It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Sherry Gaba is a licensed Psychotherapist and Certified Recovery and Transformation Coach who’s helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people cope with lifelong addictions, including those addicted to alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, eating, sex, love, co-dependency, as well as those struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, single...

Sherry Gaba is a licensed Psychotherapist and Certified Recovery and Transformation Coach who’s helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people cope with lifelong addictions, including those addicted to alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, eating, sex, love, co-dependency, as well as those struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, single parenting, and divorce.

She has shared her expert addiction advice on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab show on VH1 and later on the spin-off, VH1’s Sober House, as well as Celebrity Rehab’s Sex Addiction, CNN, Inside Edition, and numerous other stations and programs.

With over twenty years of experience as a clinician, Sherry has  worked at some of the highest profile rehab and treatment centers in the country…


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Saving The Holidays From A Narcissist

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The holidays are a special time of year for most people. They are a time of friendship, of giving, of sharing, and of being around the people you love and those who love you. Unfortunately, what makes the holidays so special for most people makes them intolerable for a narcissist.

The narcissist must be the center of attention. In the holiday season, there are a lot of things to attend to, and trying to become better than everyone else at the family gathering, the concert, the staff party, or any other event can be impossible. Rather than trying to accept this, the narcissist moves to devalue and destroy the happiness of those they are around, showing their complete inability to express empathy and to simply enjoy the fact those around them are having fun.

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How To Avoid Being Drawn Into A Toxic Relationship

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There are many different types of relationships, some of which are positive and healthy, and some which are toxic and unhealthy. Unfortunately, it is not always easy or even evident which type of relationship you are getting into until there are significant telltale signs.

The term toxic relationship is used to describe a relationship where the couple is destructive towards each other rather than constructive and supportive. The destruction or toxicity is typically coming from one person, but it is possible for both people to become competitive and unsupportive of each other. In these cases, one person initiated the toxic behavior, and the other person responded in kind. In extreme cases, the toxicity can include physical abuse, but it is emotionally damaging even at best for the partner.

A toxic person or partner does not start that way. These people are manipulative, and they recognize that putting on a mask and being a positive, supportive person is important. However, even with their best attempts at covering up the toxicity, there are often subtle signs of potential problems.
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Signs You Are Only Getting Breadcrumbs In Your Relationship

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New terms are becoming popular for many of the bad, destructive, and even toxic relationship behaviors that help people label what they are experiencing. Over the last few years, people have become familiar with gaslighting and ghosting. To add to that, the term breadcrumbing has become mainstream, adding to the ability to easily describe the difficulties you are experiencing in your dating relationships.

What is Breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing is the act of dropping little bits of attention through social media platforms or technology to keep the other person interested in the potential of the relationship. Accepting breadcrumbs means that you are settling for these small and virtual signals of the potential for the relationship.

Most people that engage in breadcrumbing are those who have a significant fear of being on their own or alone. To hedge their bets of not having someone to be in a relationship with, they focus on keeping multiple potential partners available. In some ways, they are also testing the waters with numbers of potential dates or relationships without committing to any one person. It is highly manipulative, even if the person doing it may not think they are doing anything harmful.

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Ambivalence, Relationships and Love Addiction

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We want love, but we are afraid of it. We seek out a relationship and then sabotage it the first chance we get. We want space and when we get it we are lonely. We can’t live without a relationship and we can’t live with it. What is going on here? It is simple. We are ambivalent.

Ambivalence is the number one problem in relationships today. We are no longer bound by a social order that dictates we marry and have children. We are no longer bound by a division of labor where the man has his duties [bread winner] and we have ours [domestic bliss]. We have choices and now we are confused.

I sometimes think that this is the lost generation and that in many respects my generation had it easy. I was told to stroke a man’s ego. I was told to let him make all the decisions. I was told that I should have children. Unfortunately, I was not meant to be a housewife and mother. I was born to write which is what I am doing now. So everyone around me suffered, especially my children, as I tried to find myself. I have thus concluded that even if this generation is confused and unhappy, so was mine.

