you’re well on your way to solidifying the all-important intimacy need called Safety.
Question: What are your responses to the questions in the last paragraph?
Action: Create a brief list of 5 – 6 behaviors that define and constitute safe behavior. To the list add people and behaviors that demonstrate a reprioritization of what you value. Add these items to your 68° – 72° degree target chart that you’ll look at each day. Affirm yourself for the progress you’re making toward telling the truth, creating safety and clarifying what’s most important to you.
Your 68° to 72° Degree Target Chart (Psychological and Theological)
These next two exercises (“Your 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart – Psychological and Theological”) are intended to assist you in creating and maintaining safe behaviors in your mind and in your relationships, and will also serve as a “quick glance” to help you notice then prompt you to course correct when unwanted or harmful personal behavior comes to your awareness. Here’s more information about how to benefit from creating your 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart.
In counseling sessions, I’m prone to bring up the “68° – 72° degree range” which refers to the temperature and thermostat setting in my office, which is typically set for 70°.
I’ve noticed over the years that I, and the people whom I’m visiting with, are comfortable, able to focus, are insightful, and function at their optimum when the temperature setting is right at or around the midrange of 70°.
Equally, I’ve noticed discomfort, distraction and derailment tends to occur when the temperature is below 68° or beyond 72°. When this occurs, I quickly move to adjust the thermostat to recreate an environment that’s conducive for constructive outcomes. Through the years I’ve observed how this metaphor actually applies to our overall behavior in life as well, and I’ve encouraged others to create their “68° – 72° degree zone.”
So in your effort to continue to live an examined life where the creation of safety and other functional behaviors are important, I’d like for you to compile your own 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart of Green “Zone” behaviors that define who you are (your identify), what’s your purpose (reason for living) and of course, how you wish to live (your destiny and legacy). The “Green Zone” behaviors you identify in this living document, will always reflect the good and helpful targeted behaviors that will yield functional adult and constructive outcomes for you and those in your environment.
While you’re at it, I’d like for you to take a deep look in the mirror and identify what your Red (Intense) or Blue (Cold) extremes are, that you’d like to avoid if not eliminate altogether. Finally, respond to the questions below in your effort to recoup then redirect your energy from the extremes of the Red and Blue areas to your actual or aspirational Green Zone behaviors. I’ve found that using my energy to develop and live within my Green Zone is the best way to experience the benefits that accompany intentional living!
Questions for the Psychological 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart:
1) Think about the Green Zone behaviors you’re already doing, or, the behaviors that make sense to you as you consider living a healthy and balanced life. What are they? Chart them in your Green Zone.
2) Think about then consider including any helpful feedback or suggestions you’ve received from your Spouse, Partner, Family member, Doctor, Therapist, Pastor, Rabbi, Spiritual Guide or Good Friends that you might wish to develop in your Green Zone. What might you consider incorporating or developing because they make sense to you and the manifestation of these Green Zone behaviors would help you to live a value-focused life?
3) Who or what resources will you access regularly to help you to develop, grow, accomplish and protect any of the Green Zone goals and behaviors you’ve identified?
4) What are your Red or “Intense” behaviors, or “Cold” Blue behaviors, which when displayed or demonstrated, reflect you’re “out of your comfort zone,” which may distract, irritate, create escalation and harm if you don’t “adjust your thermostat” and engage in strategic Green Zone behaviors? Chart those behaviors in the Red or Blue areas.
5) What is the effect of your Intense (Red) and/or Cold (Blue) behavior on others? Ask your Spouse or Partner what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your Red or Blue behavior(s). What Green Zone response(s) would counter the effect and help to heal versus traumatize them?
6) Take a look at your Green Zone behaviors each day. Visualize yourself engaging in then practicing them daily. Journal or share with others what happens when you practice them. Be encouraged and celebrate the positive changes and skills that define who you are and are becoming!
Your 68° to 72° Degree Target Chart (Theological)
In your effort to continue to live an examined life, I’d like for you to look at the bible verses below and compile your own 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart of Green “Zone” behaviors that are “seasoned by scripture.”
When I think about the legacy that I’m leaving, I’m encouraged that my thoughts, feelings, goals and behaviors will reflect an integration of intentional, inspirational and therapeutically focused living.
As you did with your 68° – 72° degree range Psychological Chart, I’d like for you to identify what your Red (Intense) or Blue (Cold) extremes are, that you’d like to avoid if not eliminate all together.
Finally, respond to the questions below in your effort to recoup then redirect your energy from the extremes of the Red and Blue areas to your actual or aspirational Green Zone behaviors. I’ve found that using my energy to develop and live within my Green Zone is the best way to experience the benefits that accompany intentional living!
Questions for the Theological 68° – 72° Degree Target Chart:
1) Think about the Green Zone behaviors you’re already doing, or, the behaviors that make sense to you as you consider living a healthy and balanced life. What are they? Chart them in your Green Zone.
2) Think about then consider including any helpful feedback or suggestions you’ve received from your Spouse, Partner, Family member, Doctor, Therapist, Pastor, Rabbi, Spiritual Guide or Good Friends that you might wish to develop in your Green Zone. What might you consider incorporating or developing because the scripture makes sense to you and the manifestation of these Green Zone behaviors would help you to live a value-focused and inspired life?
3) Who or what resources will you access regularly to help you to develop, grow, accomplish and protect any of the Green Zone goals and behaviors that you’ve identified or are identified in the verses?
4) What are your Red or “Intense” behaviors, or “Cold” Blue behaviors, which when displayed or demonstrated, reflect you’re “out of your comfort zone,” which may distract, irritate, create escalation and harm if you don’t “adjust your thermostat” and engage in strategic Green Zone behaviors? Chart those behaviors in the Red or Blue areas.
5) What is the effect of your Intense (Red) and/or Cold (Blue) behavior on others? Ask your Spouse or Partner what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your Red or Blue behavior(s). What Green Zone response(s) would counter the effect and help to heal versus traumatize them?
6) Take a look at some of the Green Zone scriptures each day. Visualize yourself engaging in then practicing them daily. Journal or share with others what happens when you practice them. Be encouraged and celebrate the positive changes and skills that define who you are and are becoming!
Level 3: Empathy (Splanchnon)
1) Your Heart will be Safe with me: “Your heart is safe with me” is the name of a blog post that I wrote on the subject of Empathy, that’s found in my book Cultivating Love: Daily Bread For Life, Volume I. Actually, there are 7 total posts in that book on the subject of Empathy, and I’ll integrate some of that material into these 5 points in this Level 3 subsection on Empathy.
Upon the foundation of Truth and Safety, we turn to and build in the necessary ingredients of Empathy, which invites you to handle the heart (and soul, and mind and body) of your Partner (you included) with great tenderness, care and gentleness. I’ll talk about what I think are the main ingredients of empathy, but for right now, I implore you to realize that a commitment needs to be made then conveyed that you will care for and handle the heart of your spouse tenderly and sensitively, with your words, expressions, feelings and actions, in order to develop an environment where a hurting heart that’s been devastated could begin, or continue in a process that’s devoted to helping her to heal.
But first, a word about the need for sensitivity and tenderness. The Ancient Greeks thought your Viscera (your internal organs such as your heart, stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines, reproductive system, etc.) is where your Visceral emotions (course, base, earthy or crude emotions, like suffering, but also where anger, fear and love) were thought to originate. Your Visceral organs are located in the large cavity of your body that we call your “Trunk.” If you place one hand at the base of your neck and your other hand at the base of your genitalia, everything in between is the vital area where your visceral organs are located.
What is of interest here is that the medical term for the part of the human anatomy that we call the Viscera is the Greek word Splanchnon. Even more interesting is that Splanchnon also happens to be the Greek word used in the Bible that translates into our English word “Compassion” (Matthew 9:36). So what point am I making here with this interdisciplinary lesson?
One of the most important takeaways for me is that if the “heart” is hurting, grieving, traumatized or misunderstood, then the appropriate response is compassion. When this vital part of ourselves or other parts is exposed (their emotions or our viscera), we’re encouraged to demonstrate a compassionate and empathetic response that conveys to the other (and in this case, your Partner) that their heart is safe with us. Simply stated, their viscera need our compassion. The best way to ensure that this is done…the best way to make sure their heart is safe with us, is to demonstrate compassion with our spoken words, tender touches and just as important, by providing a listening and empathetic ear that strives to understand their visceral emotions.
Think about it. As with any part of the human anatomy, if we have the opportunity to touch the inner parts or organs of another person, the hope is that we do this with great care and with tender and skillful attention, because whoever is touched is in obvious need of our help and our touch or the way we respond will determine if our spouse will feel greater pain, or, will begin to heal. So when others are feeling hurt, pain, anger, sadness, depressed, shamed, guilty or fear, empathy prompts us to demonstrate compassion to their viscera in order to fertilize healing outcomes. Their heart needs to be safe with us.
“We think we listen, but rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know” – Carl Rogers, Psychologist
Question: What behaviors might you need to adjust, because at this present time, they are harsh, hurtful and may actually harm your partner or spouse? What have you heard them say or what comes to mind? What are the compassionate actions that you already know will facilitate healing, and you just need to do more of them without being prompted by your spouse?
Action: You’ll want to add your responses to these questions in your 68° – 72°-degree Target Chart Worksheet, then begin to apply them each day, as if you were applying ointment to a wound that needs to heal.
2. The Ingredients of Empathy: The words below are descriptors or “the ingredients of empathy” that I’d suggest you incorporate into your relational diet, because the serving up and ingesting of these behaviors will help to facilitate nutritious, edifying and empowered outcomes when the curative agent of empathy is needed.
You may not need or use them in each conversation, but try to integrate them as nutritious snacks (brief phone calls or conversations), staple side dishes (conversations that occur regularly), or as the main entrée (after bouts of conflict when you know these are the only ingredients to be served in your effort to repair a rupture in your relationship).
