Hope in an Uncertain World, Healing the Mind, Body, and Soul

Category: Uncategorized (Page 4 of 4)

Instinct and hypervigilance

One of the things that becomes increasingly clear after you have experienced a trauma is the change in how you perceive the world around you. Right after the shootings, when I finally came out of the cloud of shock and chaos, I realized that the world was now infinitely more dangerous than I ever imagined it was. I was fairly cynical prior to that day anyway, but there was a part of me that believed that, really, I was going to be OK, that I was safe. After that day, I began to see a threat in every possible situation. I became extremely hypervigilant and paranoid that I and my loved ones were going to die in horrible ways. I began to plan and seek ways out of situations just in case something bad began to happen. When I left for school the following fall I was now taking classes in large rooms with hundreds of students and many possible threatening situations. I would spend most of my classes imagining scenarios where people were coming in shooting and I would plan how I would get myself and others out…every class period. I thought that I was managing my overwhelming fear and anxiety fairly well considering what I had just been through. I was pretty proud of the fact that I was becoming the “expert” on all of the escape routes and possible disaster scenarios that could plague that school. What I didn’t realize was that all this planning and anticipation was really a self-preservation method as I was still in survival mode months later, and that it was fueling the dysfunction I was experiencing. I spent the next 5 years in this state of hypervigilance, fear, and paranoia, which created a memory block for most of those 5 years. Once I began to understand the realities of trauma reactions and how my mind was working to protect me and help me prepare for another unexpected disaster, I was able to begin to control this response. I still suffer with hypervigilance, fear, and some paranoia at times, but what I’ve learned to do is hone it in, to distinguish between legitimate threats to my life or my safety, and ignore erroneous situations that don’t pose a threat. I’ve learned to enhance my instincts with the mechanism of hypervigilance allowing me to have discernment and wisdom into what I’m experiencing. I used to hate being so “aware” of every threat, every person, every situation because it was so constant and in my mind, there was no place where I could be safe. Now, I respect that my brain was able to protect me from completely breaking after the shootings and from traumas that have occurred since then, and have learned that those mechanisms that are in place to keep me safe can be controlled. Learning that you can control your trauma responses, your PTSD symptoms and the fear the grips your existence is very freeing. Hypervigilance may be the catalyst for becoming increasingly aware of my surroundings, but honing that response and training my instincts to add context to what my mind says is a threat, gave me back some of the power that was taken from me that day. Learning to control and hone your trauma responses will help you feel like you are in control of yourself again, it will give you hope that there is a light through the darkness.

Pieces

Sometimes it seems as if the pieces of my life will never come together again. One of the side effects of trauma and pain is that we fragment. The core of our minds and souls are shattered from the horrific nature of what we experienced. The truth that this is not how things are supposed to be becomes a glaringly obvious concept that we can no longer ignore. The truth is that once this foundation is shaken and demolished, you can’t just pick up where you left off, you can’t just get over it. The broken pieces of your life won’t just magically reassemble. Even when you’ve healed for the most part and things are better than they were, it doesn’t take much to remind you that those invisible wounds run deep into the core of you.Those broken pieces converged with the deepest parts of you and they will always be with you. The goal is to mend the broken pieces into something resembling you. The first part of this process is awareness. If you don’t know or believe how deeply embedded  those broken pieces are in your life, the journey to becoming whole is much harder. The longer it takes to recognize and begin to heal, the more layers have to be uncovered before you can get at the core wound. One thing people who have experienced trauma and pain are good at, is learning how to survive with gaping wounds. We learn what to show to the world and we learn to hide our pain. The layers upon layers that cover those deep hurts contain their own pain and areas needing healing. That is the nature of surviving after trauma. If you can’t figure out how to compartmentalize your pain, you don’t survive, you die or go crazy. Uncovering the different compartments, the shattered pieces that use to be whole inside your soul, is a daunting and extremely painful journey. This is another reason why people do not understand why we can’t just “get over it and move on.” If it were that easy, everyone would be whole and the world wouldn’t be made up of the walking wounded! However, this painful and difficult trek is necessary to restore and heal the brokenness inside of you. There is no healing without pain…just think of when you have to pour alcohol on an injury to “clean” the wound! That is a very painful process, but the pain eventually dissipates leaving a healing wound in it’s place. This is the only way to understand the process of healing from trauma and pain. You have to understand those broken pieces in order to heal them and put yourself back together again. The beauty of the healing process is that even if you have to walk it alone on this earth, you are never truly alone! That is the grace and mercy of God. He is always right next to you, collecting your tears, remembering your pain, and strengthening you when you can’t go on anymore. The journey to mending the broken pieces of your life is painful enough without trying to do it without God. The beauty of the cross is the knowledge that Christ has walked through hell, experiencing everything that could ever happen to us, and he arose victorious! This knowledge, and the truth that He is ever by your side even when you are “alone” is encouraging. If God has been there, is counting and holding your pain and your tears, has successfully overcome the grave, and is walking beside you as you walk through your own hell, nothing can stop what God is doing in your life! Cling to Christ when you can’t go on anymore, He always gives you the strength to keep fighting to the end. The pieces eventually heal, and grow back into a stronger, more resilient version of who you are. 