I recently wrote an article about knowing yourself and it took me a long time to discover my true identify. So my heart goes out to young people today who have so many choices they don’t know what to choose. The media tells they can have it all and they believe this. So they run themselves ragged trying to take all that life has to offer. Then they reach middle age and are unhappy with life and the choices they made. They dream about starting over again and they can’t. They take control the situation, which has always served them in the past, and try to fix everything right now.

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The Difference Between Gaslighting And Healthy Disagreements

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It is common to have a disagreement with a partner in a relationship. In many cases, the source of the conflict or the disagreement is a difference in perception or a different memory or recollection of an event or conversation.

This is understandable as we see all experiences through the lens of past experiences. This means that two people can see, hear, or have the same event occur but walk away with a very different memory. Both people are absolutely convinced their experience is authentic, and for them, it really is authentic and accurate.

Gaslighting is a different situation. It involves the intentional manipulation of the other person to gain or maintain control of the situation. It is the creation of a false narrative to attempt to make one person look good, and the other person look bad. It is a technique used by narcissists to keep the other person uncertain, confused, and questioning their own perception and experiences. This is a form of emotional abuse, and it is both effective as well as highly destructive.

Understanding the difference between a healthy disagreement and gaslighting is not always easy, but it is possible. Often, working with a therapist or counselor is the first step in detecting an emotionally abusive or toxic relationship.

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Myths That Keep Us Feeling Sorry For Narcissists

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Narcissists are chameleons with the ability to appear to be just what you want and need, at least for the initial whirlwind part of the relationship. However, once they have established the relationship, the dynamics change rapidly, with the narcissist utilizing a variety of tactics and manipulations to keep you close. The relationship stops being about creating a partnership and becomes a focus on keeping them happy and their needs fulfilled.

The tactics that narcissists use in this process are easily recognized by those outside the relationship. They may also be evident to the partner, but the myths around narcissism can make it extremely difficult to leave.

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Why Some People Attract Dysfunctional Relationships

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Most of us tend to pick partners who reflect the vision we have of ourselves and our world. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Compatibility and a sense of ease in a relationship come from having similar preferences, ideas, and values about things like money, religion, monogamy, parenting, and even what makes for good sex. The Legacy Project at Cornell University even did a study on this. They interviewed hundreds of people who had been married 40 or 50 years, and even longer. Most agreed that shared values are at the core of a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

But we don’t pick the people we’re with based on values alone.

We also choose people who have similar ideas about what relationships look like and how they should play out. This sounds good but it can also backfire.

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Learning To Trust After A Toxic Relationship

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A toxic relationship is an unhealthy relationship. These relationships typically include feelings of being unloved, unwanted, misunderstood, unsupported, belittled, or even attacked. While most people consider a toxic relationship emotional and psychological abuse, there can also be issues with physical abuse and domestic violence.

It is possible to find yourself in a toxic relationship and not really understanding how things got to that point. Often the toxic person is very good at hiding their abusive behavior at the beginning of the relationship. If the person is a narcissist, it can be difficult to understand the constant swings from overwhelming and grandiose acts of passion and love to absolute disdain and anger. The result is that you are constantly kept guessing what will happen next and doing everything you can to avoid the hostility and toxicity.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

A few of the signs you are in a toxic relationship include:

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3 Signs Of Trauma That You May Not Recognize

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Sudden, unexpected, horrific or repeated types of negative incidents in life can all lead to the development of trauma.

Many people think of trauma as something that causes immediate changes in a person’s level of comfort, ability to feel safe, and constant feelings of fear or anxiety in specific situations or locations.

All of these can be true, but trauma and its effects are not all that easy to pinpoint. For some people, the effects of trauma may not occur for weeks after the event, and they may build gradually over time if the trauma is the chronic type of repeated stress such as living in a chaotic or unsafe environment or dealing with bullying or abuse.

Besides the obvious reactions to fear, stress and atypical negative events in life, it is also essential to be aware of three other lesser-known symptoms of trauma.

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Setting The Trap: Dating Strategies Used By Narcissists

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There are many myths and misunderstandings around being in relationships with narcissists. One of the most common myths is that somehow people should be able to recognize a narcissist by simply checking off a few boxes on a handy dating checklist.