So here are the ingredients of empathy, and I encourage you to become very familiar with them, and to stock them in the cupboard of your mind and heart so that you have them when you need them. Some of the “ingredients” of Empathy are:
a) Compassion: Compassion is one of the primary or “staple” ingredients of Empathy. Compassion infers demonstrating speech and behavior that is tender, kind and is considerate of the “innards” (literally the heart and other vital organs in the trunk of a person). Remember, to the Greeks, the heart was the seat of the emotions, and empathy is your attempt to understand the heart and the emotions of another.
b) Safety: We add Safety because it promotes calm, which promotes communication, which promotes connection and reconciliation in a relationship. Adding Safety to an encounter also reflects that we value and respect the physical, emotional, spiritual, talking and listening boundaries of others. Like adding liquid to any recipe, safety is a must in the empathetic process.
c) Sympathy: Sympathy infers that we try to feel what the other person is feeling, right then and there. It’s possible that your partner could be grieving or suffering; can you identify with his/her grief, loss or suffering experience? Demonstrating sympathy is a lot like trying to understand what may be impacting your spouse, then providing the appropriate response that the situation deserves.
d) Love: Love is a “binder” in any encounter that you wish to create with another person. Love reflects the distinct characteristics of Esteem, Favor, Honor, Acceptance, Respect and Devotion (to name a few) when we practice it. Empathy will take on a greater quality, consistency and substance when these characteristics are added. Think about these words; define them and then attempt to practice them, or, ask your spouse/partner what the behavioral manifestation of these characteristics would look like to them, then, as you are able and within reason, try to provide them.
e) Mercy: Mercy means we engage in a process where our contribution to the situation and/or person is to relieve distress, ease misery and to provide reasonable responses to alleviate the suffering of a person. To this end, Mercy is a valuable ingredient because not only is it the concrete expression of pity and compassion if your spouse is feeling hurt or devastated, but the practice of Mercy also facilitates psychological and physical healing. Keep Mercy close by!
f) Touch: The right amount of touch(ing) at the right time for the right reason promotes connection, care and love as you endeavor to serve up Empathy. A safe, warm, non-sexual but tight embrace at the right time promotes reconnection and reassurance between you and the recipient. It also helps a person to feel noticed, loved, anchored and valuable, which are important outcomes in the empathetic process.
g) Understanding: Understanding is another key staple of Empathy, as it infers you are asking questions and engaging in dialogue to thoroughly know the viewpoint(s) of your partner. Understanding is a compound word (“Together” + “to put”), and the meaning of the Greek word (Syneimi) speaks about your engagement in a process with each other to hear, perceive and comprehend, presumably with whatever issue you are both struggling through or working on. The meaning of the second part of this word (“to put”) describes the collecting together of the individual features of an object into a whole, as if you are collecting pieces of a puzzle and putting them together (so that you both see the picture). This word also means that reflection, pondering and “laying to the heart” (letting it sink in, deeply getting it and demonstrating you got it) is to occur in your process and is a result of your process also. Could you see how your integrating this “ingredient” could help to facilitate Empathy as you endeavor to work to understand each other?
h) Grace: Sometimes we just need a little grace from each other, or, we need to give grace to the other. The demonstration of Grace literally means to engage in behavior that causes and creates joy, pleasure and delight in your life and in your relationships, marriage or otherwise. It is used with some latitude to mean gratification, thankfulness, or appreciation for a kindness that is granted or desired. It also describes favors done without expectation of return. What does the demonstration of grace look like in your life? Who needs to receive it the most? How could your Empathetic process be strengthened if Grace is demonstrated one to another?
i) Peace: Peace is achieved when we lay aside wrathful behaviors (in our speech, mannerisms and body language) and look to impart behavior that facilitates calm, connection and safety. If combined with Safety, outcomes where healing is needed have a better chance to occur due to your work to eliminate any toxic behavior in the soil of your relationships and your marriage.
j) Collaboration: Collaborators or “Co-Laborers” as I use the word, find ways to use their personal energy to identify what is going on, then, within reason, they use their energy to take ownership and responsibility to create negotiated and meaningful outcomes. Collaborators don’t misuse their power or energy in destructive ways with each other. On the other hand, they work and communicate together to deal honestly and responsibly with their emotions, their needs and their expectations. Typically, when Collaboration is added to the Empathetic process, you are more apt to experience a win-win outcome in your interactions with each other because Equality and Empowerment are unique flavors of Collaboration.
k) Patience: From time to time, most dishes you prepare may call for you to add a little salt. Patience, like salt, is a critical ingredient of Empathy, because it not only gives Empathy flavor, but woven into the meaning of the word is our response to another which demonstrates we care about them. Why is that so? Because the Latin word Patiensmeans “I am suffering” (which is why we call the person in the hospital in need of some form of care, a Patient). So what is the reasonable form of care, attention, help or service that you could render to the person who is suffering and is in need of an empathetic response called Patience?
l) The Secret Ingredient: What’s your “secret ingredient,” which when used helps you to put the “wow” factor back in the outcome of your Empathetic process? What I have seen that makes one spouse sit up and take notice of the growth and maturation of the other is the skillful demonstration and application found in “Visiting the Gallery of the Heart” (Empathy #1). By visiting the Gallery of the heart of another, you are thoughtfully using speaking, listening and observation skills to take in the experience of the other, make sense of it, which will hopefully prompt you to deliver an appropriate response. This is truly a skill and demonstration of Empathy. However, since you know or are endeavoring to know your spouse, what have you learned about him/her that helps the two of you to re-engage with each other and maintain closeness, warmth and connection? Keep that ingredient close by!
Question: Which of these ingredients are you familiar with and currently practice, which results in healing outcomes with your partner? Which might you need to incorporate more of into your day-to-day encounters for mutually edifying outcomes?
Action: Ask your partner what he or she may wish to “consume” more of, because the production and ingestion of this behavior, like the scripture in Proverbs 16: 24 will become true: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
3) Empathy acquires “season passes” to visit the Gallery of the Heart: In a previous post, I likened Empathy as the two of you having a “lifetime season pass” to visit the most famous art gallery in the world, which is the gallery of the heart of your partner. Upon your frequent visits you’ll take time to view and take in all of the treasured and valuable pieces that are displayed on the walls of her or his heart, where you’ll interpret and comment upon what you’ve observed. When you visit the gallery of the heart like this, you’re exercising empathy, which Titchener described as “projecting yourself into what you observe.”
I encourage you to create moments in your calendar to make frequent visits to the gallery of each other’s heart, where you’ll take and use your communication skills to observe valuable thoughts and feelings to learn about, understand and appreciate the artwork that portrays horror, beauty, hope, vision, devastation, reality and serenity.
To the Offending Partner: When you “sit in a corridor and have time to talk about what you’ve observed,” what is your insight telling you about her circumstance? What questions do you ask to further inquire about her condition? What comments do you make or what behaviors are you moved to implement based on what you discover about your spouse? What books or resources are you inspired to pick up that will help you to understand then adequately respond to what you’re seeing?
To the Offended Partner: Does the gallery of your heart provide open hours and opportunities to be visited? Is there adequate lighting and space for your spouse to see and take in the finer pieces and nuances of what is written on your heart? Are you exhibiting the prominent pieces of art that need to be viewed and deserve attention, or are you hiding the most precious and sensitive pieces of your heart in storage?
Inferred in your empathetic process is time, consistent visits and adult-adult conversations that help you two to know the sensitive parts of your heart that needs, requires and warrants appropriate attention to facilitate healing.
Question: What’s your response to the questions in the subsection?
Action: Take time to share your responses with each other. If you don’t already have it on your schedule or calendar, make sure you plan frequent visits to the gallery of the heart of your spouse, where you’ll take with you the tools, skills, conversations and processes that will assist you to reverently take in, gain knowledge about, understand, appreciate and honor what you’re privileged to see and have discovered.
4) The Practical behaviors of Empathy: In Cultivating Love: When Secrets Surface (2014), I provided a list of 75 “Do’s” to cultivate Empathy, Sympathy and Compassion, in addition to 25 “Don’ts,” which eliminate Empathy, Sympathy and Compassion. I’d like for you to create a practical “Do’s and Don’ts” of behaviors you’ll be responsible for producing (or eliminating) in your relationship.
Feel free to incorporate insights you’ve arrived at from your readings, or, have drawn from previous conversations with each other, your 12-step meetings, sermons you’ve heard or counseling sessions as you create your list. Here are a few from the past to get you started:
Question: What actions come to mind that you’d like to include or eliminate?
Action: Jot down your “Do’s and Don’ts” behavior that will either cultivate or eliminate Empathy, Sympathy and Compassion.
5) Connecting and Redirecting for Empathetic (Level 3) and Care and Connection (Level 2) outcomes:
Are you ready to proceed to the remaining two levels of this triangle? I trust and hope you are! But know this: All of the work that you’ve committed to do in the previous three levels will deterime how successful you’ll be in accomplishing the tasks of the final two levels, and a good part of your success will depend on how well you do with the concepts and tasks of this partular point of “Connecting and Redirecting.” How so? Let’s take a look.
Do you remember Dr. Tina Bryson’s insights about “Connecting and Redirecting” in Choosing Change #13, when we visited your children’s room? Well the same concepts she encouraged you to implement when your children become dysregulated also apply and work to create good interpersonal neurobiology when the brain, body and mind of you and your spouse become dysregulated as well.
By now you know that all which is connected with Betrayal Trauma will create emotional flashbacks and dysregulation with you and your partner faster than either of you could blink your eyes. Your brains and minds may perceive threat, fear, shame, anger, rage, abuse, entitlement, etc., and your “4 F’s” (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Feign) will sabotage your ability to connect with each other to create “bio-balanced calm,” which helps you to redirect your energy toward attuned communication, which could result in problem solving and the other gifts of your Middle Prefrontal Cortex (like emotional balance, empathy, insight, morality, etc.) and anything else you may need for repair.
The title of one of her books, Whole Brain strategies: From reactivity to resilience is exactly what you’ll want and need to create between the two of you, if you’re going to move from Level 3 to Level 2, and your ability to Connect and Redirect from the emotional to the logical is critical. Not impossible, but critical. But you’ll have to move from the “downstairs” part of your brain (reactive and survival-oriented) to the “upstairs” (cerebral, reasoning, and good executive decision making) part of your brain which is the Connect-Redirect process.
So by the practice of telling the Truth (Level 5), working to create and maintain Safety (Level 4, and that’s between the ears and between each other!), and by becoming skilled at delivering Empathy and Empathetic behaviors at the right time for the right outcome (Level 3), you’re engaging in processes where your traumatized or dysregulated partner has the opportunity to see your behaviors, be seen and esteemed by you, and most importantly, to begin to see you’re not out to hurt nor harm her, but on the contrary, you’re focused on helping her to heal. When these critical processes are delivered continuously, you’re creating new connections in the brain and rewiring it so that mutual regulation and co-regulating behaviors become the norm (remember “the cells that fire together wire together!”).
Connection in this manner, coupled with behaviors like hugging, touch, validation and reassurance help the emotionally laden Right Hemisphere to calm down. When this occurs, the emotional flood that threatened to short-circuit the functioning of the logical Left Hemisphere recedes, leaving you with the (restored) ability to use that part of yourself to Redirect the energies of your brain and mind toward processes that not only protect connection, but will lead both of you toward communication, activity and solutions to the ever important needs you both have. Your engagement in the “Connection and Redirection” process creates the upward spiral that helps and inspires both of you and is the antidote to the negative, reactive and shame-based downward spiral, which helps no one but harms many.
