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David Akiva
David Akiva, BA, MA,
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 167
Experience:  Counselor; Behavioral Consultant
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Is it possible to build self esteem while living in a "walking

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Is it possible to build self esteem while living in a "walking on eggshells" environment which causes a feeling of being emotionally unsafe? I am unable to change my environment, but find it crutial to work on myself. If so, please give me some tips in doing so. thank you.

DuddyH :

Welcome, I'm a professional counselor and behavioral-consultant. I'd like to chat with you for a few moments to better understand your question.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
ok thank you I am here
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

my husband has a tendency to be negative and critical and sometimes insulting.

It affects my mood. When I tell him how his behaviors make me feel, I get met with more of the same type.. Defensiveness increases along with anger on his side. I am left with pain and humiliation. I need to build myself up exclusively and deflect and depersonalize to the best of my ability. Counseling he wont do, and I am not interested in returning to counseling. I've done that for quite a while.

Sorry there was a technical glitch and my first response came just after your last clarification)
Great. We seem to have shifted into Q&A Mode, so I'll leave you some questions and check back in a few minutes for your responses. First off, I am so sorry that you are not feeling safe, and have to walk on egg shells. To better answer your question, here are a couple of my own: 1) What is the specific source/reason that you feel unsafe? What about your situation are you unable to change that that is causing the problem? 2) What do you mean more specifically about working on yourself? Sound's like you're looking for coping strategies? If so, are are the top 2 or 3 coping goals you have right now? For example, are negative emotions like anxiety or anger a problem? If you were granted 1 miracle and could wake up tomorrow fully able to cope with your most important issue - what would that look and feel like? What would you be able to do perfectly that you are unable to do right now?
I've read your last response (the one that posted just before I tried to respond to the one before it) I know that some of the best available marital research says that divorce can be predicted with close to 90% accuracy based on the kind of criticism defense communication pattern you are describing (please see these short videos):
I'll wait for your responses to this and my 2 questions and then reply....
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I have an illness which affects my quality of life, in addition to a negative and critical husband.
I am trying to build self worth under the circumstances
What illness are you dealing with if it's ok to ask?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes coping and detachment strategies. It feels emotionally unsafe when you are on the receiving end of blustery and negative behaviors.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Rheumatoid arthritis
It must be so difficult to be on the receiving end of blustery and negative relationship behaviors while dealing with pain and discomfort of rheumatoid arthritis. Again, i am so sorry to hear that you are going through this right now.

I understand coping strategies, but what did you mean by "detachment strategies"?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well, maybe detach in the sense to minimize the pain. I try to see him as a child with poor communication skills and tell myself not to personalize his behaviors, for he is likely depressed. He continually blocks meaningful and productive conversations with defensiveness and disrespect, so any attempt to repair the quality of our marriage fails.
I am not clear on the level of detachment I need. I want to detach emotionally from his behaviors to minimize pain as I've mentioned. I don't think I am capable of detaching so much so that it affects my meaningful relationships with other people. I am pretty in tune to my feelings, so I cannot deny or block them but feel a desperate need to protect my self worth. Stress and illness exasperated one another.
Great clarifications, thank you. Now here is my answer to your question.

If I had a client in my counseling office describing what you have here, I would try to keep things really simple and organized so as not to mix levels, theories or facts.

First, I would want to make sure that my client is getting the best possible medical care for the pain associated with arthritis.

Second, I would want to screen for depression and other mental health issues that may be present.

Third, I would really want to explore "repairing" the relationship, because an emotionally healthy relationship, which can take place even when one person has a serious medical condition, is so protective and helpful to both parties.

I know your partner has rejected attending counseling. What I would suggest is that you read the book "Hold me Tight" by Dr. Sue Johnson Together. It guides a simple "emotionally focused" conversation and/or thought process that even seriously distressed or resistant partners can warm up to fast. You can usually find the book in your local library for free or by it online at Amazon etc.

Here is a short video presentation by the Author:

As far as coping goes, I have 2 suggestions, the first is to really practice the relaxation response and "mindfulness". This can be helpful to you (and your partner) in so many ways. For example, self invoking deep relaxation can really help with pain and discomfort. It can help you to get and stay calm during couple communication, which can really have unexpected positive consequences.

