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The Ongoing Gifts of the Flood of 2016

The flood gave and the flood took away.

Are you currently rebuilding your house? So many of us in the greater Baton Rouge area (my family included) are still waist deep in the process of rebuilding our flooded homes. We’re now six months post-flood…which in some ways seems like a lifetime ago but some aspects will always seem like they happened yesterday.

The Flood Gave.

At Spring Life Counseling, LLC I am still seeing a big influx of clients for whom the flood was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The flood waters either exacerbated pre-existing issues beyond people’s ability to cope, or it exposed issues that were hiding in the dark. People aren’t necessarily coming in to talk about the trauma of wading through the waters as much as how the flood has taxed them beyond their abilities to keep their marriages, their families or their own selves afloat.

Substance abuse, sexual addictions, anxiety, depression, debt, angry teens, codependency, memories of past traumas, intense marital arguments over the color of the paint (that are really about how one of you never really feels heard or respected)…you name it…the flood has exposed it. That is one of the gifts of the flood. For issues coming to the surface so that they can be addressed, I suppose we ought to be thankful, but while you’re in the midst of the muck, it’s really hard to see the silver lining.

The Flood Took Away.

Along with bringing some things to light, it also took away some things from us. It took away convenience. Security. Coping strategies. Jobs. Normalcy. A sense of home. The list goes on.

When things come to the light, it’s an immediate step towards health. It doesn’t feel good, but you’re better off for it. The next steps are crucial. Seeking the help of a professional counselor can be crucial in getting you from exposure of an issue or wound to walking through the healing process.

When things are taken away from us, we need to grieve them and seek to find a new sense of normalcy. It’s 6 months after but for many the process of dealing with the unexpected and unwanted gifts of the flood is still in the beginning stages.

The best thing you can do after a tragedy is to connect with others. Connection is the antidote for a lot of the wounds of trauma. There is no reason you have to walk through this season alone.

If you think you may need some help talking through some of the issues mentioned in this post, please contact me. I have offices in Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge.

For those who are interested, here is a post I wrote about how I’m praying for those of us affected by the flood.

Flooded With Prayers

How I’m praying for those affected by the flood. 

Whether you were directly affected or you have friends or family who flooded (or you have house guests who don’t seem in a hurry to leave!) you may be struggling with how to pray for such a big situation. 

Here are some things I’ve been praying for myself and for my friends and family during this trying time. 

Pray for their hope to be in the right things. 

Our hope is not in FEMA or flood insurance. Our hope has Never been in our government. Our hope is in God and he has the cattle on a thousand hills. 

Pray for peace over anxiety. 

Peace in the onslaught of decisions that need to be made. Peace as the repair process gets underway. May the peace of God rule in our hearts richly. 

Lately I’ve been praying that everyone who is returning to their homes will feel very safe (from water, from the unknown, from people looking to get something for nothing, for critters who are confused about where the bayou stops and subdivisions start). 

Pray for joy over despair.

At this point after a crisis, a lot of the energy has burned out and despair can start to creep in. Pray for people to find things to look forward to and find joy in the every day moments. 

Pray that people wouldn’t feel “greatly shaken.”

Resiliency is everything. All of us are being provided with an opportunity to test our resiliency and strengthen our ability to bounce back and stand firm. This comes more easily to some than others. 

Pray for marriages. Survive vs Thrive. 

Pray for couples to unite in the midst this stressful crisis. Pray for understanding and patience with one another in decisions. Pray for grace to abound, as everything takes longer than expected and is much less convenient than in “normal life.”

Pray for couples to lean on each other as new strengths and weaknesses emerge in this unique season. 

Pray for kids. Express vs Suppress  

Pray that kids will have the support and opportunity to creatively express their frustrations and sadness rather than go inward with their emotions or try to numb the discomfort by distracting or over indulging. 

Pray for parents to take care of themselves first so that they have the emotional space and energy to take care of their kids. Pray for sustaining grace to deal with kids who are having difficult times. Pray for patience and understanding. 

A Wife’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Success

Why Valentines Day, Mothers Day and your Birthday became your worst days of the year…and how to fix it.

After counseling hundreds of clients over the last ten years, I’ve picked up more than a few quirky insights into American marriages. One of them is this: nothing brings on a good fight like a big one-sided holiday. I’m talking Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, and your birthday.