So think about the communication, therapeutic (healing), psychological, recovery-based and spiritually empowered “tools” that you’ve used to help you to create a good triangle of well being within yourself, and good interpersonal neurobiology between each other. Remember the “66%-33% solution” in Choosing Change #2 and #3 that helped you to help yourself and love your neighbor as yourself by making reasonable contributions to your change process. Think about which components and activities you’ve discovered with the A-C-T-I-V-E model, the River of Integration (Psychological and Theological) and the “68° – 72° degree Target Chart,” that you’ll want to implement and practice now, because they hold keys that have assisted you to reach your goals in your change and maturation process.
Finally, think about the LoveWorks principles that you’ll fall back on, as well as the Wheel of Awareness (which we’ll look at again in Level 2) and how they have helped you to get closer to or achieve other goals you’ve made for yourself or your relationships. Do you see how they have, or could help you to be successful with Connection? With Redirection? With changing into the man or woman you’ve always wanted or need to become? Are you experiencing calm because you’ve created safe moments to talk? Are you feeling more self-assured because you feel like the truth you’re being told is matching up with the behavior that you’re seeing? If so, then you’re closer to cultivating healthy and loving behaviors that heal, nuture and authenticate change than you think!
Question: Which of the exercises in this book (or that you’ve become aware of and familiar with) will help you in your goal to Connect and Redirect your energies toward repairing ruptures while also continuing your growth? Is there anything you need to “monitor and modify” for better outcomes?
Action: Take time to revisit those entries, chapters, assignments or strategies. Reacquaint yourself with the ones that helped and commit to read or become familiar with the ones that you need to strengthen.
Level 2: Care and Connection (Engaging the Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex Functions)
Your goal with the Level 2 behaviors and processes is to capitalize on the foundational work of creating openness, honesty and transparency (Level 5), creating safe moments and experiences that facilitate containment and connection by becoming a safe person (Level 4), and by creating empathetic experiences that reflect you’ll be kind, compassionate and understanding with your partner (Level 3).
All of your work in the previous levels prepares you to take your repair process to another level (pun intended) where the best of your thoughts, insights and creativity to repair your relationship will focus on developing and delivering care, good communication and healthy expressions of loving behavior that not only seeks to heal a broken heart, but also provides fruitful behavior that edifies, empowers and transforms.
The first step toward accomplishing this is to draw upon the Wheel of Awareness principles you read about in Choosing Change #13. The Wheel of Awarness principles are important because by practicing them you’re helping your brain to move beyond the losing strategies of “attention on affliction” and toward brainstormed strategies that render self-care to yourself and others, alternative ways of viewing and integrating information, and the creation of strategies that reflect win-win outcomes. Using your brain, mind and energy in this manner promotes resiliency from illness and of course the end-goal of experiencing good interpersonal neurobiology with each other!
So let’s start with a brief reminder of the “saboteurs” on the wheel, which you’ll want to eliminate and extinguish because they simply thwart or defeat progress. Then we’ll look at how the Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions could help you to develop and deliver a higher form of care and communication to help heal your relationship. The saboteurs are:
a) Unintegrated Adversity: Distress occurs because critical or germaine issues about unfaithfulness or other important life issues are left out, not talked about, denied, defended against or dismissed. Not attending to nor focusing on these areas of your life or relationship means the proverbial elephant in the room will be ignored or neglected, which ensures more hurt and conflict will surface.
b) Dyadic Dysregulation: Distress occurs between the two of you because your energy is unwittingly (or intentionally) misspent on keeping the “Killer D’s” (Dishonesty, Disputes, Digs/Digging In, Defamation) alive. Not using your communication tools (Imago Dialogue) or giving yourself permission to blow past healthy boundaries (68° – 72° Target Chart) ensures you’ll devolve into Hostile Dependent eruptions or Conflict Avoidant inactivity, but never problem resolution marked by win-win outcomes.
c) Posttraumatic Repetition: Distress occurs because the triggered symptoms of postraumattic stress cause the predictable “4F” responses: Fights, Flights, Freezes or Feigned behavior. These triggered responses create Angry, Enraged or Entitled Child modes (Fight), Detached, Avoidant or Self-Soother modes (Flight), Passive, Surrendered or Self-Deprecating modes (Freeze) or Compliant, Subservient or Codependent modes (Feign), ensuring traumatic disruptions by intrusive memories from the past, or by ongoing abuse that’s currently displayed.
d) Emotional Flooding Skills: Distress occurs because the best of your awareness, insight and thinking that’s necessary to solve or resolve current issues is short-circuited by paralyzing or overwhelming emotions, like shame, pain, sorrow, rage, guilt, humiliation or devastation. There’s nothing wrong with having the emotions; the problems arise if there’s no plan nor process to take care of yourself or the current situation at hand before it deteriorates into the “hurt people hurt (other) people” cycle.
In order to get to the other side of the wheel of awareness, where opportunities to develop and deliver the higher form of care, communication and connection exist, you’ll want to employ simple, and I mean very simple processes that will help you to calm down, and “bio-balance” or regulate your body. Right now, you could be emotionally triggered, worked up and feeling very (fill in the blank). But you’ll only frustrate yourself and the other people involved, and worst yet, probably create new problems that didn’t previously exist if you don’t use the simple tools to come to your own assistance.
What are these tools that metaphorically (and literally) help you to reduce the emotional flood so that you’re able to access the best of your cognitive abilities? Here’s a few which, and if you don’t know it by now, spells out a word! This one’s “R-E-P-A-I-R.”
Employing “R-E-P-A-I-R” to access the Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions
R: Remove yourself from the stimuli. Kindly say you need a time-out for 5 mins., 20 mins., 2 hours, 12 or 24 hours, based on the intensity you’re feeling. When you’re separated from each other, make sure you immediately follow through with the remaining strategies.
E: Engage in repetitive cycles of deep breathing (inhaling and exhaling) for 5 minutes to calm down. Remember, you can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time, and breathing in sends messages to your distressed Sympathetic Nervous System (the “Fight-Flight” part of you which needs to know you’re OK and the threat is removed), and exhaling is linked to your Parasympathetic Nervous System, which helps you to calm down and become relaxed.
P: Progressive Muscle Relaxation could help as well, where you tense up then methodically release the tension in your muscle groups, first from your head, then through your shoulders and arms, through your trunk and legs then finishing up with your feet. Remember, Relaxation begets Bio-balancing, and whether you know it or not, you’re actually engaging the first of the Nine MPFc functions, which is “Body Regulation.” But there’s more to repair.
A: Focus your Awareness on Aiming for the other side of the Wheel. Tell yourself the Answers are on the other side, and that’s where you want to Arrive.
I: Integrate any of the Choosing Change #1: Safe People, Safe Places and Safe Processes strategies (like creating your own psychological safe place to receive a consultation from your inner Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia or Yoda). Or draw 4 – 5 principles from your 68° – 72° degree Target Chart to help you to course correct your behavior. Or how about reaching back and quickly reviewing The 12 Steps to Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology, because after all, isn’t that what you want to create and get better at? You get the picture. Integrate winning principles and strategies that are part of your 180° turn to access the higher-level functioning located on the other side of the circle.
R: Returning to your Functional Adult status, marked by your use of these practical, psychological and theologically empowered tools means you’ve accessed your “light, compass and map” to exit the forest without causing additional consequence to yourself or others!
Question: Can you see yourself practicing the principles of repair to create emotional calm within yourself when any of the saboteurs threaten to derail you from your resolve?
Action: Take time to create then practice your own “R-E-P-A-I-R” process. It carries the weight and equivalency of dialing 9-1-1 because there’s an emergency that has occurred, and you need the skills of an Emergency Medical Technician to help you sustain life versus putting your life and relationship in peril.
Engaging your Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex Functions (MPFc)
Now that you’ve made a successful turn to the other side of the circle on the Wheel of Awareness, let’s take a look at how your Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions (MPFc)could assist you to accomplish the tasks that are associated with Level 2, providing a higher form of care and connection to each other.
With each of the nine functions, you’ll note the presence of one of the nine Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control – Galatians 5:22-23), where the integration and application of the virtue is intended to dynamically enhance the MPFc function described.
1) Body Regulation: This is the first of the Middle Prefrontal Coretex functions, and you already have a leg up on creating and accessing the benefit of this necessary function in your brain and body by employing the R-E-P-A-I-R strategy. I can’t say it enough: Your ability to access the other eight functions of your MPFc depends on your ability to be successful in regulating your body, so make sure you practice these principles and other strategies associated with creating physiological calm (like walking, yoga, aerobic exercise, breathing, and if walking or running, add other spiritual disciplines, like prayer, worship, reflection, contemplation, etc.) to activate the all important bilateral stimulation in the Right and Left Hemispheres of your brain for maximum insight and creativity!
The Fruit of the Spirit is Self-Control (Kratos). It describes someone who develops and possesses mental and physical strength and abilities because they’re continually engaging in and practicing specific, deliberate and intentional training processes, which helps and empowers them to be capable of producing positive results for any situation they are involved in. Like the athlete who engages in Self-Control, you’re encouraged to use your strength to regulate your body, so you’ll be successful in producing positive outcomes in your interaction with each other.
2) Attuned Communication: There are two goals here (actually, there are many, but we’ll only focus on two). Your first goal is to create “dyadic regulation” which is achieved when your brain, mind and body recognizes, values, promotes and protects interactions between the two of you that facilitate Peace (Eirene, which is not just the absence of strife, but is the production of undisturbed or untroubled harmony and well-being). Focusing on the creation of a home environment where you benefit from behavior and communication marked by the practice of truth, safety and empathy goes a long way toward the creation and enjoyment of attunement and peace with each other.
This first goal is also synonymous with creating a functional Triangle of Well-Being (remember, from the 12 Steps to Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology), and when you’re practicing the principles to produce a good Triangle of Well-Being in yourself, then you’re positioning yourself to create and enjoy Attuned Communication, which is a part of good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
Your second goal hones in on the “guts” of Attuned Communication, which is achieved when you practice winning strategies like “Cooking with C.O.A.L,” that is, when you’re curious, open, accepting and loving in response to your partner or spouse when they share something with you. Their heart, their thoughts, their hurts and their hopes are respected and treated with dignity, no matter how much they differ from yours (remember the beneficial strategy called Differentiation!).
