Factually, spring is here. Traditionally, it represents the season of change. Unfortunately, this year our country appears to be in frozen emotional paralysis—people aren’t spending money, changing careers, or leaving dead relationships. This month’s column is dedicated to moving out of a winter mentality and the stasis it imposes. Look at it as my version of the stimulus package, one guaranteed to thaw the endless chill, while arousing those emotions in us all that both affirm and support life.
Dear Dr. Toni:
My husband of sixteen years and I have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for about a year. I had an affair two years ago for eight months and it made me realize that I no longer love my husband. I went back to him because we have a fourteen – year old daughter who really loves her father. We went to counseling and it was no use. I am just not in love with my husband anymore. I was planning to tell my daughter but as the economy has worsened, we just can’t afford to get divorced. What should I do—wait three years until we are out of this slump and my daughter graduates?
Georgia in Sedona
First, let me just say that you are not alone in this dilemma. Many people are choosing to stay together for economic reasons right now. You don’t indicate in your letter how your daughter feels about you and her father sleeping in separate bedrooms. Has this been discussed? More importantly, what is the emotional climate in the house? Are you two conducting a cold war or living as amiable roommates? Have you discussed possible alternatives with each other? If you are absolutely certain that you cannot afford to provide two households for yourselves and your child, then I would suggest having a family meeting in which you openly discuss restructuring your marriage and your family.
Be honest with your daughter about the fact that although you are still a family, you and your husband are no longer functioning as husband and wife. Although this may seem obvious, giving her an opportunity to talk about her feelings about the arrangement is a gesture of respect for her as well as role modeling honest communication.
Dear Dr. Toni:
I know that food, drugs, and alcohol are the usual things people can become addicted to but is it possible to be addicted to YouTube? I am bored with my job. It no longer challenges me. I get all my work done, so it doesn’t interfere with my competence or performance and my boss doesn’t care as long as I get the work done. Do I need to be concerned?
The fact that you are asking the question tells me you know something is up here. Addiction has nothing to do with how much we consume or what we consume. The issue is what are you using your addiction to avoid? Arguably, there is some real feeling you are unable to confront. Try this: Go cold turkey. No YouTube for three days. Notice what feelings come up. Write about these feelings in a journal. What are you afraid of that you are not facing? I am not suggesting you leave your job. Just give yourself a chance to address these newly discovered feelings with no judgment about that they mean. To counteract the boredom you described, now take some time to notice what in the course of your day interests you. Jot that down, too. Do this exercise for three days. Is there a connection between the things you do find interesting? They could be a clue to your vocation of destiny. For further information on preparing for change, you might find some useful tools in my blog: LifeQuake.wordpress.com, dated Mar 9-13. I dedicated five articles to this subject. When addictive habits show up at a time when you should be making changes, often the central belief is that change translates as loss; that you will lose your security if you make a change.
However, all addictions, even Internet ones, can be clues to what you are to do next with your career. Perhaps you should be involved in video or film production, for example. Many people who were corporate executives found their calling as recovery counselors after they went into treatment. All addiction has within it the power to create great transformation if we use it as a sign to get treatment and un-thaw the feelings it has numbed out. Embracing our fears both personally and globally will take us out of winter and bring on an “evolutionary spring”.
Dr. Toni Galardi is a licensed psychotherapist, public speaker, and the author of her new book: The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive (not just survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval. The LifeQuake Phenomenon can be purchased through her website www.LifeQuake.net or the online bookstores. For those seeking private consultation, she can be reached at 310.712.2600. To submit questions for Ask the LifeQuake™ Doctor, contact Dr. Toni Galardi through DrToni@LifeQuake.net (no period after the Dr).