The Beginning of the End

No one wakes up one morning expecting that their life will forever be changed. That’s the chaos of trauma, it’s sudden, unexpected and violent. Even when the trauma suffered is a continual violation of yourself, there is a part that hopes and believes that it will be different this time. In a world where trauma, terror and pain is on a constant reel on the nightly news, you begin to be desensitized to all the violence in the world. Still, there is a part of you that believes that those things happen to other people, not to you, and not to your loved ones. That’s how it was for me. For a long time prior to the event that changed the course of my life, I had already experienced trauma and pain. I was suffering in a way that no one could truly see or understand. I was the rebel, the loner, the one who always seemed to mess everything up. No one really knew and I believed no one could understand the pain I was experiencing. That if I told someone what was going on in my head they would commit me to an institution, deeming me incurable for life.

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Not much was different the morning of April 20, 1999. I woke up hating myself and hating the world, and expecting another day of bullies, pain, and isolation. I definitely didn’t expect that day to be both the final straw on the trauma of my life that would push me over the edge to dissociation and chaos and the catalyst to change the course of my life. Truth is, I never expected much of anything to break the daily monotony and torment. Although the memories were scattered and incomplete, they haunted my life. All of a sudden, the small amount of safety that I felt, was ripped from beneath me. I was breathless, devastated, and shattered. The next 5 years are completely gone. I had jobs, met people, and did things I have no memory of. I was barely existing in this life. Then one day, I just decided that enough was enough, that I was tired of barely existing and that if I wanted anything different in this life, then I was going have to start living my life. I had been slowly self-destructing for years, and I just woke up one day and realized that I wanted more than the destructive life I was living. Which meant trying once again to find someone who would help me and not just slap me with some destructive and permanent label, someone who cared enough to help. Fortunately, God already had that meeting organized. I had babysat for this woman’s children many years before, and God brought me right to her. When I began dealing with the effects of the shooting on my life, it started to come to light how many other things had happened in my life and that the effects of those traumas were exaggerated by the shootings. This gave me an opportunity for true healing. So often, we try to deal with the immediate issue, the most recent trauma, and ignore the effects of cumulative trauma, those other things that compound the negative effects trauma has on our lives. What I quickly learned is that since everything in my mind was so intricately entwined, I had a choice, I could deal with my past as a whole or settle for partial healing. I chose to dive in head first. If it was going to be painful and hurt to deal with the shootings, I might as well deal with everything so I could finally feel complete. 10 years later, I am mostly free and healed from the pain of my past. The lingering effects that are the constant battle are the negative thoughts and beliefs about myself and others that were created and cultivated through years of pain and trauma. The difference is that now, I’m aware of those things and can actively work to heal those parts of my life also. I am no longer blind to why I think and believe the way that I do, no longer unsure of where the pain and continuing struggles come from. Before the shootings, I was wandering in pain, just hoping that one day it would all end. For the first few years after the shootings, I was the same way, just on a massive scale. However, if it was not for the shootings, my determination to get whole again, and the grace of God as I struggled and failed spectacularly in my attempt to live life the way I wanted to, I would never have been able to be the person that I am today. The shootings were the beginning to the end of my barely surviving this life and finally embracing myself, all the brokenness and the pieces of my shattered life, and beginning to live and understand the new normal that is my life. I still wish that no one would every have to experience the pain of severe trauma and hurt, but I have a new understanding of the role that plays in my life. It has allowed me to find strength in a way that I never knew I was capable of and to be able to help people in a way that is intimately entwined in who I was created to be. I was always meant to help others, to be the  light in the darkness, and to speak truth and justice in every aspect of life, but I would not be as effective and capable of fulfilling this calling in my life, if I hadn’t experienced pain and tragedy in my own life. I never wanted to experience so much pain in my life, but every tear that has been cried, every painful spasm in my body, and every broken heart and broken piece in my life, God has cataloged and seen, and they will not go unused or unhealed!