Relaxation and mindfulness also help with improving sleep and with general stress reduction.
Here is a great free site that I love to share with my clients and customers. It's not flashy but it's free and the video and audio training resources are based on the best research:

The idea here is to practice the relaxation and related strategies at bed time every day for 20 minutes, and to also do short practice stints when every you begin to feel stressed or emotionally distressed. The goal is to replace the negative thoughts and feelings with the "the relaxation response". After 2 or 3 months of daily practice, many people can learn to become very calm even in very stressful situations in just a few seconds.

Finally, I would strongly recommend that you consider 3-10 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy individually. This way you can be fully screened and clinically interviewed by a professional therapist in person. Here's what I mean by CBT:

What are your thoughts?
David Akiva and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for the abundance of resources and your time. I will look into all of your suggestions and associated links.

What strikes me is ... How can I get him to work with using the book if he is refusing counseling. He is rigid in thought and personality. I guess what I am asking is, how can I effectively but gently persuade him to commit to working with me using the book as our resource?

Thanks again
You are most welcome!

I can't really provide a certain answer to your question as because I don't know your husband, I haven't had a chance to interview him and really understand his issues.

In general, when a person is resistant to couples counseling, I've found it helpful to focus the conversation on their emotional needs at first. For example, if you read the book hold me tight, you'll see that just like the EFT therapists, the conversation skillfully by-passes the reactive anger, criticism and defensiveness to get the deeper "attachment" or love needs simply but properly expressed.

If you can get your husband to read the book or listen to the book on CD or MP3 (to make it even easier) it may help to get past his resistance.

Many clients that I have worked with were initially resisted coming to couples counseling, did so because they had untested assumptions about couples counseling in the first place. Some people beleive that the therapist will be one sided, unfair, "feminist," or that counseling is just psychobabble that doesn't work.

With some non-evidence based couples counseling and therapists, these assumptions can still be true. But with evidence-based counseling like EFT, when the therapist is fully trained and experienced, these assumptions are not true.

EFT Therapists are specially trained to build a very strong positive relationship and therapeutic alliance with both partners very quickly.

Reading the book together or at the same time may help your husband to see that his relationships needs are important too. It may help to ask him to read it to see what he thinks of it, so you just talk about it together. Who knows, like thousands of other partners across the world, he may agree to attend EFT for couples with you after reading the book.

What do you anticipate would be his main reasons for not reading to or listening to the book?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for response.
We've been to two counselors in the recent past. The first experience was unfavorable to both of us because I feel the skill level was less than adequate and our issues weren't identified. The second therapist identified some of our issues, for example.. My chronic illness and it's associated grief for my husband and myself. Yet, he was not able to go beyond the surface in that deeper emotional needs were dismissed. For example, he tried to tell me that my husbands emotional needs are off his radar screen. Although he may have some emotional limitations, I am not in agreement that he is so disconnected that emotional needs are off his radar screen. In other words, I think it's the therapist job to help him identify his needs. He also tried to get me accept the relationship as is, status quo. I feel he didn't have the skill or insight to bridge the gap between my physical limitations (arthritis) and his emotional limitations. Regardless, he did help identify some issues, and my husband agrees he was somewhat helpful.

My husband feels taxed out, drained. He does not like telling strangers about his affairs and he told me he doesn't want anyone telling him how to live his life. He doesn't see much value in the therapeutic process in general.
Well this is why I recommend that couples work with a fully trained EFT therapist. It's an evidence-based approach which means that it's backed by serious research. Every EFT therapist uses the same proven set of practices and work is counseling usually takes 7-10 sessions to get lasting results with even seriously distressed couples. The difference between evidence-based practice and counseling as usual can often be like taking an FDA approved drug vs a home remedy.

Good EFT research summary:

An EFT therapist won't tell anyone how to live their life. What they do is facilitate of guide an laser targeted conversation that repairs emotional injuries and expands shrunken emotional bonds (helps couples to fall more deeply in love again).

EFT therapists are also trained and licensed therapists, before coming for intensive EFT training and supervision. So they are additionally trained to spot and assess for "under the radar" clinical issues. I'd start by reading Hold me Tight to really get a "feel" for the process. It's a very new and different approach to couples counseling.
David Akiva and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I've searched for an EFT therapist some time ago, and none exist in my area.
Besides he would not go anyway
Thanks for help
Sorry I couldn't be of more help with my answer.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I think you were helpful , thank you.
It takes two, and their are no quick fixes.
The YouTube videos are informative.
I do believe the book can be of help if we both work in unison.
Have a good night

You have a good night too.