Monday, December 27, 2010

Relationship Conflicts : Where Did the Love Go??

Relationships are seldom as simple as we would like. They bring out our needs, anxieties, and conflicts with people from our past – parents, friends, and former partners.

When we enter into a relationship we expect to be loved just for being who we are. A relationship should provide a safe zone where our partner values us for expressing our own uniqueness. This is a simple expectation. Indeed, this is the way most relationships start out. Why, then, does it seem so hard to maintain this ideal, blissful state of unconditional love over time?

Our relationships with our partners are colored by our own personal legacies. We often react to our partners as if they were someone else – and this will likely cause conflict in the relationship.

How we perceive our partners is influenced by how we learned to deal with other people in the past. This process can go back into early childhood, even to infancy. Indeed, our earliest primary attachment to a caretaker – a mother, a father, perhaps another adult – can have an effect on how we deal with other people for the rest of our lives. For example, if our earliest experiences taught us to trust in the world, then we are likely to take a trusting attitude toward people throughout our lives. Conversely, if a child is never shown love during the earliest stages of life, it may be a challenge during adulthood to learn how to experience and express love. Early experiences from childhood can have a powerful effect later on. (This is a strong argument for treating children well.)

Children experience both good and bad in the world. Plenty of good experiences, like love and trust, feel comfortable and produce a positive self-image in children – a positive way of defining themselves. Bad experiences, though, create feelings of conflict and frustration. These negative experiences also go into the self-definition that the child eventually develops. But they don’t feel compatible with the more positive feelings, so, according to one theory, the child projects them onto somebody else. (Projection means finding in someone else the qualities that you don’t want to accept within yourself – like blaming your partner for being controlling when you are the one who has the tendency to want to control.)


It is not only early childhood experiences that cause us to project our unacceptable feelings onto someone else. Friends can have the same effect, as can partners from our previous relationships. This is a process that happens throughout our lives. How many times have we heard someone say, “Treat me for who I am – I am not your former partner”?

The major point to keep in mind is that we project our own problematic feelings onto another person. For example, if we have an issue with jealousy, we will project our own jealousy onto someone else – perceiving that person as the jealous one. This is because we can’t tolerate seeing ourselves as having a problem with jealousy – and it’s easier to attribute it to someone else. In other words, we feel unable to correct the problem in ourselves, so we focus on this issue in the other person. And this happens with a number of problems – anger, dependence, distrust, laziness, and the list goes on. The way out of this, of course, is to become aware of our projections and understand how they affect our relationships.

When couples experience conflict in their relationship, projections are often at the root of the problem. If we are living with our own conflicts and are unable to make any headway in understanding them, it’s as if we look for the problem in the other person. In fact, at a certain level, we may actually seek out partners who have the qualities that we find problematic within ourselves. If we have difficulty with our own controlling behavior, we may seek out partners who do just that to us – people who dominate us. Our partner may not see him or herself as domineering, but because we need to work out our own problems with the issue of dominance, we search for these qualities in the other person. We take any cue we can from our partner and magnify it. Then we’re able to project our own problem onto the other person, saying it is
their fault. By blaming the other person, we protect ourselves from having to come to terms with our own issues. We can safely continue our controlling pattern and blame the other person for having the problem. And the price we pay for this? Relationship conflict.

The healthier option, when projections are causing relationship conflicts, is to increase our awareness of our own internal conflicts and understand how we project these conflicts onto our partner. We can look for examples of our projections in other life situations until we see a pattern. When we have awareness of the problem, we can understand the many ways it influences our behavior – and this can give us some control over the problem. We can then try out new ways of dealing with people. For example, when a person experiences frustration
time and again from feeling dominated by others, learning some healthy assertiveness techniques can alleviate the problem.

It is important to understand...
...that projections are not at the root of every problem that couples experience. Sometimes one of the partners does indeed have a real behavioral problem.
In this case, it is not advisable to try to understand it as a projection, but to see it for what it truly is and to take appropriate measures to change the situation. Working with a professional therapist is a good strategy for addressing relationship conflicts.

The Other Partner Colludes

An interesting phenomenon happens when a partner is the recipient of a projection – the one being projected upon. Because this person is trying to smooth out the conflicts, he or she may identify with the projection. So, the couple now begins to define their problem in this way. The person receiving the projection starts to say, “Yes, I have a problem with being too dominant, and I need to work on it.” In fact, this person may start to behave in a way that confirms the projection. It may never have occurred to this person that dominance was a personal issue in the past, but because it is brought up frequently through the first partner’s projections, the second person may create a self-definition that conforms to the projection. The recipient of the projection can either take in the projection – believing that it is true and behaving accordingly – or, in the more mature case, can modify it, insisting that the projection is not a true representation. In this case, the recipient can actually help the partner come to terms with his or her own issues and restore some health to the relationship.