Attuned Communication endeavors to listen and understand, is collaborative and solution-oriented when needed, and strives to deliver compassion and care with the utmost goal of being sensitive, safe, compassionate and contained in speech and behavior. When these processes are identified and championed, then Attuned Communication will produce the internal states of calm, which is necessary for healing and the development of co-regulated states (again Interpersonal Neurbiology) which is a key ingredient of producing long-term love relationships.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness (Prautes). The main focus of this word encourages you to be in a humble position to hear from God, who will speak, instruct, counsel, convict then prompt you to accurately demonstrate specific behaviors that the situation you’re in dictates or deserves, at any given moment.
With the application of Gentleness (Prautes), you don’t contest nor resist the message and action you receive from your Higher Power, and the gentle response that God initiates in you (sometimes I describe this as “God dropping into your mind the next right thing He intends for you to do”). On the contrary, you humbly accept God’s instruction and endeavor to carry it out, because more than likely, a gentle response is what will facilitate Attunement between you two and will lead you closer to versus further away from your goal of delivering and experiencing healing and connection.
3) Emotional Balance:As with Body Regulation, you’re probably closer to creating and enjoying ongoing Emotional Balance due to the practice of the principles you’ve identified in your 68° to 72° degree Target Chart. Consistently engaging in your “Green Zone” behaviors helps you to produce outcomes that affirm and are adaptive, are focused and functional, and are inclusive and loving. Equally, by practicing Green Zone behaviors, you’re exercising good boundaries (and Self-Control) to avoid Intense or Cold behaviors that evidence strife, disconnection, dysregulation, numbness, anxiety and rigidity.
By staying in your Green Zone, you’re not only producing behaviors that promote balance with your emotions and respect for the emotional life of others, but you’re also rewriting the narrative regarding how you wish to live when you produce and reinforce habits that reflect which values are important to you, which is a critical component of the A-C-T-I-V-E Model.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace (Eirene), because Emotional Balance thrives in environments where your mind not only focuses on the elimination of behaviors that cause strife, but also focuses on and produces behavior that creates calm, tranquility, peace and well-being prosperity in your home and in your relationships, which is what Eirene stands for.
To produce and maintain Peace, I enourage you to make peace with God (“Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you” – Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430); make peace within yourself (“A heart at peace gives life to the body” – Psalm 14:30); then make peace with others (“If it is at all possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” – Romans 12: 18). Finally, recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”
4) Response Flexibility: Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn (or Feign) are automatic reactions when your brain perceives a threat, whether real or imagined. The biological chemicals associated with Posttraumatic stress (especially Betrayal Trauma) are instantaneously discharged throughout your body to prepare you to defend yourself, and please, there’s no crime committed when you’re moved to defend yourself when there’s an actual threat or an identifiable danger that’s made to your person or those who you love. But there’s one important thing to note here: Your automatic responses may limit or prohibit you from responding in new and creative ways to the emotional triggers that are “firing” within your system.
You’re not to be blamed for this reaction. Dr. Dan Siegel reminds us (in Choosing Change #11) that your brain may be “hijacked” because of the chemical explosion occurring in your brain and body, which creates a “chemically induced tunnel vision,” that causes you to “get lost in all the old familiar places” of Right Hemisphere Reactivity, as the chemicals tend to direct your (re)actions or responses.
The problem though is when the emotional flood occurs, it tends to short circuit your ability to access and implement the positive, logical, constructive and strategic responses (Left Hemisphere abilities) that could help you to deal with, solve or resolve the conflicted situation that you’re currently in. Simply said your Response Flexibility is limited, which is why the same old arguments, with the same old stale, frustrating or worst yet, tragic responses are being employed in your relationship, which is exasperating, especially when your situation needs and deserves a fresh and new way of looking at things that will lead you toward healthier and healing outcomes!
So envision a line graph numbered 1 to 10. Emotional flooding or trauma reactions limit your sight to the first four responses that are numbered 1 – 4 (Fight, Flight, Freeze or Feign – Right Hemisphere). Response flexibility creates more bandwith within your brain, permitting you to “think outside the box” so you’re able to imagine, create, brainstorm then implement and measure the effectiveness (Left Hemisphere) of options 5 – 10, which hopefully will be grounded in good cognitions and seasoned with your Green Zone values and processes.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Goodness (Agathos), because as the word infers, it guides you to engage in acts that are good, benevolent, profitable and useful. However, this particular fruit also inspires you to cultivate morals and values in your mind (see the necessity of Response Flexibility brought on by both hemispheres of your brain working in concert together?), and eventually in your behavior which are good, right, godly and true. The idea is to think about then practice these good actions regularly so that in essence you create a new default toward “numbers 5 – 10” in your mind all the time.
Finally, the end result with Goodness is such that if our mindset is influenced toward thinking about what is good, then we’re apt to engage in, act and deliver the good behavior that’s appropriate to the situation with others, even when it’s outside of our comfort zone. So instead of misusing your energy and allowing your mind to get hijacked and taken to a place neither of you would prefer to expire, think about (even if your thoughts are only aspirational) how you’d like to accurately place your energy by saturating your mind with thoughts about the good, beneficial and advantageous behaviors behaviors you’d like to provide to each other. This is the concrete and positive expression of Response Flexibility!
5) Fear Modulation: Modulating your fear could be one of the easiest or most difficult steps you’ll take. I prefer the easy path, and I hope you will as well! Why? Because you’ve already made a lot of progress by creating regulation in your body and mind, and we don’t want to overlook the momentum you’ve built, nor overlook the skills you’ve developed in (re)building your house so far.
Getting through this step occurs when you come to your own assistance to apply healthy, functional and loving principles for your own personal benefit when you’re feeling fearful. You simply need the Adult part of you to come to the assistance of the fearful Child part of you, then give yourself the next right, empathetic, kind, reassuring, comforting and loving behavior that you need.
You’ll know that you’re modulating your fear when you acknowledge, lean into and learn from your fear, versus ignoring or worst, run from or regress when you feel fear (or threatened, worried or anxious). What do you think this emotion wants you to know about yourself? What need does it signal that you’ll want to address and meet? What obstacle does it want you to run from and what barrier does it not what you to overcome?
Remember, Pete Walker, in his Complex PTSD book, reminds you that there are positive characteristics of the “4 F’s.” What are they? First, when I feel like Fighting, could the Adult part of me channel my energy into being assertive and courageous on my way to implementing boundaries for my self-protection?
Second, when I feel like running or “taking Flight,” could I channel my energy into taking a “Time Out to Take a Time In,” to reflect on my situation, devise a plan, strategy or action that’s good for me (and others) that I’ll execute when I come out of my time-out?
Third, when I surrender and Freeze, could I channel my energy to center myself, quietly pray, engage in contemplation and seek God’s will for the situation I’m in? Finally, when I feel like Feigning and being disengenious with my thoughts and behavior, could I channel my energy by breathing, calming down and try to focus on speaking my truth with love to others? If you could see yourself channeling your energy where your goal is to convert it into accomplishing positive outcomes for yourself and others, then you’re well on your way to modulating your fear.
Remember the calming words of Luke and Leia to a hyperaroused and possibly fearful Rey in the Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi: “You have everything that you need.” When you have the Adult part of you poised and ready to work on your behalf to cultivate safe, positive, constructive, affirming and loving outcomes, you have everything that you need to overcome your fear. Meet with your Inner Luke, Leia or Yoda (or God!) for reassurance, calm, empowerment, inspiration and direction, then “cortically override” your fear and move on to act courageously!
The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Agape), because as you read in Changing your mind with the practice of LoveWorks, the Bible reminds you that “there is no fear in love, because perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). How does this occur? Well, when you’re practicing any of the ten descriptors of love, then you’re being intentional to focus and use your mind energy to create and manifest behaviors that are loving, esteeming, cherishing, respectful, honoring, favoring, accepting, prizing, abundant with relish and distinguished with devotion in all of your affairs. When you’re generating concrete behaviors like this, guess what you’re not generating? Fear. By default, Fear is displaced and is replaced by Love. Focus your mind and subsequently your actions on developing and delivering actions that are loving, toward yourself and others, and you’ll find yourself creating and demonstrating behaviors seasoned with love!
6) Insight: Insight encourages you to take an inward glance and use your ability to see, know, discern and understand yourself, each other, and how all of the collective pieces from your past and your present fit together, both cognitively and emotionally, as you endeavor to envision and create a hopeful, safe and loving future for yourself and your marriage.
When you take a “time out to take a time in” to reflect on, contemplate and know where you’ve been (and how you got there), where you’re currently at (and how you got there), what you’ve done (and the impact of your behaviors on others) but most importantly, what direction and destination you want to get to (and what it’s going to take to get there), then you’re exercising and using your Insight effectively.
Practically, this means pausing to look at, consider and take to heart the hurt that betrayal has inflicted upon those you want to love. It also means to look at and consider and take to heart the damage that’s been inflicted and the people who need you to engage in therapeutic actions to facilitate healing. Finally, and going forward, it prompts you to pause, consider and think through and consistently deliver truthful, trustworthy, safe, empathetic, kind and caring behaviors that will be part of your healing and part of the healing of others.
Choosing to use your energy in this manner means you’re consciously directing your will to make the choice to “cortically override” the mental default process in your brain and mind that resulted in the production of toxic, impulsive, selfish, entitled, malicious, maladaptive, dysfunctional, harmful and downright useless behaviors that wound up hurting people.
Equally, your purposeful use of Insight means you’re electing to remember and learn from past mistakes (that you don’t wish to recreate), and that you’ve resolved to live a life where your decisions lead you to think about, focus on and use your energy to generate therapeutic responses, behaviors and environments that are potent and will produce morally good outcomes, one day at a time.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness (Chrestotes), and although you’d think that the beneficial properties of Kindness would primarily be for the benefit of others, the manifestation of this fruit actually focuses on the development of this virtue within yourself. Kindness goes right to the heart and root of your being, where you’re challenged to apply your will (with the help of your Higher Power) to develop “grace which pervades your whole nature, that mellows all that would be harsh(ungentle and unpleasant in action or effect) and austere (severe in manner or appearance; uncompromising, strict, lacking softness – Zodhiathes, 1996).” The practice of Kindness means your mindset is intent on producing (and safeguarding) beneficial environments where opportunities to convey that people are valuable and are to be treated as such is the way that you’ve chosen to live.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” – Philippians 1: 9 – 11 (TNIV)
7) Empathy: We’ve explored what Empathy means and it’s value in the previous level. Here, I simply encourage you to apply the principles of endeavoring to see what others see, feel what others feel, imagine what it’s like to be them and what they’re experiencing at any given time and endeavor to identify and understand what it’s like to live the life they’re living.
