Category Archives: Mindfulness

On Being Lonely

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We become lonely because we yearn for connection from another human being. We desire to be heard, understood, and appreciated. And when these fundamental needs aren’t met, we feel lonely.

With these feelings we look outward for friends, events, romantic partners, and sometimes even addictions to fill that empty feeling looming deep inside of us.

And when we finally find that friend, romantic partner, or we go to event after event, we still feel empty in the short breaks in between. And we take great notice of that lonely feeling, and more often than not, we are pulled to fill even those small moments with anything so long as we don’t feel that loneliness.

The moment in which we feel the most connected with another person, is when we feel vulnerable. Why? Because we have exposed ourselves, our hearts. We have allowed another person to sit with that with which we were uncomfortable sitting alone with. And when we find that even under our deepest vulnerabilities and flaws, we are still loved, we are still valued, we are still WORTHY, it is then that we feel complete.

Paradoxically, without other people, we are incapable of “exposing” our vulnerabilities, yet it is precisely these vulnerabilities that we are afraid of exposing for fear that we will be rejected. Being vulnerable takes risk. It takes being humble, and a bit of humility. Being vulnerable takes a tremendous amount of courage. Most importantly, being vulnerable means being human. We are all flawed.

There’s a catch, and it’s a rather big catch. The trick to maintaining that feeling of being whole is to embrace all those vulnerabilities on your own. Being whole isn’t contingent on anyone but yourself. So if you find yourself courageous enough to humble yourself and become vulnerable, in that moment of vulnerability, know that it is not to gain acceptance or love by another but to live in your truth. And yes, if there is anything that you see in yourself that you do not like, you alone are responsible for changing it.

People are mirrors that reflect both the things we love about ourselves and the things we despise. This is why being vulnerable and true in your relationship is so important- to clearly see what is being reflected back to us.

When you begin loving and embracing who you are, we begin to love ourselves, and when we end up in moments with ourselves, we suddenly realize, we are not alone, and we are whole.

A Mindful Toolbox

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When asked about meditation or mindfulness, we need to be careful about the use of certain words that can be a real turn off to many- like “spiritual”, “light”, and “energy”. While there’s nothing wrong with those words, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on a lit match- the match being those who are curious but weary of trying it out. When you’re going through a hard time, no one wants to hear “I’m sending you love and light”. What the hell is that?! Will I feel it when it arrives? Am I now obligated to send it back?

When I’m asked about coping mechanisms, therapy options, and ways to overcome the hard times, I have to be very cautious about what words I choose and with whom, because while the tools I’ve learned or know of are effective, they are not easy to “sell” if you label them with religious and spiritual tags. If presented in the wrong way, they can either come off as overwhelming, impossible to implement, or even boring and ineffective. The problem with this, is that we’ve seen through science and research that these “mindful tools” actually work in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, codependency, and can positively promote one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Over the weekend, I was speaking with someone who was at the end of their rope dealing with their partner’s addiction and PTSD. As I was trying to explain the benefits of mindfulness and being “present” (as opposed to ruminating on past events or future desires) I explained that I’m not always “being mindful”, and when I’m stressed I don’t always go find a cushion to sit on and meditate my stress away. Practicing mindfulness, meditating, practicing gratitude, patience, compassion, etc., these are all just tools that I selectively choose to pull out of my “Mindful Toolbox” when I find myself in a rut. Using the right tools at the right time is the key to effectively solving problems. It is easy to think drinking (or any addictive behavior) our problems away is an effective tool for reducing stress or eliminating our problem, but unfortunately as much as we want to believe it, it just makes our problems worse or can extend the length of time we suffer. That is obviously not the right tool for those times.

And while it would be nice if we could just have that one “Swiss army knife” that “did it all” unfortunately, there isn’t one in life. That said, here are just a few tools that I’ve found work well for me, and when I use them:

Gratitude: Like a screwdriver, it can be used to put together almost anything. So long as you have screws. In life, when things don’t go our way, we feel “screwed”. We often don’t see anything positive about what we’re going through. Everything is so immediate. Practicing gratitude is an awesome tool to use, not just when things get sticky, but daily. Every morning, the moment you wake up, take a few deep breaths and think or say out loud: “Thank you for another day. Thank you for this breath.” Because frankly, the alternative is you don’t get another day and you don’t get another breath… yikes…

Patience: Patience is comparable to a cordless power drill. First, you need to know how to use one, and second, if you don’t have the right charge, your tool is useless. Patience isn’t about sucking it up and bottling up all your disappointment and anger. It’s about realizing you can’t build anything unless you’ve got a positive charge, and in order to do that, you can’t have a negative charge. Take a time-out if you need to. Breathe, and get positively charged. Not everything needs your immediate response. Patience is what keeps you from saying and doing things that hurt yourself and others in the long run. And although it seems counter-intuitive, it actually gets the job done much faster than shooting from the hip. You can see clearly and because of that, your chosen response comes from a place of meaningful and positive power as opposed to negative chaos.