The person doing the projecting may define the whole of the other partner as having the problem, and the recipient of the projection may do the same – to define the problem not just as a part of the self, but the whole self. When this happens, the couple may forget about the positive parts of each of the partners and concentrate instead on only the problematic areas. The mistake here is this – when we work on our relationship conflicts, we need to draw on the positive parts of the relationship rather than focusing entirely on the problems.

When a couple first gets together, they focus on their similarities – those parts of themselves that are compatible. This is when the intimacy and trust of the relationship are formed. It isn’t until the relationship has matured that the negative projections begin to take shape. This helps to explain why some couples who were so perfect for each other in the beginning start to have conflicts as time goes by. When the negative projections begin, the partner doing the projecting tends to withdraw from the intimacy of the relationship and to focus more on seeking some independence. And the second partner may then withdraw as well. This is when the couple may start to experience serious relationship difficulties.

It Takes Two

The process of projection in a relationship is not always one-sided. Things can get complicated when both partners are mutually engaged in this process – and this is a common occurrence. It becomes difficult for the partners to see where the problem lies. Take a look at the following example.

An Example – Chris and Pat

Chris grew up in a household where the parents were emotionally withholding. Affection was seldom expressed toward Chris and the other siblings, although material needs were always provided. Chris always searched for nurturance, love and support, the things that were never provided in the household – and harbored some anger that the kids were never given these things. Of course, this anger was never expressed, for fear that it would lead toward even more emotional deprivation.

Pat, on the other hand, had two very controlling parents. It was hard to experience independence during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and this led to hidden resentment that could never be expressed.

When Pat and Chris first got together, they both felt liberated, as if all of their dreams and hopes for a relationship could be met in the other person. Chris saw in Pat a person who appreciated freedom and was genuine, affectionate, and willing to give love and emotional support. Similarly, Pat saw in Chris someone who valued love, trust, and respect for personal integrity. Their first year or two together were the happy times.

Over time, however, Chris’s resentment, harbored since childhood and never resolved, became attached to Pat. Rather than seeing all the positive qualities in Pat that formed the basis of the initial attraction, Chris focused negatively on Pat’s need for independence and not being at home enough. Pat is accused of always being out with friends and finding the job more important than the relationship.

Pat, on the other hand, sees Chris’s demands to be at home more often as control, the same thing that caused such resentment during Pat’s childhood. Rather than focus on Chris’s more positive qualities of love and trust, Pat accuses Chris of acting like a parent who would not allow independence.

The couple is at an impasse. Chris accuses Pat of emotional withdrawal. Pat blames Chris for being controlling. They aren’t able to see their way out of their dilemma until they start to work with a therapist who is able to clarify the patterns. And for this couple – with some exploration, courage, and insight, there is hope.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Relationship Addiction

The experience of finding the right partner and falling “in love” is one of life’s true joys. It brings a feeling of euphoria, passion, connection, and hope for a happy future. It can lead to a lifetime of loving contentment. Of course, sometimes it lapses and becomes one of our memories, sometimes pleasant and sometimes not. The “high” that comes from this feeling of loving passion, at least for some people, is so compelling that they use it to fill gaps in their lives, much as they might use a drug. Being in love, for them, can resemble an addiction.

The source of an addiction is found within the person, not in the substance itself. Some people can use a drug, including alcohol, and not become addicted. Similarly, some people can enjoy the high of being in love as a positive life experience without any indication of addiction. Other people, depending on their needs, their abilities, or their backgrounds, use the euphoric feelings that come from an outside source of gratification (drugs, relationships ... or gambling, videogames – the list is endless) to create a false sense of fulfillment in their lives. They have difficulty looking within to find a way to achieve contentment, so they look outside of themselves for a way to soothe their internal feelings. Everyone does this to a degree. But when it takes on a compulsive quality that inhibits more positive life experiences and leads to negative consequences, it can be called an addiction.

