State of the Union

The Healthy State that Marriage is Actually In!

Marriage is in much better condition than we are being led to believe!   I am attaching a link below of a recent article that is a must read for anyone who is married, considering marriage, or if you work with married couples.  Read what social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn discovered over several years while uncovering the falsehoods about divorce rates that have been and are being propagated in the media and classrooms.

State of the Union

Be enlightened and encouraged about the state of the union!

Link to the Christian Post: Article by Alex Murashko http://www.christianpost.com/news/author-debunks-myths-about-divorce-rates-including-of-churchgoers-119843

 

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT ~ May 25, 2014

Projection Reflection

Owning Your Own Shadow

How many times have you found yourself upset over something someone else did or said but if you were truly honest with yourself you would have to admit that you have done and said similar things?  Perhaps you will recall sayings such as “When you point your finger at someone there are three pointing back at you” or “If you spot it you got it”?

This is what is known as projection.  Projection is when we see in others, or project onto others, what we don’t want to see in ourselves. Projection ReflectionIt is much easier to call someone else out on their being selfish or self-centered.  When I direct my anger toward a person yet have no idea why I’m doing it, I just know deep down inside that they probably deserve it – more than likely I am projecting.

Practicing self-awareness is one way to understand when we might be projecting.  Or a good friend, family member or coworker might call you out on what you are doing – kind of like suddenly being taken by the shoulders and being given a few good shakes to snap you back into awareness only to realize that you were casting something upon another that you didn’t necessarily want to see in yourself.  Owning our shadows can be an ugly, messy business. However in doing so we tend to become a more whole and sound person.

The next time you find yourself flying off the handle at someone or passing judgment under your breath take a moment to look in the mirror.  If you are in fact projecting then you are really only looking at your own reflection.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – July 9, 2013

The Call of the Child

Healing the Child Within

Have you ever experienced a moment of dread when your boss calls you into his office, just knowing that you will be called out on something even though you haven’t done anything wrong?  Once in your bosses office perhaps you are praised and affirmed or maybe your boss just wanted to give you some more data about whatever it is you are working on, or simply wanted an update as to how the project is going?  You expected the worst and in the end discovered you had nothing to worry about after all.

Have you ever done everything in your power to make sure your spouse, friends, neighbors, or the person sitting next to you at your place of worship, is pleased with you or is as happy as you can possibly make them?  Have you ever been worried that their attitude toward you might sour and in the end they would push you away?

Have you ever watched others having fun, being silly, while not having a care in the world of what others think about them, and long to join in but were afraid to take that step?  Joy is so close that you could reach out and touch it, but it would be wrong for you to take hold of it even though you have no idea why it is right for them and wrong for you.

More than likely you are reacting out of the past pain of childhood.  What is happening in your present circumstances reminds you of something from your past circumstances.  The child within you had no power at such a young age and so could not fend for himself.  This trauma memory became frozen or stuck inside of you and now whenever something reminds you of this memory, those old familiar response impulses come back.  Maybe your impulse is to run and hide, or to fight? Or maybe you check out altogether, dissociating until the moment passes and you feel safe once again? abuse

It is important to remember that you are no longer the small defenseless child.  You are now an adult who has power and choice. You can protect that little one inside you that so needed someone to come to his rescue at a tender age but instead was left to fend for himself.  Take a breath. Assure the child within that you are there to protect him now and that those around you love you and will not abandon you.

Just because we feel something is true does not mean that it is true.  Challenge your belief.  Why are you unable to join in the fun and silliness? For instance, going back to joining in a fun and silly situation: if everyone is okay with the group of people letting their hair down a little bit why would they single you out and tell you that you cannot or should not do the same?  So first, challenge the belief and second you need to follow the impulse. Step into the fun and silliness to further challenge your fear and wrong belief.

If you continue to pull back or think the worst is going to happen and that it is your job to make everyone else happy, always placing others needs and emotions before your own, I would invite you to consider finding a good counselor and do some work around trauma and the inner child.