Employing observation skills to see, take in and understand, while also asking questions that demonstrate interest and curiosity are part of an empathetic process that helps others to know you’re present with them and they matter to you. When you’re invited (or when you seek permission) to share your nonjudgmental insights you reinforce that the environment is safe for connection because ingredients of healing like sympathy, tenderness, compassion and patience have become a regular part of your disposition and communication. Equally, engaging in the delivery of Empathetic statements and processes validates that you’re learning that there’s more than one way to look at and view issues in life.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy (Chara), which means “joy, to rejoice and gladness” and it describes that which causes joy, pleasure and delight in the recipient or the observer.” Joy is much different than happiness, which is dependent on circumstances or conditions working out in your favor. If things go your way you might feel and be happy; if they don’t then unhappiness, sadness, depression, gloom or grief might describe your experience.
On the other hand, Joy is an emotion, but it’s also the outcome of a complex set of spiritual and cognitive processes that results in you experiencing the emotion because you’ve learned to see, view, understand and accept life issues from a very different perspective. Let me explain.
When bad (or ugly, or traumatic) things happen to good people who don’t deserve those afflictions (i.e., Betrayal Trauma), it’s difficult to think that you could feel any other emotion than fear, rage, shame, depression or gloom. Perhaps, up to this point, you’ve lived your life and circumstances have worked worked out in your favor and you’ve experienced positive emotions connected to your life experiences. But when life turns sour, and the conditions don’t work out in your favor, the honest question that deserves to be answered is how can I grow beyond this life experience?
I’d like to suggest that one way to grow beyond the hurt and pain associated with your grief and loss is to invite your loving, kind and benevolent Higher Power, God, into the very midst of your circumstances. For me, when devastation hit our family with the loss of our daughter and sister of our son, I needed a power greater than myself to empower me, help me to understand the “whys and hows,” and to guide me through the tunnels of grief and anguish and into the light of hope, meaning and purpose. By inviting a “suffering servant who was familiar with pain, suffering and affliction” (Isaiah 53) into my life to partner with me (and carry me) and to help make sense of my experience, among other things, I not only began to experience healing, but I also began to experience hope and joy as my pain was converted into a passion and purpose to help others who have experienced suffering in their life as well.
It took more than a few weeks, months and years to transform, grow and get to the place I’m describing, and yes, there are still cloudy days that form in my life. However, my prayer for you is that Joy, which flows from connecting with a God who sees life beyond our devastating experiences, will partner with, carry you and impart into you empowerment, purpose, hope and a passion to live beyond your current set of circumstances.
8) Morality: Empathizing deeply with those who hurt, feel pain and have been devastated by your behavior means you’ll also introspectively come face to face to examine your mindset, your core beliefs and your resulting behaviors that requires a response to the questions “Who am I, What’s my purpose and How shall I live?”
Morality requires that you clear up and clarify once and for all the values, mores, ethics, virtues and principles that define your identity, what’s important to you and going forward, will reflect how you will live your life, especially in light of the actions you’ve committed in your recent or distant past. Will you own your past behaviors, become responsible for changing them, which means diving deeply into your Mind and Spirit to discover, work on, transform and retool your thinking, feeling and behavioral processes? Henri Nouwen reminds us “when our wounds cease to become a source of shame and become a source of healing we have become wounded healers.” Will you become a “Wounded Healer” or remain an “Unhealed Wounder?” There’s a lot riding on the outcome of what you choose to do regarding the renewing your mind (Romans 12:1 – 2).
Morality invites you to look in the rear-view mirror of your past to discover, learn about, acknowledge and work through any trauma, schema and personality issues that shaped your identity and subsequently your behavior.
But Morality doesn’t stop there, because Morality, and hopefully these newly found principles that accompany it, helps you to turn around, look through your windshield and with your new “cognitive GPS” identify not only the direction and path you’ll take toward healthy living, but also the “stops and shops” that you’ll become very familiar with where you’ll acquire reason, skill, insights, wisdom and other valuable tools that will be useful and integrated into your mind for the reminder of your life journey.
Are you willing to upgrade your Morality Mindset from an outdated, virus-laden “me-focused 1.0” version to an insightful, moral guided and “we-oriented 2.0” version in your mind and life? Will you become faithful to it’s prompts and programs that reflect a new mental, spiritual and moral operating system ? If so, you’re on your way to creating new outcomes that are marked by Morals and Morality.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness (Pistis), and it means (and infers) we have a “firm persuasion, conviction or belief in the truth or reality of something.” One thing that I’m convinced about is that my God wants nothing more than for me to be a fruitful human being. How do I know this? Allow me to share a few verses with you:
“I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” – John 15: 5, 8 (TNIV).
For me, the fruit of Faithfuness is demonstrated when I choose to live out my convictions one day at a time by engaging in and by demonstrating practical behaviors that are reasonable and functional to me, and are honorable and beneficial to others, simply because of the God who loves me and because of the Spirit who lives inside me.
When thinking about Betrayal Trauma, the question is will you remain convicted and convinced that you have a job to do, which not only is to integrate moral principles that guide you to live a life that harms no one, in this case your Partner, but also beckons you to remain faithful and true to loving your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:29 – 37) by engaging in therapeutic behaviors that facilitate healing, as described in this chapter much less this whole book? Your words matter, but your faithful actions that reflect a daily choice to change yourself, your marriage, your family and other environments by the practice of moral behavior is probably what matters the most.
9) Intuition: And with Intuition, we’ve come full circle (or we’ve looked at all nine of the MPFc functions of this side of the circle!). Intuition occurs after you’ve read, listened to, sought out and integrated moral, psychological, emotional and relational information that helps you to understand all that is contextually associated with causing and healing from Betrayal Trauma.
I say after because when you’ve “crunched all of the psychological data,” you’ll want to turn to your body for more biological information and data about your circumstances via internal sensations, cues and processes that when listened to will inform your mind (MPFc) and which in turn will guide how you respond behaviorally.
Remember, as you read about in Choosing Change #13, when you looked at the Child, Adolescent and Adult Goals, Activities and Skills information, your body is full of messages to listen to, explore and affirm. Your Intuition, coupled with the integration of other forms of information from your MPFc will inspire you to act for your own benefit when you feel unsafe, move closer and risk vulnerability when truth matches behavior, or offers affirmation and gratitude when you feel loved, supported and connected.
Equally, your intuition may signal to one or both of you there is unfinished business to discuss or transact, or there are change and growth processes that require healthy doses of Patience in your journey toward repairing ruptures and facilitating healing expereinces. This is why Patience, the next and last Fruit of the Spirit to be addressed in this subsection might be one of the most critical.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience (Makrothymia), and typically relational healing processes of any kind will be strengthened by the presence of, demonstration and “consumption” of this fruit.
Patience means and deals with suffering experiences (as it specifically means “l-o-n-g s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g”), and as we learned in Level 3 where we looked at the subject of Empathy, the viscera of a person who’s recovering from Betrayal Trauma needs not only empathy, sympathy and compassion but also Patience, as the Latin word for Patience is “Patiens,” which means “I am suffering” (which is why we call the person in the hospital needing or recovering from a medical procedure a Patient).
From my perspective, one of the most loving, fruitful or restorative behaviors that you could deliver to yourself or to others who are attempting to recover from suffering experiences, loss, trauma or injury (and all of these and more could be experienced with Betrayal Trauma) is this particular Fruit of the Spirit. So allow me to close this Level with a word about the necessity of Patience to the Offended and the Offender:
To the Offended: You are attempting to recover from some form of trauma that you have experienced in your body, mind, soul or spirit, and the recovery period wherein you’re experiencing some form of suffering will take time (plus work) as you move toward healing. Take your time and balance your actions with getting the rest, body regulation that you need to experience emotional balance and the other functions of your MPFc, but also make time to do your work to “exercise and work” your psychological, spiritual and biological muscles to assist in your healing processes.
To the Offender: Your partner is in the process of healing from suffering, grief and trauma and I enourage you, to the best of your abilities to practice love, care, empathy (again, which is being tender with her innards), which is what any Doctor would want you to know to assist in her healing. More than likely you may be he “neighbor” who is closest to her to facilitate and deliver reasonable responses to her, which is like medicine to help to ameliorate her suffering.
However, know that her suffrering experiences from the trauma that she has experienced will more than likely take longer than you probably have the patience for, so make sure you plant, harvest and consume a lot of patience for your good (through the practice of spiritual disciplines) so that your actions are liberally seasoned with insights and behavioral applications from your MPFc as well.
Question: What are your thoughts about the Nine Functions of the Middle Prefrontal Cortex? What insights are you “leaving with” and what stood out the most that you see yourself practicing? (Additional space is provided on the next page for your notes and comments).
Action: Take time to create some of the actions you’re formulating or have arrived at from reading the information about the Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex Functions. As mentioned earlier, draw from other items in the book that will help you in your planning processes to deliver behaviors that help, heal, create hope and facilitate change.
In closing this level and turning to our last level, you probably know where this is going. The greatest medicine, the best antidote, the most powerful serum that could help to heal a ruptured relationship where the heart if broken is Love: the Greatest of all.
Level 1: Love (The Ten descriptors of Agape Love)
“Do everything in Love” – 1 Corinthians 16:14 (TNIV)
Thank you for your diligent and hard work to reach the top and final level of the Hierarchy of Needs Triangle, which is the demonstration of Agape Love. As I’ve said before, my definition and your definition of Love will probably differ, and I appreciate you being open to learning about how I conceptualize, understand and suggest how Love, when aptly understood and delivered, will not only help to heal deep wounds caused by unfaithfulness, but will provide a springboard, environment and fruitfulness to edify and nourish a relationship that needs and deserves love for the remainder of your days. Again, thank you for your openness to discovering a new way to view, develop and apply Agape Love.
As a brief reminder, please know that the curative actions associated with Love flow from the presence of the behaviors described in the previous levels. From Level 5 you learned that Love stands on the foundation of Truth because Love promotes life, and the Truth as you read, is not lethal. From Level 4 you looked at how Love produces behaviors and thrives in environments (i.e., head, heart and home) that are Safe.
From Level 3 you looked at how Love, flowing from the integrity of Truth, and the presence of Safety fertilizes your ability to develop and deliver the skill of Empathy, which yearns to know, understand, calm, connect with and protect the heart that is healing. In Level 2, once the heart is calmed by engaging in Empathetic processes, you were challenged to take your demonstration of Love to a higher level, where your mind focuses on producing inspired, reasonable, logical, creative, good, practical and beneficial behaviors that facilitate Care and Connection with each other.
Which leads us to this final level, where the combination of these behaviors are infused, empowered and capped with what I think is the most powerful binder and ingredient of healing of all, which is the production and demonstration of Agape Love. After I describe how these definitions for the words that describe Agape Love came to be we’ll look at how this virtue “seals the deal.”
