Doing Life Together

Angry bossJim made an appointment to be seen by a therapist for anxiety problems. Little did he know that behind his anxiety could be an anger problem.

As the therapist dug deeper into Jim’s history, it was discovered that Jim had years of holding on to anger at a relative who did him harm. The more Jim talked about this person, the therapist concluded that repressed anger was at the root of his anxiety. Finally, Jim exploded. All that repressed anger took a toll and led to feeling anxious.

The mind and body are linked so holding on to anger disrupts feeling of well-being. What you feel and believe impacts your physical health. In fact, repressed anger activates stress hormones and makes us more prone to illness. [1]

Repressed anger is when you feel anger, but do not acknowledge or express it. You feel it, but deny it. You may have learned this growing up. Maybe you were told not to get angry. Maybe your parents repressed their anger because they didn’t want you to be afraid. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with anger and feel out of control. Whatever the case, anger behavior is learned.

Repressed anger builds up and leads to resentment. Dr. Theodore Rubin, a New York psychoanalyst, believes repressed anger is the source of much anxiety. In his book, The Angry Book, he talks about repressed anger as a major root of anxiety disorders. Repressing anger can be a temporary solution to not dealing with an issue but one that causes physical and emotional problems.

Jim had a choice as to how to proceed. He could repress anger, erupt again or admit to the anger.

He chose to admit to the anger and develop a strategy to deal with the conflict with his relative. Once he was able to talk through the conflict, his anxiety lessened. The offense by the relative hit  hard, but he no longer carried the burden of pretending.

Jim had a choice. He could carry the anger around and pretend it wasn’t there, or tell the truth and address the issue. He could do this on his terms, when he felt prepared and ready. When he did, the anxiety of carrying the burden was lifted.

We always have a choice. How we deal with anger is in our control. Don’t repressed it and hope it doesn’t affect you. Instead, deal with the issue and let it go. Often, that requires adding forgiveness to the process.



Adapted from We Need to Talk but Dr. Linda Mintle, Baker Books, 2015

[1] Sapolsky, R. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1998) p. 308.


mother-1327186_1280No matter how difficult our relationships can be, most adult children want a good relationship with their mothers. Whether your  relationship is great, terrible, or somewhere in between, mother-daughter relationships are powerful and partially define who we are. The more you work through issues with your mom, the better all your other relationships will be. Here are a few simple tips to help you develop a more meaningful relationship with mom.

Learn who you are first: Having a great relationship with mom doesn’t mean you lose who you are in the process. It is just the opposite. The more you define who you are, the better you can be with her without becoming defensive or constantly needing her approval, not because someone else thinks you should or is pressuring you to change. Once you have a better sense of yourself, you are open to being more empathetic, can listen better, and can focus on who she is as a person. The goal is to develop your own self while staying connect to this all important person.

Stay in touch. No matter if she is good or poor at communication, check in regularly and value the relationship. You can’t build a meaningful relationship with anyone unless there is regular and intentional contact. And it needs to be in person when possible. Take the time and be intentional about staying in touch.

Have a child of your own: A big equalizing factor for many adult daughters is when they have a child of their own, particularly if that child is a girl. Having a child or children of your own usually creates more empathy for the job. When an adult daughter begins to grasp what her mother went through and how really tough parenting can be, it usually leads to more grace, forgiveness and acceptance. And often we see another side of our moms once they become a grandparent.

Build biblical foundation: Build your mother-daughter relationship on principles in God’s Word. Although the oneness we had with our moms before birth is the closest to oneness with God, human relationships will always have flaws. A daughter’s yearning for intimacy and closeness is ultimately one that only God can truly satisfy. Look for the expressions of God’s love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 as we mother and are mothered. Love opens up possibilities. Because of love, we can and should find a way to honor and connect with our moms.

couple-1719666_1920When it comes to a couple’s sex life, what is normal? Twice a week, once a month, every day?” The answer depends on a number of factors, making a pat answer difficult. Things like medications, caretaking young children, taking antidepressants, and more affect a person’s sexual desire.

I laugh at the scene in the movie, Annie Hall, where the therapist asks the couple Alvy and Annie (played by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton) about how often they have sex. Alvy answers, “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Annie answers, “Constantly. I’d say three times a week.” This funny moment speaks to the way men and women think about having sex.

The key for most couples isn’t about having the same sex drive or being in sync with each other every time desire is felt. It is about negotiation the times when one initiates and the other refuses. What is usually needed is each spouse making an effort to meet the other’s need. Michele Weiner Davis in her book, The Sex-Starved Marriage,   says that a reluctant spouse can make a decision for desire. That when couples prioritize their sex life and put energy into it by flirting, complimenting and being nice, things go better. In fact, many partners who are not in the mood, get in the mood with a little prompting. The key is to stay open and receptive.

So, the most important thing to remember is not what is normal in terms of frequency, but how satisfied you are as a couple with your sex life. Dissatisfaction and disconnection can lead to problems and should be discussed. Sexual difficulties can be triggered by physical, emotional or even stress problems. Thus, getting to the root of dissatisfaction is important. Things like busyness, boredom, childhood trauma, stress reactions, aging and a host of other issues can lead to sexual difficulties and become points of contention.

Couples are often hesitant to bring up the subject of their sex lives even when both may be dissatisfied. However, it is important to start talking, sleep in the same bed together, show physical affection to each other during nonsexual times and make time for intimacy. If you find yourself unable to make changes or even have a conversation about your sex life, consider getting professional help from a therapist who specializes in sex therapy. Doing nothing only continues the dissatisfied and puts the marriage at risk.

boy-1721405_1920Reader Question: My son is two and half and is beginning to stutter. Up until now, he has been a good talker. But when he gets excited, we’ve noticed he stutters, like his brain can’t catch up to his mouth. We are not sure how to handle this and wonder if we should seek help.

It is common for kids to stutter between the ages of two and three. The key is to determine whether your son has what is called, “transient dysfluency of childhood” which typically goes away, or is a true stutterer. The majority of kids who begin to stutter will stop because they are not true stutterers. When they get excited, they can be tired, angry, or upset and can’t quite get the words out right away. They do more fumbling over words rather than having an actual problem getting the words out. This is due to the rapid development a child experiences in his verbal abilities at this age. And as you put it, his brain doesn’t keep up with the pace of his talking.

Stuttering tends to run in families and affects more boys than girls. Current thinking is that it is a speech disorder that has genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers. It is not a physical or psychological disorder, but considered a developmental disorder. However, if your child is a stutterer, the earlier you treat, the better. So talk to your pediatrician and engage a speech therapist. A speech therapist can be very helpful in term of treating your child and helping you respond in a relaxed and supportive way.

Pay attention to whether or not the stuttering bothers or upsets your son. Also notice if it occurs in situations other than when he is excited or anxious.

Does his pitch change and is he struggling to get words out?

Are his repetitions long and frequent?

Does he block words and sounds?

Does he avoid saying difficult words?

These are just a few observations to make. The Stuttering Foundation of America has materials that can help you determine if you need help or you can consult a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation. To find a speech-language pathologist, call your school and ask for help. Schools provide free speech therapy to children as young as three years of age.


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