Compassion: The glue that binds everything together. There’s this famous story in Buddhism about lunch in heaven and lunch in hell. Both places have a gorgeous set up with huge dining tables covered with the most delicious food, and both places require that the only way to eat the delicious food is to use the forks provided. The problem is the forks are 5 feet long. Obviously, in hell, they suffered for eternity, unable to eat because the forks were too big. In heaven, they were happy and full, as they used the forks to feed each other. This is compassion: the conditions in our human life can be the same, but depending on our attitude and beliefs, the way we experience life will vary significantly.

Love: This is about as close as we will ever get to having a Swiss army knife. Love truly is the answer to everything; but the problem with this is that very few people understand what Love really is, and out of all the tools in the Mindful Toolbox, is probably one of the most difficult to master.

What is love?

Love can be understood and experienced in so many ways. But to me, my favorite definition of love is found in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not become angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always continues strong. Love never ends… When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child; I made plans like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways. It is the same with us. Now we see as if we are looking into a dark mirror. But at that time, in the future, we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part. But at that time I will know fully… So these three things continue forever: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

How to Solve Our Human Problems

New reading and it is beyond AWESOME. Just wanted to share…

When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind.

If we responded to difficult situations with positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us. Eventually we might even regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development.

Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems, we must transform our mind.

 

-How to Solve Our Human Problems, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Life Hack: Feeling is Healing

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Feeling is healing. But “feeling” is not the same as “expressing our emotions”. A great example of the difference between feeling and expressing is this: The other day my older son took a toy from my 1 year-old. My 1 year-old felt really upset about that. He expressed his feelings in two ways: first, he screamed, and then he tried to hit his big brother. While neither are what we would call “good behavior”, unfortunately, they both are pretty normal for that age. Fortunately, we grow up and realize that hitting and screaming don’t get us what we want and usually don’t solve the problems we think we have. Ideally, with the help of positive role models and experience, we learn alternative, more healthy and productive ways of expressing what it is that we are feeling and are able to discern if expressing is even necessary.

Paradoxically, when we feel something and are unable to express it, the feelings are left unattended and can lead to personal and internal negative consequences like a build up of resentment, anger, self-loathing, and sometimes even depression. What’s interesting, though, is that even if we do express what we feel, if we do it in an unhealthy way (like hitting, yelling, screaming, threatening, hurting ourselves, getting drunk, engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior, etc.) we are still left feeling pretty crappy in the end, maybe even a little embarrassed, and mostly unresolved.
*** This is the beauty of life. ***
I think being human IS THIS. An experiment (maybe even a game?) of feeling something and then trying to express it so that it can be resolved. If we are successful, we identify and implement the healthy ways of expression (which for me usually comes with trial and error…lots of error…). If you think about it this way, literally EVERYONE can be a winner! Every opportunity that passes through our life is an opportunity to learn expression – and from expression comes resolution. From resolution comes resilience and ultimately, an openness and love for all that life has to offer (good and bad).
Feeling to heal isn’t just about expressing negative feelings. Positive feelings also need equal expression. Did you know there are actually people that have a hard time expressing gratitude and joy? I know because I used to be one of them (and sometimes still struggle with this). People afraid to show ANY emotion. Interestingly, the consequences of not expressing even our positive feelings leave us (and sometimes others) feeling bummed. Imagine feeling immense joy at your baby’s birth but being completely expressionless and not showing any emotion? Imagine being at your own wedding with an expressionless face? This is why how we express our feelings is so important! It’s a way to connect with ourselves and others.

But in order to heal what’s hurting inside us, we first have to feel it, and to “feel” it means we open ourselves up to it. In other words, we look at it, we allow ourselves to have those feelings, face them, and honestly acknowledge them. They are real! If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have them. To open ourselves up to what is going on inside of us and allow it to flow through is key. Yes, sometimes that means shedding a tear or two! But sometimes the feelings can be so intense we freeze or want to run from them! The good news is that feeling our feelings doesn’t require us to express it immediately or at all. It just requires you to honestly see it and say hello to it.