The 10 Descriptors of Agape Love
Dr. Spiros Zodhiates and his team of Biblical Scholars produced the Hebrew – Greek Key Study Bible (1996). In this Bible, Dr. Zodhiates defines Agape Love as being the behavioral manifestation of 10 words that describe and demonstrate Agape Love. When developed and applied, these words describe a person who Loves, Esteems, Cherishes, Respects, Favors, Honors, Accepts, Prizes, Relishes and demonstrates Devotion. Thankfully, I’m glad that God, through this team of researchers, boiled it down to these 10 descriptors because it keeps it simple.
As I did my study, I reasoned that since these 10 words define what Agape Love is, then it made sense to me to let the Bible also provide definitions for each of the 10 words as well. So, in my study, I looked up each of the 10 words as they are found in the Old and New Testaments.
What I discovered as I read the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the 10 descriptors simply left me saying “wow” as I not only began to understand what love is, but also how much God loves us by the behavioral application of these words. I never looked at Love from such a vantage point as this, and I’ll never define the word Love without including the behavioral processes that characterize the fulfillment of the word either. There’s so much to gain when the words are practiced and so much is lost if the translation is excluded!
So my studies helped me to clearly see how God loves us in such a magnificent, unprecedented and practical manner, and He wants us to not only thrive in this unique expression of Love, but He also wants us to reproduce the essence of love (with His help) in a manner that’s realistic and achievable for our benefit and for the benefit of others.
So it makes sense to me that everything that has to do with life, living, healing, connecting, building, nurturing, teaching and correcting is to be flavored with the mature expression and demonstration of Agape Love. That’s why Love is the tip of the triangle, the binder that keeps the triangle together and the foundation upon which the triangle exists; without the supremacy of Love, we have nothing, but with the presence of Love we have an abundant life that delivers everything that we need.
Finally, I defined these words in two previous books, Cultivating Love: When Secrets Surface (2014) and in Cultivating Love: Daily Bread for Life, Vol. 2 (2018) as well as on my blogs (Dr. Ken McGill’s Blog and Daily Bread For Life). As time permits, I’d encourage you to take a look at these references not because the definitions are different, but possibly to obtain a different picture of how these words could be applied in other contexts in your life. So let’s look at how the development and application of Love will facilitate healing behaviors and outcomes that are needed and welcomed.
1) Love (Agapao): It’s interesting that Dr. Zohdiathes and his team included the word “Love” as one of the ten descriptors in the list, but it makes sense because Love, like all of the other words that describe Agape, is an action word, and if we’re going to say we love someone then our actions need to line up with the word as we say it, define or use it.
Love may describe the feelings you have for someone but here, the fulfillment of Love is demonstrated by actions that include and demonstrate all of the behaviors connected with the other nine words in the list, if you want your actions to qualify and be “credited” as Loving behavior.
Think of Love as being the combination of ten essential ingredients that are poured into the foundation that supports the house you’re building. If the foundation does not contain all of the ingredients or components of Love, then your foundation and home will eventually reflect instability because when something critical is missing, then you’ll eventually realize that something is missing and you’re building on shaky ground.
Or think of Love as the being the combination of ten instruments or ten procedural steps that are necessary and crucial to perform a successful open-heart surgery operation; take away any tool or step and the patient may not live to survive the operation. To me, the application and demonstration of the components of Love are that important!
On the other hand, as you begin to practice these components of Agape, notice how each supports, informs, resuscitates, creates change, meaning and purpose that facilitates healing, and eventually behaviors that are trustworthy, safe, empathetic, caring and above all, Loving. You simply cannot miss when you practice Love, and your processes will reflect maturity, wholeness and completeness when you endeavor to include all ten of the descriptors in your actions.
So as you move on to the other nine descriptors of Agape, try to focus on becoming intentional and dedicated to their development and delivery of Love in your life and in your relationships.
The best way to do this is to apply the “G.A.S. up” principles we discussed in Choosing Change #12. When you think about the development of Love and the descriptors below ask yourself what are the appropriate Goals that you’re are aiming for, what are the Activities you’re going to consistently engage in to shape your thinking processes and acts of Love, and what are the Skills that you hope to demonstrate, based on your continual practice of these behaviors that constitute Love?
Your commitment to focusing your Brain, Mind and Spirit on appropriate behaviors that demonstrate Love is the best gift you could give to yourself and to your partner. But remember what we discussed in Choosing Change #4 as we spoke about Gardening with Intention: Even though you don’t see the initial results immediately, I encourage you to not abandon your work nor the garden of your marriage.
On the other hand, as you’ll see when you read the Agape descriptor called Cherish (#3 below), “plant the seed and grow the behavior.” Be patient with the process of cultivating love, knowing that your focus and effort will produce results that edify and heal! Thanks for making the development and delivery of Love a priority in your life!
2) Esteem (Hasab): The word Esteem is found in 2 Chronicles 26: 14 – 15, and it describes King Uzziah’s thinking processes and clever military actions that he devised to “protect this house,” that is, the people and inhabitants of his Kingdom; those who he led, loved and he served.
The core idea of the word is to use the best of your thinking to create tools, weapons, processes and strategies to protect yourself and the “inhabitants in the castle,” because if you focused your mind on using your energy to develop winning strategies to protect them (i.e. your spouse and family), the result is they would feel esteemed. This is what God does for us, in protecting us from the Enemy of Humanity (John 10:10), and this is the process and resulting actions that He’d like for us to reproduce in our effort to protect those we say we love.
Practically, what strategies have you created to do battle against any person, process or entity that wants to defeat you and your family, especially if the enemy shows up in self-sabotaging thinking in your own mind (sometimes we could be our own worst enemies!)? How is the essence of Esteem being demonstrated on a daily basis in your mind and in your life? What steps have you put into place to ensure that you “have the back” of your family members? Are they feeling peace in the castle because they observe and know that your behavior is focused on protecting them, your sexuality, your recovery, your marriage and your family? If so, then you’re doing a great job of planting, growing, harvesting and delivering the Agape Love component of Esteem.
3) Cherish (Samar and Ra’ah – OT; Horao – NT): Cherish or Cherising is connected to the directive, responsibility and role that God gave to Adam in Genesis 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in charge of the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”).
The core idea of the words that describe Cherish/Cherishing is to use your intellect and creativity to fulfill your role and responsibilities of taking care of the garden, and when this responsibility is fulfilled, the observers (Adam included) should expect to see something awesome occuring, bordering on the miraculous (John 11:4, 39 – 40).
Of course the garden that we’re to work in is our mind (I am made of soil mind you – Genesis 2: 7-8), the mind, body and spirit of our partner, and the same with our family members. Using our mind to strategize, reason, examine and problem solve what behaviors that evidence care, attention, help, service, ministry to self and ministry to others and how we’ll plant, water, nurture, prune, fertilize, harvest, consume and be strengthened by is inferred in the definition and process of Cherishing.
Is this not what God does with us? And how does this process of Cherishing others or working for positive, constructive and edifying outcomes show up in your daily actions in the garden you’re “charged” to care for and cherish? Does your body and mind reflect that you’re using your energy effectively so that from the moring until noon you’re demonstrating progress and growth, with additional progress and growth that is seen and measured when you return then complete your activites at sundown? If so, then you’re doing a great job of caring for your garden and delivering the Agape Love component of Cherishing/Cherish.
4) Respect (YADA – OT): There are three English words that flow from this Hebrew word and beautifully interact with each other: Respect, Intimate and Knowledge and the “interplay” of the words helps us to know God, know ourselves, and to know each other. YADA actually points to two people becoming so close and intimate, in knowledge, and behavior, that the word is used to describe intercourse as well (remember the King James Version of Genesis 4:1, where “Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore Cain…?” the same word is used here).
So how does Respect, Intimate and Knowledge compliment each other as they flow from this Hebrew word? Here’s three important ways.
First, YADA speaks about the processes that help you to gain and grow in knowledge: by exercising perception, discernment, recognition and insight, then to understand, integrate and act on the information to make good and wise decisions, that depict you’re becoming wise or “skilled at living.”
Second, YADA also means that you’ll continue to use your tools and this information to engage in activity to learn about God (think the practice of your spiritual disciplines: study, prayer, contemplation, etc.), learn about yourself (through reflection, introspection, insight and intuition, etc.) and to learn about your partner (or others), by asking questions and becoming curious about who they are.
Finally, YADA would lead you to not only know this vital information about God, yourself and others, but it also means that you’ll take concrete steps to make yourself known to others, because when you reciprocally engage in processes to know then share yourself with others, you’re actually “producing” intimacy.
The main idea with YADA is that if you know and become familiar with and integrate into your being the attributes and character of God. Once familir with and integrated into your life, you use them reciprocally in your interactions with others to show who you are and to learn about them. Once you’ve demonstrated who you are and learned about who they are, more than likely this will lead you to demonstrate behavior that respects and values who they are; behaviors that evidence help versus harm; behaviors that reflect and demonstrate Agape Love. See how the three words weave together for a beautiful outcome?
Can you see how the integration and application of these principles leads you to become open and transparent, vulnerable and safe, curious and knowledgeable, intimate and respectful, focused and productive, fruitful and mature? If so, then you’re well on your way to demonstrating Agape Love by the production of this virtue!
5) Favor (Yatab – OT; Charis – NT): The Old and New Testament words used to describe this characteristic of Agape also define another English word we know called Grace. Favor/Grace speaks about your ability to not only do well, but to be pleasing, good, beautiful, kind, lovely, fruitful, cheerful and joyful (If it sounds familiar it’s because Charis is the same word we looked at in Level 2: Joy).
The demonstration of Favor reflects your contribution in words and actions that build up the other with no expectation of repayment in mind. You simply are committed to doing the right thing, at the right time to effect and produce the right outcome, which is never harsh, but only what is beneficial for the other (“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit [charis] those who listen”– Ephesians 4:29, TNIV).
Interestingly, Solomon shares in Proverbs 18:22 that “he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (TNIV; notice that it doesn’t even say a ‘good’ wife, but a wife!). Solomon goes on to describe the favor othat a wife brings to a marriage in Proverbs 31: 10 – 31, where he lists the attributes, characteristics, qualities and benefits that her husband and family receive as she demonstrates this virtue.
