Faith & Life: Tracking down the problem's root

Think of an area of your life that brings you insecurity, causes you to feel stuck, unable to move forward with an activity or behavior, or has even left you paralyzed with fear.

For some, this can be their self concept: never good enough, of no value, unable to succeed, worthless. For others, it is how they perform. They feel unable to get a higher education, be a good wife or husband, handle finances or do paperwork well.

Therapists walk individuals through their life via talk, and we often see an exact event that began the feeling of not being good enough. Either the person was made to feel that they would never be good enough in that particular area, or they were aware that their accuser was not accurate because they already had a good self concept, but they lost hope in the situation or relationship ever being fruitful.

An example of this was a young wife who was a stay-at-home mom by choice. She could have done anything with her life career-wise, but she excelled at cooking, cleaning, entertaining, raising her kids and even leading ministries in her church. She came from a good home where her father was emotionally healthy and praised her. Yet her husband never did.

He would go through spells of being mean. He would ridicule her worth, her ability to do things, and even went so far as to tell her she was mentally ill and was going to call the mental hospital on her. Friends encouraged her that her husband was abusive — and far off target. But she stayed for two decades until his cruelty got dangerous physically.

This man had all the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He was never wrong, only cared for people as an extension of him (for example, when his wife made an outstanding meal for his work associates, he would then brag about her).

He had no ability to feel empathy, showed no compassion unless people were watching, and only saw things his way. And that way was the right and accurate way, by golly.

Over the years, who this woman really was disintegrated, and she was a mere shadow of her former self — the self that shone, succeeded, was admired and loved by all who met her. In her therapeutic work, she retold many stories. We pinpointed the exact time and incident that she felt hopeless about herself and incompetent.

She had completed, successfully, a huge project for her husband's job. Somehow this threatened him. Instead of praising her for doing something that helped him, he ripped up her report in a rage, telling her she did it wrong. She stood stunned. She knew that what she had done was correct. She knew she had done it with a loving and even submissive heart.

He clearly showed his narcissism when he was threatened. It took decades for her to believe she was competent. That was her wound, planted there in that moment: “Maybe I really am not competent.”

She is brilliant, competent, humble, and she shines. The way she shines attracted her husband. Then it threatened him, so he made sure to keep her under his thumb with ridicule so she would not shine. It started in that moment. That is how we look at this psychologically.

Spiritually, we call this the moment a stronghold took root. If you are a Christian, no doubt you believe in Satan's lies and the way they are used to bring doubt into our lives, thus crushing the shining we are created to do for God and his purposes.

While her husband is in no way Satan, Satan did use this moment to rob this woman's hope, self worth and joy. And it was not fleeting; it lasted for years until she got professional help. Through her therapy, insight and even prayer, she found hope again and realized her husband, not her, was lacking.

It was time for her to heal, and heal she did.

If any of this rings true for you in a different context or circumstance, please write me. It may be time for you to be set free. And trust me, so many of us have been on both sides of this story. We know what it is to come over to the side of healing. And this just may be your time.

KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN holds a licensed marriage and family degree and can be reached by email at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com, or by mail at Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, Inc. 2233 Honolulu Ave. Ste 310, Montrose, CA 91020.

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