There is a child inside us all that needs to be loved and reminded of how worthy he is.  Loving him begins with you.

Thaddeus Heffner is a marriage and family therapist in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area.  He is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the Nashville Area Association of Christian Counselors.  Visit Thaddeus Heffner at thaddeusheffner.com.

To Commencement and Beyond!

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

The month of May is fast approaching and with it comes much change ushered in with pomp and circumstance.  Four years have somehow flown by, and in some cases five years for you super-seniors.  In many ways you are ready and even itching to step beyond the borders of the university, to spread your wings and dive off the high cliffs of higher learning into the valley of Life’s experience.   In other ways, whether you realize it or not, there may be a grief you are feeling as you have no choice but to march forward and down the path that will eventually lead you across a stage in front of family, friends, and faculty, to accept your diploma only to have your steps leading away from the podium and into…?

Graduation Pic
So what is next?  Graduate school?  Finding employment in your field? Finding employment not in your field but having the need to take a longer path to your vocation and calling?  Will you go back home? Will you move the farthest away from home you can, or somewhere in between?

Decisions. Decisions.  Should you take that job across the country, or the world? Should you move home and work for the family business? Should you venture out and take grasp of that entrepreneurial spirit and idea you have been waiting to try? Is continuing on to graduate school and then perhaps your doctorate the right path for you?

The answer to all of these questions and so many more: Yes.  Take a step, and then take another.  Myself, having been right where you are twenty years ago, I can tell you it is no easy task to step out your door, but step you must.  Even our missteps are somehow, for our good, woven into the tapestry of our unfolding story.  Don’t over-think it.  We cannot see five steps ahead, but only one.  We can certainly try to plan for five steps ahead, and this is a good thing, but again, at the end of the day, we have only the next step ahead of us in our sights – so step out and take it.

In these last days and weeks before your commencement let me also encourage you to be aware of what you are leaving behind.  You will never have this time to live again.  You will never be with these peers and professors in the same way again.  This chapter is closing.  Sip slowly those last cups of terrible cafeteria coffee while you drink in these final conversations with friends that have become your family over the past four years.  Don’t be so quick to walk across campus, but consider strolling and taking in the changes that come with this spring of your final year.  Be a little kinder to the suitemate who used up the last of your toothpaste…again.  You won’t be able to yell at them for much longer and you might find yourself missing these inconveniences.

It is time to say farewell and open your arms to a bigger world yet.  In the words of Bilbo Baggins, from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”   Open your door. Step onto the road. Live.

Thaddeus Heffner is a marriage and family therapist in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area.  He is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the Nashville Area Association of Christian Counselors.  Visit Thaddeus Heffner at thaddeusheffner.com. 

Communication is Key

Let’s Talk About It

I encounter many people who have never been taught the art of expressing themselves; to say what they really mean, and mean what they say.  Often, when working with couples or families there is a great deal that is being left un-said.  Everyone is left to their own perceptions and judgments and, for whatever reason, nobody is checking to see if their perceptions or what they hearing are correct of not.  It is what I call a great deal of static, or staying on the surface of the conversation instead of moving to the deeper places of what they are really feeling and trying to get across to one another.

First things first, we need to establish a safe place to be able to work things out.  People need to feel that they are safe to express thoughts and feelings without fearing they might suddenly be shut down if they say something that doesn’t sit right with others.  With someone you are especially close to, perhaps a spouse or family member, a good rule of thumb is to have a particular cue word or phrase between you that, when spoken, means that you have something serious to communicate and it will most likely be difficult to say.  This always prepares the listener to be ready to really hear where the other person is coming from, and that they may be feeling fear, anxiety, or judgment in regards to what they are about to share.  Having a cue word can set a tone of compassion between two people before a difficult word is ever even spoken.

Another simple, yet profound, tool is to restate what you have just heard the other say following it up with, “Did I hear you right?” If you heard wrong it gives the person bringing the message the opportunity to correct the other’s misperception or misunderstanding.