A few of the benefits that describe Favor are:
- a noble character (v.10)
- trustworthiness (v.11)
- being consistently productive (v.12)
- being eager with work (v.13),
- is punctual in providing sustenance (v. 14),
- is committed and sacrificial (v. 15),
- is a visionary but also industrious (v. 16),
- is capable and follows through on plans (v. 17),
- acquires resources to get the job done (v. 18),
- is very considerate of the broken-hearted (v. 20),
- prepares for the unexpected (v.21),
- supports her (his) spouse in public (v. 23),
- is creative (v. 24),
- has developed fortitude and is not easily intimidated (v. 25),
- is learning how to be skilled at living, especially when it comes to communication (v. 26),
- is attentive (not idle) to the needs of those living in the house (v. 27),
- earns the praise of her/his peers due to healthy behaviors (v. 28)
- is praised for having a vibrant spirituality (v. 30)
- and receives the appropriate reward for jobs well done (v. 31)
Could you see yourself focusing to develop and deliver behaviors that typify Favor to your partner and to your family? What might you need to change to become a man or woman who regularly provides this quality of edifying “fruit” to those who need it? If you could see yourself uploading and operating from this particular template then you’re on your way to providing Favor to your family!
6) Honor (Kabed – OT; Doxa and Timao – NT): This characteristic of Agape means you give something of great value to (yourself and) another person, so that they feel valued, impressed and “weighted down” with the goods, property, money and basically the abundance of your gift, so that they in turn feel wealthy because of the actions that you bestow upon and deliver to them. Demonstrating and treating the other person as one who has distinction, recognition and prestige is also inferred in the meanings of these words.
The simple takeaway regarding the word Honor is since your behavior reflected dishonor and dishonorable behavior to you partner, then in what way will you reverse you thinking, behavior and the environment in which you live and within reason, build, demonstrate behavior and protect your ability to deliver honor to him or her?
God provides honor to us by giving His Holy Spirit to us as a down payment (2 Corinthians 5:5) to be “paid in full” when we come into His presence. For me, among the many reasons that He’s done this is to prompt me to see, think, know then act to do the “next right thing” in my behavior with others, that conveys to them that thy have great worth in my eyes and in my presence.
If your Higher Power so illuminates, guides, “reminds” or inspires you, what are the behaviors that you’re prompted to create and deliver, that convey to your partnrer that he or she matters to you? The behaviors don’t have to be profound, but I would encourage you to move beyond the “subtracting of the negatives,” and into the “development and delivery of the positives.”
What could that look like? It could be to live a life of amends where you endeavor to practice not only the principles discussed in this Hierarchy of Needs Triangle continiously, but also the principles that have helped you to choose and maintain the changes in your life that you’ve learned as a result of reading this book. Or what specific, measurable and concrete behaviors have you heard from your partner or other stakeholders in your life that if delivered, would help your partner to feel special, important or valued? If you could see yourself developing and delivering these behaviors consistently, then you’re well on your way to providing behaviors and environments that will help your spouse to not only heal, but to feel honored by you!
7) Accept (Nasa and Bahar – OT; Dechomai – NT): There are three words that define and describe the virtue of Acceptance, a component of Agape. The first one means to “raise or lift up our face, eyes, voice or soul, then, to bear, carry or carry off something.” The second word describes the process of Acceptance: that Acceptance is only awarded after a thorough testing and proving process where keen observation and careful deliberation has been exercised.
This second word (the Hebrew word Bahar) is used to describe the process that King David took when he picked five stones from a stream that he would eventually use to kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40; Of note here is that David did such a good job of “Accepting” the right stone after he raised it up to his face that it only took one to accomplish his objective!).
Finally, the New Testament word means “to take and receive deliberately and readily,” as the word suggests receptivity, favor or interest in what is being given to you.
Taken together, these three words suggest that Acceptance is a process and an outcome that we go through, where behaviors are looked at with scrutiny. When those behaviors have been determined useful and credible, then we’re encouraged to receive and admit into our mind and heart what we have observed and experienced.
So what does the virtue of Acceptance look like practically? Well, tt makes sense to me that before Acceptance is granted, the behavior or process that is under consideration will be scrutinized (not judged nor criticized) to determine if it is credible, real and will do the job. If it is useful, functional, edifying, “passes muster” and is effectual, then it stands to reason to be accredited as Acceptable and subsequently deserving to be Accepted and “brought into the heart” by the receiver.
God offers credible behavior that is worthy of scrutiny then Acceptance into our lives all the time. For example, when we pick an orange from an orange tree and cut it open, we expect to see and taste a piece of fruit that’s by definition an orange, which is not a carrot, a muffin nor a wrench. When you tell your partner you love him or her, then it makes sense to me the behavior you’re positing to eventually be accredited and Accepted as love undergoes some scruitiny, because perhaps in the recent past you attempted to pass off “loving behavior” that resembled an apple, but unfortunately if turned out to have a worm in it, or razor blades or worst yet, was made of wax!
Know that your Partner deserves and will scrutinize your behavior because that’s implicitly a part of the process of granting Acceptance but if you engage in and produce behavior that is deemed credible, then more than likely it will result in and will be called “Acceptable.” If you’re planting then producing behavior which like a fruit, is real to the touch, is beautiful and pleasing to the eye, and is nutritious to the body and refreshing to the soul and uplifting to the spirit, then you’re well on your way to demonstrating behavior that qualifies as Love and deserves to be taken in as Acceptable!
8) Prize (Brabeion and Stephanos – NT): There are two words that are used in 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27 that explain this characteristic of Agape. The scripture from the passage reads as:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” – 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27 (TNIV).
The two New Testament words used here are Brabeion and Stephanos. Brabeion has a dual meaning. A Brabeion is the prize or award that goes to the winner of the games, however, a Brabeus (“Bray-be-us”) was the Umpire, Judge or Head official who awarded the prize, only after determining that the contestants followed the rules and ran a valid and certifiable race. Stephanos was the crown or wreath that was placed on the head of the victor, usually by the Brabeus.
The prize or crown that was given to the victor or winner of the race was an ornament and honor bestowed only to one. In the events of the Isthmian games that Paul is referencing, there was only one first place winner, and we could extrapolate with other games, only one gold medal winner and only one blue ribbon winner. Only one person won the first-place prize.
Taken together, these two words that describe this characteristic of Agape demonstrate that God’s crowning achievement, men and women, receive the first-place prize (and are subsequently encouraged to give the first-place prize to others as well). We are the ones in His creation who get to walk on two legs versus four, we are the ones endowed with a full range of emotions and higher reasoning to boot, and we are the ones that can appreciate and enjoy all His creation in full. Human beings are the recipient of the first place prize given to us by God (Psalm 107:31, Psalm 139:14-15).
So, the question is what will the blue ribbon, gold medal or first place activity and effort resemble that you’ll shower upon your partner to help them know they’re first place in your life and they’re deserving of such treatment and energy? Like the Olympian sprinter, how will your recovery display that you’re all in and are committed to giving 4 years of dedicated effort for a race that could be 10 seconds long? What form of “strict training” might you undergo that, while agonizing, prepares you to contest in battle against the Enemy of Humanity as well as to win back the hearts of your spouse and your family?
I pray you realize that second place effort(s) will never deliver to you nor to your spouse the gold medal that he or she deserves, so gear up to focus your will, energy and effort to deliver outcomes that evidence and yield you’re operating with a blue-ribbon state of mind!
9) Relish (Nepes and Nasa – OT): To define this characteristic of Agape we return to a previous word used to define Acceptance (“Nasa”). Nasa means “to raise or lift up one’s face, eyes, voice or soul, and to bear, carry, or carry off something.” Nepes, another important word in the Bible, defines our breath, life, or that immaterial part of ourselves that we call our soul.
To the Hebrews, Nepes is the “passionate existence” of an individual, and is used to describe our appetite, our craving, our desire and that which we take and receive delight in, whether the delight or craving is directed toward God (Psalm 42:1-2), or for the “soul mate” your heart desires to love (Song of Songs 3:1–4).
Practically, and on the lighter side, relish, or that which is sweet, savory, appetizing and is the pleasurable appreciation of anything, is not too far from the deeper meaning of the word. When you relish something, you’re simply focusing your life energy and your passion, toward that which you crave or feel passionate about, with your enjoyment being a result of your behavior. Your passion could be directed toward God or man, husband or wife, addiction or sobriety, a hamburger or a milkshake.
I describe addiction as the misplacement of your passion (your energy, your resolve, your best decision making), while recovery reflects the accurate placement of your passion. The question is, who or whom will you direct your soul or passion toward, not to mention your heart, your mind and your strength to drive home the point that you are passionately interested in them (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27)?
If you’ve allowed something other than your loved ones to usurp your energy, especially your sexual energy, then this descriptor of Agape encourages you to reclaim, redeem and refocus your energy back toward the one who deserves it (or, to develop it if it has been suppressed or stolen from you – Jeremiah 4:30). Refocusing your desire toward the one who shares your wedding anniversary and learning to use your creativity to cultivate healthy and passionate sexual encounters that leave you relishing what you have, and wanting more, is the idea behind Relish and is a prime aspect of what cultivating love and “life in the ring” is all about.
Remember what we discovered in the fourth descriptor of Agape (Respect); transferring knowledge to each other facilitates intimacy and respect. This aspect of Agape invites you to talk about what brings pleasure and connection to each of you, especially pleasure behind your bedroom door, and when you discover what brings pleasure and connection to your spouse and become committed to this part of your growth process, then you’re accurately placing your passion in the ring and are well on your way to cultivating behaviors that reignite intimacy, recreates healthy bonds and of course, cultivates a passionate love for each other.
Finally, you’ll also want to remember that one’s very life energy or soul is involved here. I’ve heard a few partners describe Betrayal Trauma being akin to “soul murder.” So the question is how will your actions treat the immaterial part of her called the soul? I’d like to suggest that your actions need to line up with your intent, and your intent is to engage in and deliver behavior that resuscitates and breathes life into her soul. Anything less isn’t a positive option, and really shouldn’t even be considered an option at all! So where, how and in what manner do you consistently prove that what is written on your heart and enabled by your breath is your commitment to produce behaviors that are solely focused on enhancing life?
10) Devotion (Kun – OT; Scholazo – NT): This tenth and final characteristic of Agape (Kun) encourages you to be ready, prepared, firm, steadfast, faithful, reliable and certain. Kun also speaks about a person who works to bring something into existence (i.e., a meal, your personal spiritual growth, reconciling behavior in a marriage, etc.), and describes the actual preparation for that event. Kun is also the personal satisfaction that a person receives when they know that their heart is devoted to God, and God is directing his or her path in life.
You’ll find Scholazo in the New Testament and when you pronounce Scholazo, you may hear the English words Scholar, and School, which also originate from the word. Scholazo means to devote oneself to something, a task or a process. A scholar is a person who is highly educated or has an aptitude for study, and as a reflection of his or her devotion, is recognized as a specialist in each branch of knowledge.
Taken together two these words describe Devotion as a disciplined, rigorous and involved process of personal learning and preparation, for you to create something that gives you distinguishable credibility upon its completion. When others observe the outcome of your work that represents your devotion, the “WOW,” factor is probably the first thing that comes to their mind and more than likely the first words that roll off their lips.