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This is where the magic lies! Once we are able to honestly see it and say hello to it, somehow, we then are able to successfully and productively express it.
So the next time something happens and you feel something (let’s take anger for example), try saying something like, “oh, something in me is feeling anger. Hello anger. So this is what anger feels like. Yes, I am feeling anger right now.”

I know it sounds cheesy, but it works! What do we do with that anger once we’ve said hello to it? We’ve owned it, we’ve acknowledged it, and we’ve totally taken it in our complete control. We are now empowered with a life-changing opportunity to ask ourselves, “OK! I see am feeling anger right now. How do I want to express that?”

Oftentimes, we realize that we either don’t need to after all, OR we are at a MUCH better place emotionally and mentally to find a truly positive and productive (and less harming way) of resolving the underlying problem.

Life can be hard. Why make it more difficult than it has to be?

A Journey to Inner Peace

I think we spend our whole life wandering for something we lacked at some point in our young lives. For me, it was a relationship bond. Since I didn’t get it from my parents or siblings, my whole childhood and young adult life was spent on a subconscious journey looking for something or someone that would make me feel “bonded” like one would feel in a deeply intimate relationship found in a parent-child relationship. That feeling of being unconditionally loved, protected, supported, maybe even adored… Even if I thought I had found someone to fill my void, somehow I always felt afraid, anxious, and isolated. Would they leave me? Hurt me? Abandon me? Abuse me? Betray me? I felt as if I was a beggar for “love”, and that even a small crumb of affection was enough, so long as I felt someone “cared” about me. This was truly a life lacking inner peace.

What I’ve learned through years of failed relationships, rejection, and loss is that we will always feel fear, anxiety, and “lonesomeness” if we are always looking for strength from external sources (other people, money, sex, drugs, you name it). It’s cliche and frankly pretty annoying to hear that over and over again, but unfortunately (and fortunately) it’s true. It’s unfortunate because that leaves us completely responsible for our own inner peace and strength. It’s fortunate because that gives us complete power over our own inner peace and strength. When we are at peace, genuinely, from the inside, there is no sense of lack. We feel full and are thus not grasping at the false sense of security we cling to on external matters like money, what our body looks like, and the “bonds” of relationships, etc.).  In other words, we are at peace with what we have and who we are, and we are not obsessing over what we feel like we need or currently don’t have.

I was always looking for security in the bonds of relationships when I was supposed to find it in myself. Even now as I am grieving the loss of my marriage, I have to be honest about what it is that is shaking my inner peace. Is it truly grief? If it is grief, how much longer is it going to be grieving before it’s me just throwing an extended self-pity party? Perhaps this sadness is me feeling bitter for not getting the “bond” I was hoping to get through my marriage.

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If I had to be brutally honest, the ironic thing is I never “really” had it in any relationship. That “bond” never existed in any previous relationships, nor did it exist in the marriage I was so desperately trying to hang on to. The reason I didn’t have it wasn’t necessarily because the people I was with were jerks (most of them were! But that’s not why I didn’t get my “bond” I was looking for). The main reason was because I was looking for it in the wrong places.

I was SO desperate for that bond that I kept desperately grasping for that thing that I’ve never had like a mad man blindly grasping for anything in the darkness. I started noticing a pattern in how my relationships developed. When I thought I was close to getting that “bond” or even thinking that maybe I “had it”, somewhere in my subconscious I may have thought that it was something I was naturally entitled to, and thus when my relationships didn’t make me feel secure the way I thought they should, I got angry.  I lashed out. I blamed. Maybe I even subconsciously believed that the other person “owed” it to me…?

But is it possible to miss something you never felt? Is it possible to grieve something you’ve never had and thus never “lost”? If I had never known the flavor of chocolate, would I live my whole life searching for my long lost chocolate? Maybe I had a sniff of it, or thought I saw someone else with it… or maybe I even heard an amazing story about it and it peaked my interest so much that I set out looking for this amazing chocolate…It sounded divine…It sounded like heaven… “I MUST HAVE THIS!” I told myself…

Getting out of meditation is usually when I get my “aha moments” and today I had this one:

“Just let it go. You never had it and you obviously don’t have it now. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have it, but just that you don’t need to throw a fit because you can’t have what you currently don’t have. If you really needed it, you would have it! The fact that you don’t have it and have made it this far in life, means you don’t need it. At least, for now…”

**Granted, I actually do have this with my children, and with so many of my friends and family members. Sadly, I was only looking for it in a romantic partnership and thus couldn’t see that I had it already.