Let me explain… Christmas is easy because you can focus on others. Other people’s birthdays or special holidays aren’t an issue because you are in the giving role. But one-sided holidays tend to reek havoc on a woman’s sense of relational satisfaction.

In two words:
Unmet Expectations.

Wives, does this sound familiar? Your first holiday in the relationship was probably pretty painless. Maybe even enjoyable. You weren’t sure what to expect and men usually take the occasion to show off. This trend often continues through dating and engagement.

It’s the first big holiday after you’re married that tends to fall a little flat. Expectations have been set by this point. You’re expecting the celebration to have taken some planning or a degree of thoughtfulness…like he did when you were dating.
Instead, you get gifts bought on the way home and an invite to eat “wherever you’d like.”
The result: you probably resemble a cross between the hungry velociraptor from Jurassic Park and Medusa before her morning coffee.

Your strategy: You take matters into your own hands and instruct. This is the “let me teach you how to be awesome at gift giving like I am” move. For Father’s Day or his birthday you plan the most amazing gift he’d never even dream of fulfilling for himself. You think (or even say? Bless your heart), “see how easy this is?! Just PLAN! Just PAY ATTENTION to what I like.”

Next holiday, the assumption is, “surely he learned his lesson from last time and plus I taught him how to do it since then.”
The result: he didn’t remember or take your instruction. Rage blackout…take 2.

Your strategy: For the next holiday, you try to get out ahead of it. You think, “I will tell him exactly what I want him to do so that I won’t be so disappointed.” Still shell shocked from last time, he thinks, “she doesn’t want EXACTLY what she said…there’d be no surprise.” Or perhaps the more classic, “I don’t want to be told how to love my wife. I will give her what I want to give her.”
The result: that random coffee mug you mentioned liking at Starbucks one time last summer. You aren’t even drinking hot coffee anymore. You only drink cold brew because of the low acidity is better for your IBS. Hasn’t he noticed you stopped drinking hot coffee?!?!

The next holiday…if you make it that far…you decide to proactively kill off the part of you that wants attention. You say, “just don’t buy me anything.”
The result: he knows that’s a trick. He buys you another coffee mug. Because he still doesn’t remember that you don’t drink hot coffee any more, he just remembers that last time he bought you a mug you liked from before and that makes him feel smart. He doesn’t remember the other mug fiasco. For him, that situation just went into the category of “vague sense of failure and disappointment.”
The result: sobbing for a month. Your poor IBS. The coffee mug symbolizes all that is wrong in your marriage and the world at large.

Henceforth, you will find other things to do on holidays that are supposed to be about you or you continue in vain to kill off that part of you that still hopes for him to finally come through on these special events. You disengage to self-protect. (This feels like a safe move but it only leads to isolation.) When the holidays roll around, no one makes any sudden moves and the day comes and goes with a sense of frustration, loneliness, dread, and resentments going both ways. “I can’t ever make her happy. Nothing I do is good enough. Her expectations are like moving targets. I might as well not even try.”

Here’s how to fix it.

  • Meet efforts with enthusiasm.
    • Appreciate the small things.
  • Understand that you’re not married to a woman so he’s never going to think and feel like you do. And that’s ok.
    • Different isn’t wrong.
  • Find something to praise. You’ll get more of it.
    • If a man feels like a failure in what he’s already attempting to do for you, why would he take the risk of doing even more? He doesn’t want to feel like a bigger failure and disappointment. Instead, he will do less. This serves to protect himself and the relationship from further injury. The more you criticize, the more you encourage this mindset. Praise works the opposite way.
  • Approximations of the goals count.
    • You won’t see a total transformation in one step. But steps towards the desired outcome count for a lot and should be praised accordingly. Praise in a way he’ll remember. 😉 You’ll ease up the tensions and focus on the positive between the two of you. Before you know it, your bad gift giver will be unafraid to put efforts in because you have changed the environment by being pleased with his attempts. That’s key. If you can arrive at this sweet spot, things will only get progressively better.

A man who already feels like he’s made you happy will want to do more to make you happy.
A man who feels like he’s already disappointed you won’t do anything more because he won’t risk feeling more like a disappointment than he already feels.

So this Valentine’s Day, capitalize on praise in the small things, a positive attitude, and finding a memorable way to encourage his efforts. It’s good for your man. It’s good for your relationship. It’s good for you.

Contact me for any relationship or individual counseling needs. Offices in Walker and Baton Rouge.

Photo credit goes to my friend, Katie Barnett of Vivid Dream Photography, LLC