Invisible Wounds

Tragedy and pain is all around us. Every single day, there are more news reports about innocent people being killed, lives being devastated, and the people left behind to pick up the pieces. There are stories about the brave men and women who have volunteered to fight the evil that would dare to threaten this nation. There are the unsung heroes, law enforcement, EMTs, firefighters, and correctional officers. You read disparaging stories about these men and women who deal with the worst that humanity can offer and cringe. No one really knows what it’s like unless you’ve been in the shoes of those who’ve walked before you. What about those who try and shine a light into a person’s darkness, who encourages growth and self discovery, hoping and waiting for the darkness to subside, only to be drawn into the darkest nights of those they help. What about those who have experienced the worst the life has to offer, who have fought through the flames of despair and horror to come out the other side? Some people suffer physical harm and permanent disability from another person’s evil actions, but the majority of people don’t have visible wounds. We are the walking wounded. The ones who people dismiss because they can’t “see” what we’re suffering. They choose not to try to understand or simply can’t understand why we won’t “get over it.” So many of us suffer in silence, suffer through the nightmares, the physical pains, the emotional and psychological torment of unwanted memories and intrusive thoughts reminding us of the worst moments in our lives in vivid technicolor. But we are told to “toughen up” that we “should be over it by now,” and that we’re the “lucky ones” because we don’t have the physical scars to show. But that couldn’t be farther from reality. The truth is that the invisible wounds are the toughest to heal. Physical wounds close and heal and leave a visible reminder of the past, but the psychological and emotional scars are harder to heal. They are a festering open wound in your mind and soul that is reopened at the mildest whisper of memory. These wounds are not just memories, they are intrinsically tied into your senses. Smells, words, sounds, touch, taste, are all enough to invoke fear, terror, and psychological torment. The invisible wounds secretly infiltrate every aspect of your being. Most people who suffer in this way will turn so self destructive behaviors to try and numb the pain, to dull the memories, to relieve the terror. The results of these behaviors are often the only outward sign that you’re not alright. Often times the walking wounded don’t connect their addictions and self destructive and harming behavior to the trauma they suffered. So often there is a disconnect between seemingly separate events, that makes it even more difficult to recover and heal from the trauma suffered. Then, after you are “safe,” after the traumatic event or events are over, you’ve woken up are realized that things are not alright and you try and get help, you realize that the true battle for your life is just beginning. It is nearly impossible to get someone to listen to you without immediately dismissing you as “troubled” or whatever other label they want to lay onto your life. The reality is that if someone doesn’t understand what you’re experiencing or you don’t meet the “textbook” definition of something that is clearly understood, you must be crazy. You are dismissed, labeled, defeated and further victimized. The world says that we should focus on mental health, that we should help those in need, but the truth is that most people don’t really want to get their hands dirty. They don’t want to jump into the trenches of your personal hell to help pull you back through the flames. It’s easier to dismiss the unanswered and difficult questions than it is to dig deep and find the truth. Those of us who have been there know all to well the cutting words from doctors, the pitying looks from strangers who think they know our stories, the eye rolls and heavy sighs when you have to cancel on your friends again because you can barely function for the chaos in your head. What makes the pain of these invisible wounds worse, is that the more people dismiss your pain, the more the pain and suffering is compounded by your own self doubt. You already feel like you’re going crazy, wondering why you can’t remember what you’ve been doing, wondering how long you “spaced out” that time. Having professionals, friends and family demand that you conform to how they believe you should be dealing with the pain, can make you truly question whether or not this is real or if you are really