In reality, the behavior of a narcissist during the initial stages of a dating relationship is a carefully crafted façade. He or she does not use abusive language or ghost you on the first, second, or even the twentieth date. They do not try to manipulate in overt ways, but they do use subtle and often seemingly innocent behaviors to test the waters to determine the flexibility or the presence of boundaries.

Unfortunately, potential dating partners who have a history of emotional or physical abuse, abandonment, or dysfunctional families often lack boundaries. They fall into the trap of allowing the narcissist to begin to get his way, even over small things, which eventually lead to highly toxic behaviors that will become more significant as the relationship unfolds.

To help understand the trap the narcissist sets during the initial dating phase, let’s take a closer look at the strategies the narcissist employs. Based on your response, you may see more than one strategy in play, or the strategies may change over time.

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The Law Of Attraction And Relationship Issues

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Being addicted to love is not the same as being a sex addict, a drug addict or an alcoholic. Love addicts are drawn to people that initially cause them to feel part of a whole rather than as an isolated individual.

For a love addict being single and alone is a crisis. These are people that rely on others for their sense of identity, where the relationship becomes the focus of their lives. Needless to say, love addicts smother the partner, which only causes the partner to pull away while the love addict clings on and compounds the problem.

The other type of partner that is drawn to a love addict is a person who is completely self-centered. They may have narcissistic tendencies or have another type of personality disorder. These are often the “bad boys” of the world, seeming to do nothing but take in a relationship. Finding a partner that wants nothing to do but to give creates the perfect destructive relationship for both.

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Is Your Early Trauma Picking Your Partners?

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Most people have had at least one bad relationship in their life. For most individuals, this bad relationship was a blip on the radar, with the experience chalked up to a lesson learned.

However, there are also people who find themselves in the same toxic relationship over and over again. The partner may look different on the surface. Still, his behaviors, abusive ways, or emotional unavailability are exactly the same as the partners before.
Why do some people bounce back after a toxic relationship and move on to a healthy relationship while others are destined to repeat the same negative relationship cycle? The surprising answer is that this behavior may be directly related to early trauma in your childhood years.

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is more common than most people assume. For example, in a 2017 study by Grant Sara and Julia Lappin published in The Lancet Public Health Journal, one in four adults reported they were physically abused as kids, and one in eight reported sexual abuse.  As stated in my book, Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love . “When we hold on to unresolved pain from childhood, especially trauma and abandonment, these wounds reemerge in adult relationships as toxic shame.”
Other types of childhood trauma can include:

•  Loss of a parent – the death of a close family member or a significant person in a child’s life can create trauma if the child is not allowed to grieve or does not receive the care and attention required to work through the grief.

• Multiple homes – children that are moved from home to home either within a family or through the foster care system are often traumatized as they have no place of comfort or belonging.

• Bullying and fear – this can be bullying from siblings, parents, or even within a community. This can be a single significant event or chronic types of fearful situations without the parental support and care needed for the child.

• Abandonment – children that are abandoned with friends, relatives, strangers, or even the other parent can be traumatized very early in life.
   
• Addicted parents – children that live in homes where they must take care of siblings and even their parents are often traumatized as they feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Attachment Styles and Choosing Partners 

Children that experience trauma early in life develop an anxious attachment style, which is sometimes called an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. These people are extremely fearful of being on their own as they obtain their validation and reason in life from being with someone else. Although they believe they need their partner for their identity, they often feel the partner does not care enough.

Signs of an anxious or anxious preoccupied attachment style include:
   
•  Extreme desire to please – these individuals will do anything to win the approval of their emotionally distant partners. This may include staying in physical abuse and toxic relationships.
      
• Clingy – the need to be physically close to the partner. This can initially seem attractive to some partners, but it quickly becomes overwhelming and smothering.
     
• Constant communication – in today’s always plugged-in world, this can include constant calling, texting, posting on social media, and even electronically tracking their partner.
       
• Constant reassurances – there is a constant need for reassurance the relationship is fine. This can become a constant in the relationship.