While I can’t say this is true across the board, it just resonated with me today. It told me it was time to get over it and live life already! I’ll be fine! Just like I’ve always been! Me chasing after something I obviously didn’t need has only gotten in my way, kept me from my purpose and passion, and created unnecessary suffering. Ugh…so much needless suffering… Why would I do that to myself?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and valued, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in a meaningful and loving relationship, but there is something seriously wrong about demanding it and throwing a fit or allowing your happiness and inner peace to disappear if you don’t get it.

Reminder to self: 1) If you want something, you have to be willing to give it, and screaming and demanding shit isn’t going to make you or anyone happy. BE LOVE. That shit makes people happy, including yourself (yup, even when things aren’t going your way). 2) Sit tight! Enjoy the ride. Literally, that’s your only choice at this moment anyway! By being love, you get love. By being present, you find inner peace. And THIS is where true strength and joy are found.

Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection #1: JOY

Sometimes I don’t have much to say on a topic, so instead of trying to make some lengthy article, I’ll make small reflection bits I’ll call “Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection”. Starting today!

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Reflection #1:

Joy…

What if JOY was not something that you feel; not something that someone “makes you feel” as a result of something outside of your control, but a REWARD that comes to you when you are being “other-focused” and less self-absorbed.

How motivated would you be to stop focusing on yourself?

 

Sending Love…Instead of Hate

I came to realize that when I held negative feelings or thoughts toward another person, I began to suffer. I felt pain. Heartbreak. Sadness.

Yet nothing inside me wanted to feeling anything more than that, toward the person that had hurt me the most.

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So the longer I held on to those negative feelings, the deeper they grew inside me. The sadder I felt. The lonelier I felt. But what was worse, was that his behavior never got better. In fact, it got worse. And the worse he got, the more bitter I got (you can see where this goes, right? Nowhere.)

I began to take a step back from my own personal experience and thoughts toward this person and tried to put myself in his shoes. This man was clearly suffering. Yes, I too, was clearly suffering. That meant we had something in common. If we were both suffering, was I contributing to his suffering in any way? I definitely could identify how he was contributing to my suffering. What I hadn’t realized was that a lot of my suffering from his actions was the beliefs I had about them. I thought they were personal.

What would happen if, instead of seeing his behavior as personal, saw it as a “lack of skill in dealing with his suffering”? What would happen if, instead of muttering hateful words about him, I said a small prayer for him? Dear God, bless his heart. May he know peace, kindness, compassion…

It didn’t take away the fact that he was responsible for dealing with his suffering in a more skillful way. It didn’t justify his behavior or make it “ok”. What it did was to help me take it less personal.

If I were him, with all his experiences in life, would I make the same choices? Would I feel the same? I don’t know, and that is a fact. All I did know was that he was dealing with it the only way he knew how.

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we choose the way we choose? I believe it’s because all of us, no matter how good or “bad” we are, simply don’t want to suffer. So we make choices daily, hourly, and sometimes by the second to avoid suffering in search for joy.

Sometimes our choices hurt others. Sometimes our escape from suffering comes at the cost of other’s pain. We, too, are just as guilt of causing others pain.

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We will never have the ability to make people change, or learn better coping mechanisms so that they can stop doing what we don’t like (and if you try, you will constantly subject yourself to more suffering, which is insanity), but what we can do, and where our power lies is directly in how much negative energy we put into ourselves and onto others based on circumstances that are completely out of our control.

When it is raining, you can curse the sky, but the rain doesn’t care. It still rains. How you feel about it and what you choose to do in the rain is your choice.

Lost In The Moment With Coffee And a Spider

Like a little girl who was promised a pony on Christmas morning, I was seriously looking forward to an event at work in which Byron Katie was coming to talk (if you haven’t hear of her, you have to Google her. She’s AMAAAAHZING!!). Byron Katie is a world-renown speaker and author who teaches “The Work”, a method of self-inquiry that can end emotional suffering. I can’t speak highly enough about the tremendous power her technique has and how much it has contributed to my own healing.