making it all up. For some of us, the process of coming out of the fog of trauma and returning to reality is quick, for some, like me, it can take much longer. I don’t remember the majority of the first five years after the Columbine shootings. I had jobs I don’t remember, I met people and spent significant time with them and have no memory of those encounters, I don’t remember life. I remember the pain, the darkness, the chaos, the flashbacks and nightmares, the hallucinations, suffering in silence because I’m the strong one. I remember being told “it’s all in your head, you know you have emotional issues” and one ignorant doctor prescribing anti psychotic medications that turned me into a zombie and made the symptoms I was experiencing even worse, all because he wouldn’t look deeper and give me the help I needed. I remember pretending that I’d dealt with things, that I was fine, and that I was in full control of myself at all times. What I never told anyone was that I wasn’t living my life. I was struggling to survive one hour at a time, one day at a time. Praying for this to go away, for something to change, for someone to understand and help me. That’s what the invisible wounds of trauma do. They create permanent scars in your mind and soul, that when left unchecked, will create havoc and devastation in your life and then convince you that everything is fine. The festering wound that is left after trauma and suffering eats away at your body, mind, and soul, until you can find the strength to pull yourself back up and keep fighting. Because now you are fighting for your life. The life you had before can never be reclaimed, so you must fight for your new life, your new normal. You eventually learn to be selective with who you trust, with what you trust people with, and you gradually learn that you can live your life and not just survive. The only hope for my survival came from God. I had to choose to trust that He could stabilize my life again, that I could trust Him for the peace and comfort that was shattered at the moment my life forever changed. I had to realize that people will never be who I need them to be at all times. That it is unfair to demand that those around me be responsible for my happiness, for solely supporting me when I can barely see the light through the darkness. People can’t be my comfort, my peace, my healing, or my hope. That only comes from God, and through faith and trust in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Without the knowledge that there is a greater purpose for my life than pain, that God will use the evil in this world for His ultimate good, and that He designed my life with hope and promise, there would be nothing to hope for. When the only light in the midst of your darkest night is the truth and promise of a loving, merciful, and gracious God, that’s the one thing you have to cling to. Nothing else in this life will bring you out of the darkness of trauma and pain and put your feet on solid ground again. Healing and redemption is not possible without God, and I needed both after how I’d been living my life just trying to survive. It is amazing the things you tell yourself, the way you rationalize what you’re doing or not doing, so that you can relieve the pain you’re feeling. I not only needed healing, but I desperately needed to lay the weight of the things that I’d done at the foot of the cross of the only one who asks us to give Him our burdens, to be forgiven and cleansed from my past. The stains that evil had left on my life, the poorly disguised desperate attempts at “normal,” I needed a Savior. That’s the beauty of those of us that are living as the walking wounded, those carrying around wounds and scars that no one else can see. God can! He sees and knows every tear, every pain, every fear. Because He’s the only one who can see how devastated our inner being is, He is the only one who can heal the deepest parts of us. The invisible wounds may never become visible, but there is hope in a future that is free, that is healed. The pains, memories, and fears never really go away, but develops into scars. Those scars begin bright, vivid red and angry, but the more you rely on God to heal those deep parts of you, the more you seek life giving help, friends, and community, the more those scars fade away to barely a memory. Invisible wounds, the pain of trauma, the suffering from the evil that humanity perpetrates on each other, you can choose to embrace the pain, the suffering, and the fear. Or you can choose to freely live your life again. The road to healing is painful and intense, but you are never walking through it alone.