Also watch for body language.  So much is communicated by how we respond with our bodies.  If you say something with good intention and the body language of the person you are with comes of as drawing back, or seemingly upset, then you have an opportunity to ask them, “What did you just hear me say?”  This is a sure way to clear up any misunderstandings because if they heard you wrong you can graciously correct them in the immediate and sidestep any potential for the other person possibly silently holding onto their misperceptions and eventually moving to a place of resentment.

At the end of the day it is all about communication.  We humans are not mind readers.  Walking it out by talking it out is the best way to prevent miscommunications or misunderstandings from getting blown out of proportion.

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee and is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the American Association of Christian Counselors. You can visit Thaddeus Heffner LMFT at thaddeusheffner.com.

Thaddeus Heffner Interview: Healing the Whole Person

Thaddeus Heffner, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee, is often asked by clergy how they can help support their parishioners that struggle with unwanted same sex attraction. Recently, Thaddeus Heffner shared a few of the most commonly asked questions regarding this issue.

Q: What is one of the most frequently asked questions that you receive from clergy in regards to someone who struggles with unwanted same sex attraction?

Thaddeus Heffner: Often I am asked the question, “What about the sin?” It is an obvious question from clergy because they are called to care for the spiritual state of their parishioners.

Q: How do you answer this particular question?

Thaddeus Heffner: I answer with the same question, “What about it?”

Q: Answering a question with a question seems like you must be leading them to perhaps a broader answer?

Thaddeus Heffner: You’re exactly right. Clergy have a calling to focus on the spiritual life of their people. They do this with the best of intentions but often neglect that the person has also been given a body and a soul (psyche). I want to encourage clergy to continue focusing on the spiritual and also begin to put some emphasis on the body and soul as well.

Q: In your experience, what does focusing also on the body and soul help to accomplish?

Thaddeus Heffner: Research shows that we were made to “attach” to other human beings which just means that we were built for healthy relationships, to be cared for, loved, to know that we are worthy of love and friendship, etc. This all falls under the umbrella of healthy attachment. When we lack these things, or we feel that we are not worthy of love, friendship, or not cared for, this would mean we are in a detached state. It is through relationship, time spent with each other, and healthy community that we nourish the body and the soul, and even the spirit.

Q: But don’t people get all of these things when they go to church and are surrounded by people?

Thaddeus Heffner: The potential is certainly there to get needs met in church but too often when asked on Sunday morning how one is doing the reply is almost always, “I’m fine. And you?” – to which the other person says, “I’m fine.” These exchanges are more like drive-bys than actually being in the realm of a warm conversation between friends. No needs are being met. No connection is being made. We’ve put in our face time for another week and have six days of potential isolation before we do it all over again.

Q: So back to the “sin” question then – what do you mean by, “What about it?” What is it you are getting at?

Thaddeus Heffner: Most people are just trying to get their non-negotiable needs met. Most people make unhealthy choices because they don’t know what the healthy choices are to get needs met. Men struggling with unwanted same sex attraction fight to not act out. The actual acting out is an attempt to get their needs met – to know that they are loved, worthy, to have friends, respect, closeness, vulnerability – ultimately to attach to other men and know that they belong to men.

What if instead of only focusing on the spiritual, telling them to read their bible more or pray and fast more, spiritual leaders were to actually get involved with their lives? Instead of accepting the answer of, “I’m fine”, taking time to ask them what does that really mean, and while you are at it tell them how you are really doing too! Go out to lunch. Take a walk. Get to know them. Do life together. This would be feeding not only their body and soul, but also yours.

Q: What results do you see when this happens?

Thaddeus Heffner: When men are getting their needs met in healthy ways by safe men through community and friendship, they tend not to need to go and act out to get their needs met in unhealthy ways. So it brings us back to the question, “What about the sin?” Well, in my opinion, if we focus on the spirit only, sin will increase. It is in feeding the body and soul also that the actual sin begins to decrease because men are attaching in healthy ways, finally feeling and knowing that they belong.

Q: Any last words for pastors out there?