I’m getting sidetracked…

Anyway, I was really looking forward to her coming to Stanford. Her tickets are normally $1,000 but I got to go for free, so there was no way I was going to miss this event! I went an hour early, grabbed a coffee and got the second to front row. Not bad! I was super excited, heart racing with so much anticipation to finally meet and see her!

The host introduced her, and in all her glory she walks on the stage, sits down, and I feel this complete sense of wonder and peace come over me.

Suddenly, I noticed a small spider crawling in a poofy-haired older women sitting in front of me. The spider was carefully crafting its web. I felt a moral obligation to inform her of the spider! After all, I would want someone to tell me if I had a spider in my hair. Then doubt came over me; I didn’t want to interrupt Byron Katie, and I certainly didn’t want to draw attention to myself or to this poofy-haired woman. I wondered how I could relay the message to this poofy-haired woman. A letter? A whisper? No… if I did that she might freak out, jump up and scream. What if I took my pencil and tried to take the spider from her hair? No… that would definitely cause a distraction. Bryon Katie might even think I’m raising my hand trying to speak…

The web took form. The spider was weaving in and out of this poofy-haired woman’s hair. I was torn. Oh, if only she knew… Oh, how can I tell her of this creature!? I decided that I would wait until after the presentation to tell her. I supposed that if the spider wasn’t even noticed by her, maybe it’s not that big of a deal after all.

My bladder was filling with the coffee I had chugged earlier. My pants began to feel tight. I started feeling uncomfortable. I was not about to miss this event I had long been awaiting! I refused to excuse myself. Slowly, I noticed that between the spider and the coffee I was having a hard time understanding the discussion.

The presentation ended. In fear of making a mess, I ran out of the building as if it was on fire, to the ladies room. As I walked out of the restroom it had occurred to me that I forgot to tell the lady about the spider.

It also occurred to me that I was so obsessed about the spider and my filling bladder that I completely missed out on really hearing that presentation…

 

Byron Katie’s website is here:

http://thework.com/en

All The Work is free and easily accessible. It’s wonderful! Try it!

 

Who am I?

It’s going on 2 months since our separation. There were times he would come visit the baby hungover. Sometimes he would come home in the middle of the night drunk, and then he would disappear again. Who was he with? What was he doing? How could he live like this? Doesn’t he know it’s a horrible example for the kids and most certainly hurtful to me…?

I can’t sleep at night because I keep thinking of how my husband isn’t the kind of husband, person, boss, worker, family member, father, and friend I think he should be. The thought bothers me so much I spend night after night ruminating on all the times he doesn’t do what he is supposed to do and all the times he makes bad choices or hurts me.

My original obsessive thoughts were, “What kind of father does he want to be? What kind of husband does he want to be? Is he happy living this way?” And then it hit me… Maybe he hasn’t given any thought to that. Maybe he IS happy living that way. Maybe it was me who was confused…

After several weeks of no sleep and reaching the point of physical and emotional burnout, it was only then that I finally realized something very painful… I was a hypocrite. I wasn’t even being the woman I thought I should be, the wife I should be, the mother I should be… Of course I could justify myself by saying, “well, his actions are horrible compared to mine…” But so what? Even if that were the case, that doesn’t change anything. It can’t change him and it hasn’t gotten me any closer to feeling better, happier, more confident, or more loved.

So I asked myself: What kind of mother do I want to be? What kind of friend do I want to be? What kind of wife do I want to be? What kind of employee do I want to be?  I realized I don’t have the energy to be the person I want to be when I spend all my energy thinking about how he isn’t being who he should be and do what he should do, and when I ruminate on all the things he did that he shouldn’t have done, all my energy gets sucked away from me so forcefully and quickly that I can’t even begin to consider where to start on my own stuff.

Every single moment of every single day, I have the opportunity to be the exact person I want to be in that moment. When I am driving, I am Driver. When I am cooking dinner, I am Cooker. When I am walking my dogs, I am Dog Walker. When I am with my children, I am Mommy. When I am at work, I am Worker. If I can focus on being the best version of me in that moment I am whatever role I am, I will have fulfilled my purpose in that moment. I will have been the best and perfect person I can be. When my energy is spent on that moment, I have no energy for anything else, and my energy and time will have been spent well. It will have been a very successful day.