Waking Up

Have you ever had a moment when you realize that you aren’t really sure where you are or how you got there? I remember the first time I was truly awake. After everything that I had been through and experienced in my short life, somehow I had completely removed myself from the present. One day, something got my attention. I remember thinking to myself, “how in the world did I end up here?” I was in a place that made no sense and with a person who was a stranger to my mind. I knew all these people and places, but they did not reflect the true person I was inside. I realized at that moment, that I had only been existing in this life. Drifting day to day, letting this world and everyone else around me direct my life. I had ceased living and I realized that I had been that way for a very long time. Most of my life, from what I remember, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of reality. I knew right from wrong, I knew what was expected of me. It may seem obvious that after the shootings I drifted out of reality, but the truth is that I had been drifting in and out of reality for years. The moment my foundation on Christ was challenged by a friend, I began to forget who I was, who God was, and for the next 13 or so years, I was being tossed around like the waves on the shore. I kept grasping for the truth I once understood, and that deep down inside I truly believed, but kept finding more waves pushing me farther away from the foundation I once clung to. I have had many moments in my life where I have finally woken up and begun to live life in the present instead of just existing. Through everything, the only constant was God. He kept calling me back to Him waiting patiently while I fought His voice and struggled to find myself each and every time. These moments aren’t as frequent as they once were, but sometimes I still come to and ask myself how I got where I am. The difference is that now I’ve learned to struggle a little less and my resistance to His calling me into the present is a little weaker. I know my weaknesses now, I know that I hide in myself when things seem to be falling apart, and I am learning every day to trust Him more and more to bring me back to reality and hold me while I figure out this thing called life. Without that constant presence in my life, I am not sure I would have ever truly woken up from the slumber of trauma and chaos. Without God as my anchor, I would have long ago been lost at sea and drifting anywhere the waves took me.

Finding Myself Again

As I am sitting here writing this blog, I realize that the reason it has taken me so long to finish this topic is because I do not really have the final answer to this question of finding yourself again after enduring trauma. I have been in this journey for a long time and to be honest, some days I still really believe that I have no idea who I truly am. I do realize, however, that if I had not survived the things that have tried to destroy me, I would have absolutely no idea about who I am or who I am meant to be. The person I was before and during the traumas, was only a shadow, a fragment, of the person that I was meant to become. For that reason, I think one of the hardest things about going through this life is that you really never know who you are until face the worst things that life throws at you. We all grow up with hopes and dreams, thoughts about who we are, how our lives should run, and who we want to eventually become. Many people are fortunate enough to finish this life without having to reevaluate any of these thoughts or beliefs. However, for the majority of people, tragedy and incomprehensible heartbreak intrude into our existence and we are then forced with a decision about who we really are. When the unspeakable occurs, when the darkness covers our eyes, we are forced to move forward and reevaluate our lives or eventually fall to the inevitably destructive fate of untreated pain. Trauma forces us into action, it forces us to choose to live our lives as they were truly meant to be, or to give up and succumb to the darkness.

At least that’s how it was for me. I had grand ideas, hopes, dreams, and everything else that a person is supposed to have…I was also miserable in my life. I had these passions, but no direction and no real belief that I was ever going to be able to accomplish the things that haunted my soul. The strange thing is that it was not until I experienced one of the worst times in my life, that I began to realize that there were other things that I was good at, other things I wanted to pursue. I began to rethink the aspects of myself that had governed me to that point and begin to let in the hope that I could accomplish something more than what I was. Ironically, the result of surviving and enduring was not a complete change in my hopes and dreams, but a realization that there were many different ways of living them out. The pain and trauma that I have experienced has morphed and reshaped the passions in my soul so that I was able to understand and finally accept my true calling and how I was going to live that out from that point forward. I feel that if I had not suffered the things that sought to destroy me, I never would have been able to truly uncover what God is calling me to do. I would not have been able to see past my singular focus and seek a life and purposed outside of the box I had nicely folded my dreams into.