• Jumping into relationships – anxious attachment styles have short dating periods and then immediately into a serious and significant relationship.

These types of individuals attract people who need attention. The narcissist is the prime example of an individual who seeks out a person with an anxious attachment style as they crave the need for attention.

Tips Identifying Toxic Relationships 

It can be difficult to identify the signs of a toxic relationship if your childhood trauma has made it difficult to see the red flags in the relationship. Here are some tips you can use to determine if you are in a relationship with a toxic partner:

• Constant arguments – despite all you do to try to please the other person, it is never enough. You are always blamed for any difficulties or negativity.
   
• Jealousy – despite ignoring you or being emotionally distant, your partner may be very jealous of your relationships with others.
   
• Emotionally exhausted – taking responsibility for the happiness of another person while ignoring your own wellbeing is emotionally draining.

• Inability to end the relationship – if you believe you have to be in the relationship for your own happiness, despite being unhappy, and cannot break off the relationship, you may be in a toxic situation.

Working with a therapist or counselor with experience in healing from childhood trauma is perhaps the best way to identify the problem and begin the healing process.  You can also consider joining my online group coaching program Wake Up Recovery where you will receive support from me, as well as those like minded souls who have been where you have been.

The Potential Problem In Choosing Partners – 7 Signs you are living in a relationship fantasy

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As a general rule, when we meet someone new that we find attractive, we tend to see their best possible traits first. These are often the traits we find comfortable and familiar, and that allows us to associate the individual with other positive people in our lives.

However, there are also times when we meet someone that has some of the traits we find appealing, but also some traits that may not be all that positive. In some cases, we may meet someone that is a complete opposite of our past positive relationships. However, we see a glimpse of what we think may be possible for that individual.

In all of these situations, to a greater or lesser extent, we are looking beyond what we are actually seeing to looking at the potential for the person. We dismiss the “bad boy” exterior and rationalize that some tender loving care and empathy is all that is needed to turn that person into the perfect partner. We are willing to look past the reality to the potential, with the associated thought that we are the missing link in bringing that full potential to light.

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The Relationship Between Early Trauma And Love Addiction

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Love addiction is not a psychological diagnosis, but that does not mean people cannot become addicted to being in a relationship. Most people know at least one person that is constantly getting into the same bad relationships with the same abusive, narcissistic, or otherwise emotionally unavailable type of partner.

Why some people develop love addiction can be tied to their early relationships in life. This includes their relationship with their primary caregivers in early childhood. For most children, this is a mother or father, but it can be any member of the family or any caregiver that assumes the role of the caregiver for the child.

Signs of Love Addiction 

There are some patterns that are more likely to be present in adults with love addiction. These include:

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Everyone Has Narcissistic Moments: Understanding Our Behavior

young-woman-taking-selfie-outside-picture-id993993818 The Narcissist in Us All

It is very common for people to latch onto specific labels and diagnosis and attempt to determine what is “wrong” with someone in their life. Narcissism is one such label and diagnosis that is used by people to describe people who may show signs of being selfish, uncaring, or lacking in empathy, compassion, and understanding of others.

Around the world, the number of individuals with true narcissism, or more correctly those with narcissistic personality disorder, is less than one percent of the population. The chances of most people interacting with a true narcissist are very low, and everyone’s ex-spouse is certainly not a narcissist.

However, many mental health experts propose that there is a spectrum or a range of behaviors or traits individuals may use throughout their life that are associated with narcissism. How frequently these traits crop up, when they occur, and if the individual continues to use the behavior is critical in making a diagnosis.

The Narcissist in Us All 

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Using The Law Of Attraction To Develop Healthy Boundaries

misty-valley-at-glenbow-ranch-provincial-park-picture-id168259069 It is impossible to send out good energy to the world when we are not in a good emotional state.

Boundaries are similar to the rules that govern how a person interacts with the world around them. People with no boundaries do not follow typical relationship rules when interacting with people in their personal and professional lives. They may overshare personal information or not share anything, or they may constantly take advantage of others or feel very isolated and separated from others.