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Sometimes we are in situations in which we cannot easily identify “who we are” in that moment. For example, last night  my husband (although we are still separate) took us to a friend’s barbecue. At first it was hard to enjoy myself as I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t understand anything (everyone spoke Spanish). My mind started going to a negative place, and I almost found myself criticizing my husband for bringing us there and leaving us to fend for ourselves… To make matters worse, the host of the party was one of my husband’s “friends” that has on several occasions lied to me about my husband and her “dealings.” I was starting to feel a strong sensation of anger coming on and began contemplating all the things I wanted to tell her to realize how wrong she was to lie to me. The night could have been a complete disaster! Trying to stay focused on “who I am”, I didn’t know if I should be “Mommy” and focus on the children (at the risk of isolating myself from the group), or “Wife” and pretend that my marriage was wonderful when it obviously was not… All I knew was that I didn’t want to be “resentful, angry, and revenge-seeking.” And then I realized who I was: I was Guest! It was easy then to be a great guest! I made sure I enjoyed myself in whatever way I felt I needed to. I was the guest, and I did a great job of being a guest. And then, as a guest, I left when I was done being a guest. As I was playing the role of Guest, I was also able to successfully pull off being Mommy and Wife flawlessly and without effort.  It was simple. In the end, I was able to be exactly who I wanted to be, how I wanted to be, and the night ended well. No regrets.

In each moment, in the role I am playing I can be fully present and engaged, and it is by playing my role fully that I am able to be in that moment and give all of myself in that moment. It is then, and only then, that I am able to be the best I can be.

Not perfect, but perfectly me.

I’d like to think I know what people should be doing and how they should be behaving, but when it doesn’t happen the result is complete sadness and disappointment. Interestingly, the only one walking away butt-hurt is myself. But when I think of who I want to be and what I should be doing, every moment is an empowering choice to be exactly who I want to be and live according to how I believe I should live. The ironic thing is that when I am living the way I think I should be, and doing what I think I should, nothing else seems to matter.

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Trusting Technology Over Your Sex-Addict Spouse: When is Snooping OK?

When a Co-dependent spouse/partner is in recovery from the trauma inflicted by a sex-addict, we eventually learn the hard way that our hypervigilant behavior and snooping are actually triggers that pull us further away from recovery and serenity, rather than push us towards it. Throughout our entire relationship, I never doubted my husband. The thought of snooping on his personal accounts and devices never even crossed my mind. After the discovery, however, I found myself suddenly addicted to snooping. I was questioning everything, being passive aggressive, and constantly over analyzing everything from the smallest face twitch to the one or two minutes he was late coming home. Being tech savvy, I was able to monitor everything about him, from where he was, who he was texting/calling/emailing, what sites he visited, for how long, and how long he was doing what and where. I had passwords to all accounts (that I knew of) and spent endless hours secretly checking up on him. Since I could no longer trust him, this hypervigilance was, at the time, my only way to feel safe and sane. From my point of view, I was completely within reason to do this. To him (and everyone else) it was sick behavior.

Regardless of how people saw me, I still kept it up. Technology had been my security blanket. It provided me with the truth and transparency I wanted and needed if I were to stay married to a sex-addict. But while technology provided many benefits, it had some serious cons to it as well. The biggest con was that it couldn’t stop him from acting out, and there were still so many things it couldn’t tell me.

So what is that fine line between trusting technology over trusting your sex-addict partner? In this piece, I wanted to go over the role technology plays on both ends, the addict and the partner.

Technology’s Role in Sex Addiction – The Good And The Bad

Technology has increased our ability to see things immediately and in real time. Addicts can view porn, hook up, and contact acting out partners easier and more discreetly. While partners often learn of these addictive behaviors because of the trails left behind on the addict’s technological devices, the benefit to technology is that the partner can also cover up his/her snooping and hypervigilance.

Technology isn’t all that bad though, when it comes to addiction. Recovery has also become more readily available, thanks to the privacy and convenience of smart phones and online methods such as virtual 12-step meetings. Now the addict (and the partner) have no excuse as to why he/she cannot take a more proactive role in seeking the necessary help, because when meetings are online, we can’t use lack of transportation, time, traffic, etc. as an excuse to miss the meetings. With Kindle and Google, we can’t use the lack of resources either. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free to low-cost books, journals, YouTube videos, and more out there to help addicts and partners begin the journey of recovery.