People who use relationships addictively usually harbor a sense of incompleteness in their lives – emptiness, despair, feeling lost, or sadness. They may lack a feeling of attachment to love that has roots in early childhood. They believe their feelings can be remedied through finding that comforting feeling of euphoria that comes through a love relationship. An addictive relationship has a compulsive quality about it. While a healthy love relationship implies that both partners freely choose each other, in an addictive relationship there is a compulsive drive that limits this freedom (“I must stay in this relationship even if it’s bad for me.”) There is also an overwhelming feeling of panic over the thought of losing the relationship, even if there are arguments between the two partners and both know the relationship should end. If the relationship actually ends, there are pronounced withdrawal symptoms, much like drug, nicotine, or alcohol addicts experience when they go “cold turkey.” They may experience weeping, physical pain, sleep disturbance, depression, irritability, and the feeling that they have no place to turn to now. These feelings are so intense that they might drive the person into another addictive relationship immediately. After this period of turmoil ends, however, the addicted person senses a period of triumph or liberation and they don’t typically go through the long, slow experience of acceptance and healing that characterizes the ending of a healthier relationship.

The Relationship Addiction Process
Addictive relationships typically go through a process that usually starts with an innocent attraction to someone – and this quickly turns into an infatuation. The relationship addict, who is hungry for love, feels exhilarated and blinded by “love at first sight.” This turns into an excessive preoccupation with the loved one involving hours of fantasy about how the relationship might turn out. (Of course, this happens in normal love relationships also – but the degree to which this happens in an addicted relationship is enormous. This a case in which feelings control one’s life while rational thought is abandoned – and this is not a healthy style of living.) Love addicts then project all of their dreams for eternal happiness onto the loved one (most healthy people, of course, realize that they are ultimately responsible for their own happiness).

These fantasies trigger the dependency phase of the relationship. The love addict then develops the fear that the relationship could come to an end, and with it, the end of hope for a happy life. These fears lead to an obsessive quest to hold on to this relationship at any cost – even if it means control and manipulation.

This is when the relationship typically begins to deteriorate. The relationship addict puts so much energy into molding the relationship into what he or she needs that the other person begins to feel smothered, intimidated, and ungrateful. The loved one resents having to live to meet the needs of another person, especially when there is a feeling of control (people typically want to maximize their own life experience rather than using a great deal of their energy to make another person feel comfortable). The loved one may even express resentment in the form of lying, cheating, taking for granted, or abusing the love addict. This puts a severe strain on the relationship and it makes the relationship addict try even harder. A vicious cycle begins.

Love addicts keep on trying, however, attempting at all cost to keep alive the dream of experiencing happiness through the other person. The pain of going through this can be immense. They go into denial, acting as if everything is going well. They are not able to see where the true problem lies, which is in their own unmet needs and their addictive resolution. They idealize the relationship, even though it is barely viable and not meeting the needs of either partner. A relationship addict who is at this stage of a deteriorating relationship might consider a good, healthy intervention with a professional therapist. Failing to find help can have severe mental, emotional, and physical consequences. There comes a time to make a major life change and to learn how to deal with the pain in a different and more productive way.

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

Premature Bonding
Relationship addicts have an overwhelming need to bond with someone. This goes beyond a healthy need to connect with others. Unfortunately, this need to form an instant attachment tends to overwhelm other people and pushes them away. And it leads to poor decisions about whom to let into one’s life.

Excessive Fantasies
Throughout the course of the relationship, the addict spends a great deal of time thinking about the other person and how perfect things will be. Even after the relationship has ended, the fantasies about getting together again may continue. Of course, a healthy love relationship also involves fantasies, but addictive fantasies have an obsessive quality about them. These fantasies tend to take over one’s day. The need to fantasize takes precedence over socializing with others, work, taking care of normal daily routines – and they tend to become dreams or expectations that must come true.

The Need for Excitement
Addicts in general crave getting “high.” Relationship addicts base their ideas about a relationship on romance, and this involves creating drama. They might pick fights just to experience a rush of excitement. An ordinary argument becomes a war. They see reality in terms of their own needs, so they easily read between the lines (“No matter what she says, I know she really loves me”). A love addict fails to understand that a normal relationship involves a series of highs and lows – in real life, lows do not mean that the love has ended. They see an ordinary relationship as boring because it lacks a sense of constant excitement.

Exaggerated Anxiety and Jealousy about the Relationship
Relationship addicts typically have fears left over from earlier experiences in their lives when they had been neglected, rejected, or abandoned. Their greatest fear in adulthood is feeling lonely because this reminds them of their earlier negative experiences – and they never want to endure that again. They need to feel attached and find it difficult to live independently. So, in their relationships they tend to look constantly for signs that things are not going well. They become possessive of their partner, experiencing anxiety when the partner is not present, and frequently accuse or nag the partner.