One of the important things I have learned over this process of rediscovering who I am and what I am truly called to do in life, is that no matter how insightful you are, you will grow and change everyday and will probably discover many other things you like and do not like about yourself. Because my view of the world and other people has been so shaped and occasionally warped by the pain I have endured, I became stagnant in my identity and my pursuit of my true purpose. Really, I had given up on ever achieving those things that burned deep in my heart and had replaced those desires with something that would be “good enough.”  But the truth is that everyday life experiences, more trauma, more pain, more exposure to the things in this world that are evil and heartbreaking, reshape that identity daily. I know who I am at the core, and I believe that I have finally begun to understand my true purpose and identity in this life, but each day someone or something shows me another part of that identity that I can choose to incorporate into what is already present, something that I can learn from. I think this is one of the blessings of enduring pain, suffering, and trials that push us far beyond our capacity. These experiences allow us to be malleable, to adapt to different situations and people that are placed in our lives. Experiencing horror and the process of healing from those unimaginable things, rather than keeping us stuck in dysfunction, actually lead us to a more enlightened version of ourselves. The healing process opens up the door to infinite possibilities in discovering everything you can be, and gives you the push you need to live life more intentionally than you were previous to your trauma.

I would have much preferred to go through this life with no personal idea of the horrific tragedies and evils that other people can and will perpetrate against you and those you love, but that was not the path my life took. For reasons that may never be clear to me this side of Heaven, I was tasked with enduring unspeakable pain regularly. Beginning to let go of the resentment that my life “should” have been different allows me to embrace the new skills and strengths that resulted from surviving. I am being molded into who I am supposed to be on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. I can choose to view the things that happened to me as something to be feared, resented, and defeating, or I can look for the growth, the positive changes, and the new opportunities that come my way. Because finding yourself is painful. Becoming who you were meant to be is not possible without discomfort, confusion, pain, and trials. I am not thankful for what I have endured, but I am thankful that God has taken what the enemy meant for destruction and turned it into something, turned me into someone, who has a purpose and who can channel the trauma into a passion that will bring hope and healing to others. That was my original idea, hope, and passion…it just turned out differently than I had planned.