Additionally, thanks to the convenience of smart phone technology, one can reach out to a sponsor or support group immediately and in real time via phone call, email, or texting. For both addicts and their partners, there is a handful of helpful resources that facilitate sobriety, such as recovery chat rooms, fellowships, newsletters, blogs, and apps for recognizing triggers, learning new techniques to manage those triggers, and even virtual headsets to allow them to role-play their way out of triggering situations.

With all this technology, it can be tempting to retreat into a virtual “self-made” recovery. I’ve met many people on my own recovery journey who have attempted to create their own “recovery program”. What I have learned is that recovery is not, and never will be, a “me” program. It is, and always will be, a “we” program.The thought of joining a 12-step group or an alternative recovery program can seem daunting and overwhelming for many. But it is only through professional help and a support group that is knowledgeable and experienced in the situation can true recovery begin.

Joining a support group and seeking professional help is the first step. The next step? Trusting the process. Just like we can’t completely rely on technology as a singular addiction recovery method, trusting your partner isn’t something that can change with technology either. Although it seems contrary to what we would like to believe, the more you have access to or can see, will not equal the more trust you can have in your partner.

Trust is an inside job and is not solely dependent on the other person, but largely dependent upon yourself and the boundaries you put in place to protect yourself. Admittedly, even before we had all this wonderful technology, sex-addiction has been around since forever and the pain it causes the partners has existed for just that long. As a result, snooping, in whatever shape or form, was likely a behavior that happened regardless of technology, just like acting out is a behavior that will happen regardless of technology. In other words, whatever tool we use to justify our desire to “know everything” (in an effort to feel safe), hypervigilance and snooping does not help ease the pain, minimize the feelings, or assist in fixing the problem. It only adds to the pile of problems (insecurity, lack of trust, and additional acting out).

What I learned in my own recovery (and addiction from hypervigilant behavior) was:

  • Snooping is a trigger to further codependency/trauma. It’s like picking at a wound. It doesn’t speed the recovery. It prolongs it.
  • Trust is a two-way street that depends on both the addict’s transparent behavior, and the partner’s commitment to allowing the addict to “earn back” the trust that was lost (although we must both admit and accept that it will never fully be restored).
  • Transparency is vital in the recovery of both the addict and the partner. There can be no secrets, withholding of information, or hiding.

So if we can’t snoop, where does technology fit into the co-dependency recovery model?

For a long time I tried desperately to find a reasonable, rationale, and justifiable answer to this question because more than anything I really, really, really wanted to keep doing it! I refused to let go of my security blanket. Although I couldn’t justify my secretly snooping on my addict-partner, I could justify the snooping. The answer was that it depends on your intention for use.

  • Are you using it to catch your spouse? Are you using it to “prove” he is acting out? Are you using it as an alternative to have meaningful and direct conversations about your concerns and feelings? Are you using it because you simply have zero trust in his ability to be honest with you, and you feel you can only trust the information this technology and/or device is sharing with you? If your answer is “yes’ to any of these, it would be wise to reconsider the relationship, and put all that extra energy into your own personal recovery.
  • Is it ever ok to snoop? It is my belief that the only time it is ok to snoop is in either 2 situations:
    • 1) Your spouse (the addict) knows that you are “snooping” (in this case it wouldn’t be called snooping, but more like “obsessive monitoring”, which still seems to be a bit extreme and not beneficial to your, or your partner’s recovery), or
    • 2) (if you are in a 12-step recovery program) your “snooping” is a slip that you can (and do) report to both your accountability partner/sponsor and your spouse (whom you have been snooping on). The caveat is that you have to make an honest effort to stop doing that and work with your spouse on how to avoid those triggers in the future. So unsettling for a compulsive snoop such as myself…

Ultimately, snooping shouldn’t be necessary in a healthy relationship. If your relationship requires you to be constantly snooping, questioning, and doubting, you shouldn’t be in that relationship. But for whatever reason, you choose to stay in a relationship that is deficient in trust/transparency, having a mutual understanding that there is NO PRIVACY if the relationship is to continue until the relationship gets to a point in which recovery is visible, and both partners come to an agreement that the “snooping” doesn’t need to continue.

It is important to note that the lack of trust doesn’t necessarily mean that it was caused (or lost) due to the addict’s acting out behavior. While the acting out behavior may have started a pattern of hypervigilant behavior in the partner, often times it is caused by something within the partner’s own life history. This is why in addition to the addict actively in recovery, a partner’s personal recovery is absolutely necessary if the relationship is to survive.