Ineffective Expression of Emotions
The relationship addict, because of difficult earlier life experiences, is confused and overwhelmed by emotions. For example, she might feel that anger leads to rejection or abandonment, so she doesn’t express anger and instead holds in all emotional expression – and when someone expresses anger to the relationship addict, she is unable to tolerate it. She might harbor painful feelings that seem unrelated to present circumstances. She may become stoic (relationship addicts have a great tolerance for suffering and endure substantial pain rather than face the prospect of a breakup of the relationship). Because she suppresses her normal, flexible emotional expression, she may revert to polarized expression of feelings (“all or nothing”) – for example, love or hate (but nothing in between), vigilance or complacency, fear or courage.

Loose Personal Boundaries
Because many relationship addicts have issues with self-esteem, they have weak personal boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality and become enmeshed with their partner. They don’t know where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels happy, they feel happy. If their partner feels sad, they feel sad. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way, that is what they become. They have difficulty saying “no.” Unfortunately, this sets the stage for being treated with disrespect. Addictive relationships show a lack of equality between the two partners.

The healthy love relationship can be viewed in terms of two independent people who come together and make a commitment to each other. They each have the freedom to live as they choose within the boundaries of the commitment, and they are loved by their partner for showing integrity in how they live. Their partner encourages them to follow the beat of their own drum. The commitment enhances each partner’s ability to experience a full life – with love, security, and support.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What About Depression?

Everyone feels sad from time to time. It’s only natural. Most people go through blue days or just periods of feeling down, especially after they experience a loss. But what experts call clinical depression is different from just being “down in the dumps.” The main difference is that the sad or empty mood does not go away after a couple of weeks – and everyday activities like eating, sleeping, socializing, or working can be affected.

Estimates indicate that perhaps one in three (some say one in five) adults in the general population experiences a depressive disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, post-partum depression, or seasonal affective disorder) at some point in their lives. In any given year, over one in 20 people will have a depressive episode. For each person suffering directly from depression, three or four times that number (relatives, friends, associates) will also be affected to some degree. It is impossible to obtain exact figures because so many people try to live with this condition without looking for help. Recent studies suggest that this condition is on the rise, especially among single women, women in poverty, single men, and adolescents. National tragedies or natural or environmental disasters can also generate depressive symptoms for large parts of a population.

A depressive disorder can change a person’s moods, thoughts, and feelings. Without appropriate treatment, this condition can go on for a very long time – weeks, months, or years. Even among those suffering from depression, most do not know they have a treatable condition. Most blame themselves or may be blamed by others. This leads to the alienation of family and friends who, if they knew of the illness, would likely offer support and help find effective treatment. Although this is one of our most devastating emotional disorders, treatment can bring relief to over eighty percent of those who experience depression.

Several causes of depression have been identified. For example, the illness has been seen to run in families, suggesting that some people may have a genetic predisposition to depression – and this may show itself particularly during times of stress. However, it is important to note that just because you have a family member with depression, you are not necessarily going to suffer from this condition yourself.

Sometimes a major change in a person’s life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. These changes may be due to serious illness, a period of financial difficulties, stressful relationships, or a severe loss (such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or the loss of a job). Researchers find that people who are easily overwhelmed by stressful events, tend to worry, have low self-esteem, and see the world in a pessimistic way are more prone to depression than other people.

Types of Depressive Disorder

Not all depressions are alike. The nature of one’s depression depends on the cause and on each person’s individual adaptation to this disorder. Here are several generally recognized forms of depression.

Major Depression

A major depression is different from a state of normal sadness. People who experience depression describe it as agonizing pain that cannot be shaken and seems to have no end in sight. They feel trapped and often talk about having a dark empty pit in their chest or stomach that cannot be filled. Some depressed people contemplate suicide. Virtually all people with depression complain about reduced energy, reduced concentration, and the inability to complete projects. About eighty percent of depressed people say they have trouble sleeping, with frequent nighttime awakening during which they worry about their problems. Many people with depression oversleep during the daytime. Many people with this disorder report that they have had either an increase or a decrease in their appetite, sometimes accompanied by weight gain or loss. About fifty percent of people with depression say that their symptoms are worse in the morning and that they feel a bit better by evening. Half of all people with depression report only one severe episode within their lifetimes, but the remainder may have this happen twice, or repeatedly, during their lives.