Relationships also have boundaries or limits. In a healthy relationship, the couple establishes their boundaries with a sense of mutual concern for each other’s emotional, mental, and physical health. When boundaries are lacking in a relationship, often due to issues such as addictions, mental health issues, abuse, or other factors, there is no balance. One person dominates the relationship while the other person feels pressured to give in.

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What Twelve Step Programs Can Teach You About Dealing with Chaos

woman-experiencing-freedom-from-handcuffs-picture-id18757159_20200624-115619_1 What Twelve Step Programs Can Teach You About Dealing with Chaos

Twelve step programs have helped millions of adults who felt like their life was spinning out of control. Even if you’re not addicted to alcohol or gambling, their philosophy may help you when external events make your situation seem unmanageable. Maybe your life has been disrupted by health issues or job loss. Maybe your relationships are strained, or you’re isolated from others. Your wellbeing depends on how you respond to challenging situations. Take a closer look at twelve step programs and the lessons they contain. You’ll find wisdom that you can apply to any kind of hardship. 

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Dating In The Time Of Coronavirus

young-couple-on-date-in-time-of-virus-pandemic-picture-id1213939822 Dating In The Time Of Coronavirus

Dating is an integral part of socialization for single adults of all ages. The sudden escalation and impact of coronavirus around the world have created a challenge for those who are just starting in a relationship or those who perhaps have finally made the decision to start dating again.

There are some very important issues to consider with the very real presence of the coronavirus. Experts in public health and epidemiology recommend social distancing is a key factor in not only preventing contact with the virus but also in limiting the spread of the virus throughout the population.

Social distancing is particularly crucial for those in high-risk groups or individuals living with or working with people in high-risk groups. The high-risk groups identified currently include those over 65 years of age, anyone living in a nursing home, people with chronic health issues, those immunocompromised from cancer treatments, organ transplants or other diseases, and those with pre-existing health issues related to lung disease, heart conditions, diabetes, or chronic types of illnesses.

Family members of these individuals or those who provide healthcare or daily care services for these groups need to be especially careful. The general public also has to be very aware of how their interactions with each other increase the risk of the high-risk groups being exposed to one or more people carrying the virus.

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Why Some People Attract Dysfunctional Relationships

magnifying-glass-on-cutout-figures-picture-id915461616 Why Some People Attract Dysfunctional Relationships

Most of us tend to pick partners who reflect the vision we have of ourselves and our world. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Compatibility and a sense of ease in a relationship come from having similar preferences, ideas, and values about things like money, religion, monogamy, parenting, and even what makes for good sex. The Legacy Project at Cornell University even did a study on this. They interviewed hundreds of people who had been married 40 or 50 years, and even longer. Most agreed that shared values are at the core of a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

But we don’t pick the people we’re with based on values alone.

We also choose people who have similar ideas about what relationships look like and how they should play out. This sounds good but it can also backfire.

Continue reading

Is Perfectionism Keeping You from Achieving Your Goals?

young-man-cuts-english-lawn-picture-id509053151 Is Perfectionism Keeping You from Achieving Your Goals?

All of us have goals, no matter how modest or majestic they may be.

Some of us have specific, written goals that are broken down into action items that we can check off as we accomplish each step, while others may have more general goals that are longer term and less formalized.

Unfortunately, regardless of the types of goals you’re trying to achieve, any people-pleasing or perfectionist tendencies you may have can keep you from realizing them.

In fact, for those of us struggling with perfectionism, just deciding which goals to pursue can be a challenge.

It’s not that those of us struggling with perfectionism can’t see a multitude of options and possibilities. We can.

But all too often, us perfectionists find ourselves frozen in place at the outset as we attempt to choose the ultimate, ideal goal that will bring us the greatest benefit for the time and energy we invest.

And, perfectionism doesn’t just make it hard to get started. It can also make it extremely difficult to move forward and implement the steps necessary to achieve our goals.

If any of this feels familiar, I highly recommend you start by choosing a goal based on what matters most to you and not what you think you “should” be doing. It’s all too easy to set a goal based on the criticism of others or what you see others trying to achieve, but you’ll have a much harder time following through on the steps necessary to achieve your goal if the goal itself doesn’t resonate deeply with you.

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