Thaddeus Heffner: Yes–for men that struggle with unwanted same sex attraction, and men that don’t struggle: it is not an overnight phenomenon. Friendship and community means investment and it can get messy at times. But it is always worth it. I would invite you to drop the “I’m fine” and pick up not being afraid of jumping into the mud with guys. It is important to feed the body and soul as well as the spirit. Just know that the results may take a little more time because the body and soul have been starved for so long.

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee and is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the American Association of Christian Counselors. You can visit Thaddeus Heffner LMFT at thaddeusheffner.com.

Thaddeus Heffner Discusses Unwanted Same Sex Attraction in Marriage

Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT, is in private practice near Nashville, Tennessee, where he frequently sees clients regarding issues related to unwanted same-sex attraction. Some of these men are married to women and have families. A licensed therapist, Thaddeus Heffner explains that there is a difference between experiencing unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction or homosexuality and embracing one’s homosexuality and choice to live as a gay man. Recently, Thaddeus Heffner answered some questions about how a married couple might deal with the husband’s unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction (SSA).

Q: If a man is experiencing unwanted feelings toward members of the same sex, should he tell his wife or fiancée?

Thaddeus Heffner: That’s up to each individual man. Ideally, he’d discuss this with his bride-to-be before saying ‘I do.’ Often, though, I find that the man has chosen to stay silent.

Q: Why would a man stay silent about these feelings?

Thaddeus Heffner: Sometimes it is because he feels conflicted, confused or has a fear of being rejected and never finding love again. So instead of speaking honestly about his feelings, a man will isolate himself, causing even stronger feelings of loneliness.

Q: If a woman finds out her husband is homosexual after they are married, what should she do–how should she react?

Thaddeus Heffner: The important thing is to stay calm, as hard as that may sound. Initially, she’ll have to decide whether she wants to stay or leave. If she stays, she’ll likely go through a range of emotions once the initial shock wears off.

Q: Like, for instance…?

Thaddeus Heffner: Not surprisingly, she may feel betrayed and angry, or she may take it personally. It’s not at all unusual for a woman to look back in their relationship to determine if she’s to blame for her husband’s homosexuality.

Q: Assuming they both want to stay in the marriage, what recommendations do you have for the couple?

Thaddeus Heffner: One word that comes to mind is ‘patience.’ It’s extremely important for both parties to understand that hidden same-sex attraction is, to the unknowing spouse, a violation of trust. It will take time to build that trust back up again.

Q: What do you say to those women who believe they caused their husband’s homosexuality?

Thaddeus Heffner: I try to help them understand that unwanted homosexuality can often–even usually–be traced back to childhood, long before the husband even knew met his wife. So it can’t possibly be her fault.

Q: What if a wife begins closely monitoring her husband’s communications after she finds out?

Thaddeus Heffner: We call this ‘policing’ and it’s an understandable part of any breach of trust. I emphasize to both parties the importance of building that trust gradually and, in time, this policing behavior should start to go away. If it doesn’t, it can start a vicious cycle of the husband doing whatever he has to do in order to satisfy the wife’s questions. But this can lead to him feeling quite smothered.

Q: How does a couple work through a husband’s unwanted homosexual feelings?

Thaddeus Heffner: It’s very important that a couple have a place where both of them can feel safe to express their feelings in order to work through them. Therapy is a great place for that to happen.

Q: What about the husband? How does he work through those feelings of unwanted SSA/homosexuality?

Thaddeus Heffner: I believe that it’s important for a husband to work through those feelings, usually in therapy. My clients come because they want to find that authentic male part of themselves, while also building healthy friendships with other males.

Q: So, do you think it’s possible for that couple to begin to find each other again?

Thaddeus Heffner: Yes, I do. I believe that energy follows intent. When a man begins to rebuild the relationship bonds with an energetic, enthusiastic attitude, the wife can’t help but follow. The key factor–for both of them–is authenticity.

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed marital and family therapist practicing in Brentwood/Franklin, Tennessee. To contact Thaddeus Heffner, visit thaddeusheffner.com.

 

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