Here are some symptoms of major depression –

  • Diminished ability to enjoy oneself
  • Loss of energy and interest
  • Difficulty concentrating; slowed or fuzzy thinking; indecision
  • Magnified feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or anxiety
  • Decreased or increased sleep and/or appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Recurring thoughts of death


Another common form of depressive disorder is called dysthymia. This involves having chronic, long-lasting symptoms of depression, which are not disabling, but prevent a person from functioning at top capacity or from feeling good. Women experience dysthymia about twice as often as men, and it is also found in those who lack a relationship and in those who are young or with few resources (such as a low income or few social contacts). The primary symptoms of dysthymia (which means “bad humored”) include a depressed mood, a feeling of being down in the dumps, and a lack of interest in usual activities for at least two years. People with dysthymia can experience any of the symptoms of major depression, but usually not to the degree that may be found in a full-blown depression. Dysthymic people, though, are vulnerable to moving into a major depression during times of stress or crisis. Dysthymia often leads to a life without much pleasure, and many people with this condition feel that it is simply a part of their personality so that they never seek treatment.

Symptoms of dysthymia include –

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fatigue or low energy

Bipolar Disorder

A third type of depressive disorder is bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness. This disorder, which is much less common than major depression, is characterized by a pattern of cycling between periods of depression and elation. These cycles, or “mood swings,” can be rapid, but most often occur gradually over time. When in the depressed part of the cycle, the person can experience any of the symptoms of depression. When the person moves into the manic or elated phase, however, he or she can experience irritability, severe insomnia, inappropriate social behavior (like going on spending sprees), talking rapidly with disconnected thoughts, increased energy, poor judgment, and increased sexual desire.

There is strong evidence that bipolar disorder is largely an inherited condition, and many people with this disorder respond well to medication.

Some symptoms of bipolar disorder are –

  • High energy with a decreased need for sleep
  • Extreme irritability
  • Rapid and unpredictable mood changes
  • An exaggerated belief in one’s abilities
  • Impulsive actions with damaging consequences (e.g., charging up credit cards, sudden love affairs, etc.).

Two other forms of depression –

Post-Partum Depression is linked to hormonal changes following the birth of a child. This can be a serious form of depression, sometimes with psychotic features, but most sufferers respond well to treatment.

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is found among those who are sensitive to the shorter days of winter, especially those who live at northern latitudes. Many people with SAD respond to daily exposure to fullspectrum lighting.

A depressive disorder is a serious condition which affects virtually every aspect of a person’s everyday life experiences. It is not a sign of personal weakness, although many depressed people feel guilty about not being stronger and tend to blame themselves. It is not possible just to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” in order to get better. The sufferer should find the help of a trained professional. A depression is a time for introspection and reflection, a time to discover what has gone wrong and what can be made better. A trained professional can help the person with depression begin to see things in a more positive light.

Many people respond to psychotherapy alone in their treatment for depression. Others are helped by a combination of therapy and an antidepressant medication. Medications can facilitate the healing process. People also benefit by acquiring the life tools that are learned in psychotherapy. Recent studies have indicated that medication alone without psychotherapy doesn’t work in the long run as well as psychotherapy alone or psychotherapy used in conjunction with medication. What is most encouraging about this devastating condition is that so many people do get better when they find the appropriate treatment!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Elena C. Jones, Spiritual Life Coach, joins Dr. Quintal & Associates

Elena C. Jones is a professional spiritual life coach as well as a psychic medium, who taps into the power center both within the client and within the coach. Giving credence to this immaterial intelligence, coaches can aid clients in hearing the messages in their heart, supporting them to take action and effect changes from that place of inner strength.

Elena has a rich life experience; born in Southern Italy she grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, eventually moving to the United States 30 years ago. She served three years in the United States Air Force. She later studied business and philosophy in academic and authentic environments.

Elena is a well established Psychic Medium in the Tampa Bay Area. She is a caring conduit connecting you with your loved ones on the other side, she helps to bridge the gap between the physical and the spiritual plane of existence. Elena uses all of her skills of clairaudience, clairvoyance and mediumship. She is able to communicate with Ascended Masters, Spirit Guides, Angels, Archangels and Spiritual beings. Over the years, Elena has dedicated her life to service and bringing the most positive levels of healing and unconditional love to her clients.

Her love and passion for helping people inspired her become a Reiki Master Healer, a Spiritual Life Coach, and a Spiritual Counselor. Elena reads and speaks Spanish, as well as English and Italian.

At Dr. Quintal & Associates, Elena helps clients in the following areas:
  • Personal
  • Career
  • Spiritual
  • Relationships