When you think about God and how you’ve seen God show up in your life, what “wow” statements come to mind? Was it a beautiful sunset at a beach, a drive through the mountains, a photo safari in Africa? Did those experiences of viewing God’s handiwork cause you to say wow?
How does your life reflect you are co-partnering with God and as a result of your connection, He’s shaping your brain, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions, where the end results demonstrate you’re creating something that doesn’t already exist (like a renewed mind and a restored relationship)?
How are you “Working for the WOW!,” where you, your partner or others observe and take notice of the sum total of your work, and are profoundly impressed by your “scholarly dedication” to processes that repair and heal, edify and grow, are wise and mature, and set you apart as someone whose heart, will and energy expenditure truly reflects Devotion?
Please remember, we’re not talking about perfection, but we are talking about your engagement in a process of work to generate something of meaning, worth and of value; simply a reflection of your Devotion, and your Love, to yourself and to another. That’s what God has done for us, and what He endeavors for us to create and offer to others. If your “architectural mindset” and sleeves are rolled up to do the daily work it takes to (re)build a life, marriage, relationship and family that reflects the quality and standard of Devotion, then you’re well on your way to building a house on the rock that will stand (Matthew 7: 24 – 25).
As we move to close this section on the Hierachy of Needs, here are a few insights on the five Greek words for Love, that depict unredeemed and redeemed qualities of Love. It’s my hope that you’ll learn about and (re)integrate these unique qualities into the garden of your relationship, and will be edified and nourished by the rich and redeemed expression of them all!
The Five Greek words for Love
1) Eros: Eros is the Greek word for sexual love, and is not even mentioned in the Bible, due to its “weak” comparison of what true love is. In its unredeemed expression, Eros is a behavior that is related to the word PORNEIA, from which we receive the word pornography. Porneia conveys a picture (which is what porn is) of “a type of relationship” but is not a real relationship (these are actors) based on any kind of extramarital sexual encounter, where the primary focus is on the genitalia. The fact that Eros primarily focuses on the genitalia is one of the reasons why Eros alone could never provide the full expression of what love is.
When redeemed, erotic or sexual love is a beautiful and sensual expression and manifestation of what God intends and endorses with two partners who have committed their lives to each other. Engaging in erotic love is one of the most pleasurable ways to say I love you, but there are other words that capture the meaning of love also.
2) Epithumia: Although our English word Love does not appear in scripture when Epithumia is used, it is included in this list because Epithumia is the word that is mostly translated as desire or craving. Epithumia is a “neutral” word, meaning it can be expressed in good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, functional or dysfunctional ways. When we think about our appetite, our lust, our desire, our craving and our passion, we are describing Epithumia. In its unredeemed and extreme form of expression, Epithumia depicts a strong and negative desire to possess and treat another person as an object, and contextually, primarily for one’s own selfish sexual gratification (Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 5:16-17).
However, when redeemed, Epithumia portrays a picture of healthy and focused desire (think about Relish, #9 above here), as desire and passion is directed toward one’s spouse, in order to share in, learn about and enjoy the presence, work and fruit (sexually and otherwise) in the marital garden that is built for two and two alone. This word is also important to our emotional well being in that its root Thumos, is found in other New Testament words (Patience), as well as other English words (Thermos, Thermostat and Thermometer), which are critical skills to develop as you work toward emotional self-awareness and the containment of your emotions (Thumos also describes “anger” and “passion”).
3) Storge: Storge is the beginning of love that is demonstrated for the well being of another person, as opposed to the unredeemed qualities of Eros and Epithumia, which tend to be self-centered in expression if experienced outside of a healthy spiritual context. Storge appears in the Bible (Romans 1:31) actually with the prefix of “a” in front of it, denoting “no, not or without,” negating its meaning, which is to “cherish affectionately.”
Storge conveys the picture of the type of love that a parent has for his or her children; love which seeks to care for them and provide for their needs, marked by affection, comfort, nurturance and commitment for their safety, their development and their survival. If you have bought a two-year old an ice cream cone one hour before dinner and enjoyed the delight on her face as she consumed it, you have experienced Storge. If you have laughed with your 10 year old about a fanatical rant heard on the radio as you began a road trip to the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies, you have experienced Storge. Or, if you cried on the night your first child was born, and you knew your life would not be the same and you prayed for God to help you to sacrifice anything for her well being, you have experienced Storge. Unique to your children, Storge is the warmth you feel inside you when you are making the life memory, and it is the warmth probably mixed with laughter as well, that you feel when you recall the memory years later.
4) Phileo: Phileo is the word used to convey a closeness and fondness that develops as two people choose to befriend each other, and who work to build a friendship and a relationship with one another, within or outside of their family relationship. Phileo is the type or expression of love that clearly marks how a person of faith is to enter into, and to constructively “share and repair” relationship with another person of faith, as “best friend” qualities are reflected in their interests, activities, time, connection and conflict resolution, with each another. As with Eros, Epithumia and Storge, Phileo really comes to life when spiritual values, disciplines and behaviors are integrated into one’s expression and experience of these words.
5) Agape: Agape is the word that defines the unique quality of love that is demonstrated from God to us, us to ourselves, and the spiritual and behavioral love that we are encouraged to demonstrate in our relationships: to spouses and other “neighbors,” within or outside of the family of God (Luke 10:27-28).
As we’ve seen in this subsection, Agape is definitely action-oriented and most often, its focus is to engage in healthy and balanced behaviors which contribute to the overall well being of the recipient (yourself included). Agape is marked by our unconditional expression of love, acceptance, honor, cherishing, value, esteem and devotion that we display to the recipient.
Agape is the type of love that is compassionate and merciful in its expression (I Corinthians 13:4-8) and is the love that Jesus states will clearly indicate who is following Him in word and deed, to any observer who happens to be watching you or is needing Agape from you (John 13:34-35). Agape informs and guides our thoughts, feelings, behavior, and experiences (especially in the core area of our sexuality – I Corinthians 6:18-20), and is the seed, fertilizer, process, and fruit that are produced in and from the garden of our life when we endeavor to cultivate love.
Concluding thoughts with the Integrative Primer
Thank you for reading this long but hopefully informative primer regarding what you may wish to focus on developing and integrating when unfaithfulness or infidelity impacts your primary relationship.
What follows are a few more items located on my blog (also printed in Cultivating Love: When Secrets Surface, and in Cultivating Love: Daily Bread For Life, Vol. 1) for your consideration as you respond to the questions and action items in this subsection, on your way to rebuilding your home. The other items are:
- Uncommon Love: A few thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8a
- The Killer D’s and Empowering E’s (Part 1 of 3)
- The Killer D’s and Empowering E’s (Part 2 of 3)
- The Killer D’s and Empowering E’s (Part 3 of 3)
- Couples Who Recover (Part 1 of 2)
- Couples Who Recover (Part 2 of 2)
- Recovering Couples Do Heal (Part 1 of 2)
- Recovering Couples Do Heal (Part 2 of 2)
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there will probably be other people and resources that you’ll consult on your way to attending to this significant wound in your relationship. Some of you may seek healing from this wound via separation or divorce, and if you’re thinking this might yield a better outcome for you then by all means please invite into your thought process people who will assist you to walk circumspectly as you consider the impact of your decision. God will never shame nor force you into carrying a burden that feels abusive, denigrating or overwhelming when you crave and deserve rest, peace, honor, empowerment and fidelity.
On the other hand, as a result of your circumspection and deliberation, if you arrive at a place where you’re open to reconciliation, the same counsel applies here; please consult with good, knowledgeable, safe and therapeutic people and resources that will help both of you to understand the direction and work it will take to reach this worthwhile goal as well. Regardless of the road you choose to travel on, my hope is that you’ll focus your energy to cultivate, grow and eventually enjoy the type of love that heals, restores and of which legacies are made.
So you have a choice to make as you exit your bedroom, in your effort to move beyond the behavior we’ve just looked at. One choice will simply lead you out of the bedroom, through your home and toward the front door and into a separation or divorce. This particular choice is characterized by tunnel vision, which sadly means you’ve not attempted to take in, learn from, expend energy nor correct errors to help your partner recover from this type of wound. A recovery could occur, but tunnel vision approaches almost always means while some parts of your situation experience will be helped, usually other parts will remain untreated, resulting in more pain and suffering experiences for all involved.
Or, you have another choice to make. As you walk out of the bedroom and through the remainder of the house to get to the final place that we’ll look at, your Front Porch, you choose to pause, deliberate, take in, reflect on, embrace and continue to use all of the tools you’ve been exposed to in this book which up to this point, have helped you to make good, necessary and noticeable changes to your life, marriage and relationship. You choose change, and you choose to work to change your circumstances for the better.
Selfishly, it’s my hope you’ll make the latter choice, because your life, marriage and family stand to benefit if choices are made to seek and engage in behaviors that result in healing outcomes. By using all of the tools you’ve encountered to rebuild trust, safety, empathy, connection and love means someone will heal. By using all of the tools you’ve encountered to build intimacy and good communication means someone will heal. By using all of the tools you’ve encountered to “cook with” and serve up virtues and values means someone will heal.
By using all of the tools you’ve encountered in your Office to clarify your purpose and to consistently work to change your character means someone will heal. By using all of the tools you’ve encountered to bless your children and to work to create “Wheel of Awareness” skills and environments so their minds benefit from these gifts means someone will heal.
By using all of the tools you’ve encountered in your Dining and Living rooms to create Triangles of Well-being and Interpersonal Neurobiology when people converge in these places (like in the River of Integration) means someone will heal. By using all of the tools you’ve encountered to devise blueprints that depict the house (and person and people) you want to build, the spirit that will flow from and breathe life into your home, and the spiritual disciplines that strengthen your foundation means someone will heal.
You get the picture. You get it because you’ve either used these tools to build your home like this, or you recognize the value in using these tools to create a home that’s built on the rock. With the help of God you’ve made the choice to take in, use the tools as a “Chief Architect” and have become skilled at living to effectively build up yourself and others who are important to you in your life.
This is the energy and effort it will take to (re)build which could help you to create and enjoy the final area of your home, your Front Porch, where one day you’ll sit and rock in your rocking chairs and reflect upon the life you’ve lived, the love you’ve created (and dispersed) and the legacy you’ll leave behind. Thanks for choosing to change. Regardless of the circumstances you’ve encountered thanks for living an examined life that repairs, rebuilds and leaves a legacy of cultivated love and a life well lived!
Thanks for reading this excerpt from “Choosing Change #14: Living, Loving and Leaving a Legacy.” As time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful.
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