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Making space for real comfort and dealing with deadly dysfunction – By Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S

With the first day of spring this month, I thought why not look at a series for spring cleaning but one that helps your relationships!?! This month I’m even providing some free printables too—either a worksheet or an inspiring image! (If I get some good feedback I’ll keep the freebies coming…)

First week of March – Making space for real comfort and dealing with deadly dysfunction March 14 – Cleaning The Critics’ Clutter (inner critics and external critics)

March 21 –Denying space to doubt and disappointment

March 28 – Eliminating ethereal expectations and taking the “A”-“s”-“s” out of Assumptions

 

Dear Reader two seemingly unrelated items inspired this post: a blanket and mold. Yep, those two words elicit two very different internal reactions, don’t they! They each connect to recent experiences in the Lawrence household which inspired me to gather the practical and tactical tips within this blog!

  • Do you find yourself seeking comfort after a hard workday or after a stressful week? I do! What happens though when that comfort starts to distract us from our calling, or we need more of the comfort to feel “good”? What could real comfort look like?
  • Does your stomach churn when you realize you have to interact with a certain someone or does a relationship have a pattern that you know isn’t healthy but you don’t know how to change it? Could this be a heads-up that deadly dysfunction is at foot?

Those questions are addressed this week as we look at making space for real comfort and dealing with deadly dysfunction through the lens of a blanket and mold!

First let me share about the blanket – One of the things I love about spring is I get to be outdoors more often, but one thing I miss about winter is being cozy now with a new cozy blanket. This blanket was a delightful and thoughtful birthday gift this year and we gave it residence on the sofa the rest of winter. We actually call the blanket the “family cuddle blanket”, while Bauer the dog seems to call it “mine” because he’s always on it when we come home in the winter.

Now quickly where the mold came in – We have been having trouble with our HVAC system in this our first house the whole year and a half we have been in it and have had multiple service people over to inspect the issue, all supplied by our home warranty company. A few months ago the multiple visits with no resolution turned the home warranty to say we could have another person come out to look at the issue and the item would not be under warranty if they provided repairs. When we called another company they sent a tech who came out of our attic with quite a look on his face. He began to show us a video of the inner workings of the system with “unknown mold growth” and “holes in the furnace”. Truly deadly dysfunction occurring a few feet above our heads. We praise God for literally keeping us alive over the winter months while the gas leaked out of the furnace and the mold continued to spread through the ducts.

This blanket and mold experience does lead me to the point of this blog—making space for real comfort and dealing with deadly dysfunction.

 

We are all designed to seek and to need comfort yet we often we choose temporary comfort for real comfort. I tossed out three questions to check in with you so now let’s address those.

  • Do you find yourself seeking comfort after a hard workday or after a stressful week? I do!
  • What happens though when that comfort starts to distract us from our calling, or we need more of the comfort to feel “good”?
  • What could real comfort look like?

Our daily lives will deliver comfort to us in many forms but it’s our responsibility to choose real comfort. Real comfort empowers you in your calling and has more of a lasting capacity. Fleeting comfort is just that, it helps for a moment and then is gone because it has a short-lived capacity. All comfort has a capacity and we must choose the comfort with the capacity that empowers our calling and doesn’t contain it. The capacity of comfort calls us to choose with clarity.

Comfort capacity is what I like to call the amount a certain item, object, or person has to provide comfort. Comfort is that feeling like a warm blanket on a cold day with your loved ones next to you. Every created item has a capacity because there is a limit to all created items.  

When you seek comfort after stress, anxiety, or a hard day be sure to be aware of the capacity of the comfort you choose and choose with clarity. With all the goodness of the cuddle blanket, even Bauer will not choose it on a warm day. Why? The comfort provided by the blanket has the capacity that only works in cold weather. Well, of course, right?! Ok, what about this one – the comfort-capacity of chocolate chip cookies is one of moderation. Once the cookie threshold has been met, the cookie no longer has the capacity to deliver comfort.   