find-yourself

Valentine's Day: Lust or Love? Moving From Selfishness to Selflessness


It’s Valentine’s Day…again. For most people this day makes them cringe, cry, mad, or lonely…oftentimes all of the above. Sometimes people who are equally yoked and motivated, get to feel loved and cherished on this day. But for most is a reminder of what is lost, what should have been, what they’re missing, or what they desperately want. For a holiday that is meant to be a celebration of love for your signifiacnt other, there are many people who experience the opposite. I think a lot of this is the result of unmet expectations. Men and women tend to have drastically different expectations when it comes to love, romance, and how to show those emotions. 
Typically, women are the romantics waiting for their knight to show up and demonstrate love and men are less romantically motivated and are often hoping to make a good enough impression or get a good enough gift, that they get to end the day “in good standing,” hopefully having sex. 
For women (and occasionally men), this day is usually one that brings hope for a day where they are valued, cherished, and loved. A reminder that they have value and matter to that one person in their life who was created to demonstrate that to them. So for women who are single or who are in relationships where they are not valued and cherished, this day is a crushing reminder of what is not. They deeply feel the pain and longing of the love Christ created for them. They hopefully expect that this time it will be different, even if they know it won’t be. This expectation is often fueled by romantic movies, stories, and media that lies about relationship expectations and distorts reality.
For a lot men (and occasionally women), this day tends to be the day they expect sex and will “do what they have to” in order to achieve that goal. They are less likely to want to embrace the pursuit and relationship, and rather have a means to an end. They often don’t care about their partners needs or deaires for this day or they don’t know how to be romatic.
 These are distinct differences in goals and expectations for this day and relationships in general. When those differences collide, it’s a recipe for heartache, anger and usually an argument. This lustful and slefish expectation is often the result of compulsive and long term pornography use and lack of influence by other men who do not think or act like this. Pornography use is the greatest contributor to distorted and selfish thinking and behavior related to relationships and sex and is one od the biggest public health crisis in society right now.
Interstingly, though, the majority of these destructive interactions occur in relationships where one or both are motivated by lust and not love. Lust is the desire to have sex by anymeans possible, regardless of who you hurt or what you do to get that desire met. People motivated by lust tend to look at their partners or potential partners as a means to gratify their own needs. They are often intolerant and contemptuous of their partners humanity. Mistakes, forgetfulness, having a bad day, etc…are often seen as a justifiable reason to lash out in anger and passive aggressive behavior or comments. They dismiss their parters value and treat them with disgust and contempt. It validates their belief that their partner is not meeting their personal desires and selfish wants and that the partner is to blame for their behavior. People motivated by lust are often short tempered and lash out when they don’t get what they want or when their partner doesn’t do what they want, and will often violate the other persons boundaries and needs to meet their own. People motivated by lust destroy the things that matter and are toxic in relationships.
By contrast, people morivated by love are unselfish and they actively pursue their partner. They acknowledge and respect their partners personality and accept them for who they are, even with flaws and imperfections. They intentionally and willingly learn who their partner is and what matters most to them and act in a way that demonstrates that. They respond with kindness when their partner falls short or is going through something that changes their behavior. They typically do not violate the other persons boundaries and needs even when their partners needs are in conflict with their own. These people know their partners weaknesses and support rather than exploit and lash out at those weaknesses. People motivated by love are adaptable, respectful, selfless, and kind. These people build up their partner rather than tearing them down. 
If you find yourself in the first category, realize that a lot of the conflict and unmet expectations in your relationships are the result of your feelings of entitlement and selfish pursuits rather than respecting and pursuing your partner’s needs. That doesn’t mean you have to stay in that place. Most people in that category have significant interpersonal difficulties that can be addressed with consistent counseling and hard work. You have to want to change and put in the hard work required to deal with your past and undo years of disordered thinking and behavior, especially when it is accompanied by use of pornography, and distorted expectations and beliefs about love, relationships and yourself.
If you find yourself in the second category, relaize that you will likely be hurt and disappointed in realtionships where your partner is not motivated by love. You may find yourself trying anything and everything to achieve the truly loving relationship only to fail at your attempts to fix the problem. For people motivated by love, self care is by far the most important way to work through the pain that accompanies being with someone not motivated the same way.
So how do you handle such mismatched relationships. First, realize that no matter what, you will never change the other, and the best way to get your needs met is to try and meet your own need and your partners needs even if they do not reciprocate. If you are selfishly motivated, get the help you need and don’t stop until you deal with what made you think and act that way in the first place. If you are love motivated, learn to take care of yourself and meet your own needs while you’re praying and waiting for God to convict your partner enough to elicit change. 
If you are not married, evaluate whether or not you are willing to live this way for the rest of your life as they are unlikely to change. If you are married, get help yourself to deal with the destruction wrought by your spouse. If you are married, christian couples counseling can help, but if your partner is unwilling to go or actually do the things the counselor suggests, seek counseling for yourself. 
One thing…if your partner is abusive, even if you are married, do not wait around to see if it gets better. Leave and save yourself and your children from irreparable harm and possibly death (selfishly motivated individuals are often abusive and the rages can be deadly). Never let someone put their hands on you or emotionally destroy you. That is not what God has designed for your life. 
Finally, realize that valentine’s day is just one day. If you do not demonstrate selfless and pursuing love throughout the year, one day will not make up for the rest of the year. One day is not a good measure of the love or lust in your relationship, but consistent and persistent behavior is a better gauge. If you don’t pursue love in your relationship, true, selfless and romantic love, your relationship is destined to be extremely hard and possibly fail. Change behaviors that need to be changed and are destructive. Pursue your partner like you don’t have them rather than taking advantage of their commitment. Love like you will not get another chance to love them and you will have a healthier and happier relationship.

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