SO  when considering what could bring comfort, be sure to be aware of the comfort capacity of that which you are applying so you can know where real comfort can be found. It’s our responsibility to choose real comfort. Real comfort empowers you in your calling and has more of a lasting capacity.

Just as we are all designed to need, seek, give, and receive comfort, we are also all in the position to allow dangerous dysfunction to set in. Here’s those 3 questions again:

  • Does your stomach churn when you realize you have to interact with a certain someone or
  • Does a relationship have a pattern that you know isn’t healthy but you don’t know how to change it?
  • Could this be a heads-up that deadly dysfunction is at foot?

In relationships dysfunction can look like lots of different behaviors including those which are disrespectful, dishonoring, and also those which are straight up abusive. We often know we aren’t being treated properly which tells us there is some dysfunction.

A functional and healthy relationship can easily be identified by 3 characteristics that will reveal a multitude of thoughts and behaviors. Those 3 characteristics of a healthy and functional relationship include: 1) this person helps and supports you in becoming the person you are designed by God to be, 2) this person helps and supports you grow closer to healthy other people, 3) this person helps and supports you draw closer to God.

Within ourselves we can identify dysfunctional thought patterns as well that we can allow God to renew. Those thought patterns may include these descriptions:

  • Polarizing – I see things pretty much black and white,
  • Magnifying – I tend to make mountains our of molehills ,
  • Personalizing –I often take things personally,
  • Generalizing – past disappointments seem to predict the future,
  • Emotional reasoning – what I’m feeling is more important than the facts,
  • Minimizing –I often think people should just get over it because I don’t see it’s a big deal.

 

Dysfunctional thought patterns can result from years of being in unhealthy or dysfunctional relationships, either where other people didn’t know they were passing on these thought patterns or ones where these thought patterns were developed as a means of providing a sense of safety within the dysfunction.

 

Dysfunction can be dangerous when it is slow in growth, like the awful mold we found in the attic, or when it’s impacting the potential of a healthy relationship.

 

There are many options of dealing with the dysfunction and your first step is getting yourself and your loved ones physically safe, especially if the dysfunction is abusive. Then once there is safety, you can get some help, whether professional, pastoral, or medical and then with this support changes to the dysfunctional system can be made to create healthy functioning. For dysfunction to be healed it takes all people in the dysfunction to seek health, but when one person makes a change it will make an impact in the dysfunctional system.

 

From my perspective in counseling, I encourage Christians to allow the methods God has laid out for us in restoring function in dysfunctional relationships. Some of God’s methods include examining our own heart for ways we have contributed, asking for forgiveness from God, asking God to comfort our wounds, applying the Word of God to our hurts and our thought life, praising God for who He is and who He says we are, seeking forgiveness from others, setting up healthy ways of others treating us and treating others, applying love to every relationship, and seeking God for our comfort. Of course that’s not a full list because the Bible is chock full of ways we can treat one another and ourselves.

 

Whatever the level of dysfunction I believe there is hope for your relationships to be healthy and functional. To get to healthy and functional will most likely take grace, truth, and hope over time in the context of healthy relationships that support your growth.

 

 

As spring begins for us this month, I pray you will take time to intentionally make space for real comfort and seek functional and healthy relationships!

 

Next Steps:

  • Of all the questions, which one is your highest priority/which one will you approach first?
  • What are your thoughts as you consider yourself growing into real comfort or into a functional relationship?
  • Do you need to gather any support for your current growth?

 

We were never designed to go through life alone, but life and adulting can make it begin to feel like that! Don’t let it stay that way! Get back to the important things of building healthy relationships and being a healthy, safe, good friend to those in your life! Together we can make a difference in bringing about healthy, safe, good growing relationships!

 

 

Warmly,

Liz

 

Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com  or www.renue.me

 

Photo Credits:

Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva

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