Have you ever hydroplaned while driving along a water-covered highway or roadway? One moment you have control of your vehicle; the next moment you have no control. Your car has lost contact with the roadway and is floating, perhaps at high speed, on a layer of water. You’ve lost your anchor, and you’re probably feeling quite helpless—and scared! Wrecks result, injuries are sustained, and lives may be threatened or lost. Such frightening experiences remind us that staying anchored with the roadway is vitally important to safe travel. (Perhaps it’s time for us to check our tires since the tread may be wearing thin. A new set of tires could help us to maintain traction and thereby stay on the road—and stay alive!)

Many people “hydroplane” in life in a different way:  they experience anxiety attacks.  Let’s say that you’re traveling along the highway of life when suddenly “it” hits. Your heart starts pounding and your heart rate increases dramatically. Breathing becomes difficult as the chest feels constricted and tight. Sweat pops out over the body, perhaps alternating with chills. Your legs feel like jelly and the thought of fainting is frightening. Parts of the body begin to feel numb, and the extremities may tingle and shake. A sense of nervousness, light-headedness, and dizziness add to the misery. The stomach is filled with “butterflies” and becomes queasy and nauseated. Your mind is overcome by a sense of losing control, “going crazy,” and even dying. This horrible experience seems to last forever. You make your way to the nearest hospital for help. After the physical exam and the completion of several tests, the medical conclusion is, “Your heart if fine. What you had is a panic attack.” You’re thankful for your healthy heart, but now you have a new problem to consider. The term “panic attack” is a fitting description of the ordeal you just endured. You leave the emergency room with some short-term medication and a referral for psychotherapy.
 When we experience severe anxiety attacks (or panic attacks), we probably feel blown off course or disconnected. Numerous therapy clients with whom I’ve worked described their anxiety as “I always feel like I’m up in the air and can’t get my feet on the ground.” Like in a highway hydroplane situation, we seem to lose our anchor with life’s roadway.

         “I just can’t work on our relationship right now. I’m too depressed.”

Have you ever made this statement about depression? If you have, then you probably understand the negative impact that depression usually has on both road trips and relationship travels.
Depression. It’s an emotional state which could indicate that a major detour in your relationship travels is rapidly approaching. A healthy relationship journey assumes (and even requires) that both relationship partners are reasonably healthy as individuals, especially in regard to mental and emotional health. Any serious health problem can become a significant detour for the total relationship and can take the travelers off-course and into unexpected areas. One such threat is clinical depression. In our personal travels we usually groan with frustration when we face an unwelcomed detour; similarly, we can be deeply frustrated by a “depression detour.”
We understand that our moods affect our relationships, and our relationships certainly influence our moods. If either person is experiencing clinical depression, the relationship can be hurt, hindered, or seriously damaged. Obviously, any relationship is likely to struggle when either person does not feel like contributing effectively or participating actively. The depression could be related to some relationship problem that has been present for some time, and that ongoing problem continues to reinforce and worsen the depression. Such problems may have to be removed in order for the depression to be resolved. It is also true that the depression could have a strong negative impact on the relationship. The whole process may reach a point where it feels like we’re in a traffic circle:  we’re going round and round without making any progress toward our relationship destination. Then it becomes clear to us that our depression has become a major hindrance in our relationship journey. It’s also clear that some roadwork is in order!

“How in the world are we going to get through the holidays?”  The young mother agonized as she reminisced about past Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. For their family, the holidays had always meant wonderful reunions, delicious food, joyful gift-giving, and, most of all, just being together.  But this holiday season will be very different.  Someone will be absent.  The tears flowed as she recalled the late-night car crash which tragically claimed the life of her only daughter.  In mere seconds the meaning of all of her future holidays was suddenly and drastically changed.  On a larger scale, the meaning of all personal relationships was changed significantly and permanently.

Most people who have experienced the death of a loved one understand how holidays and special days are changed. They also come to understand the obvious and subtle changes that occur in their personal relationships. What about you?  What does the death of a loved one mean to you?  One person compared the sudden death of a family member to a tornado: “It came without warning, was completely unexpected, and left us in total devastation.  Everything was gone.”  Another grieving person thought about Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who had experienced a great loss.  Finding herself in a very strange place she was determined to find the Wizard, but first she had to face the lions, tigers, and bears.  Basically, Dorothy just wanted to go home.  Like Dorothy we usually want to turn back the clock and return to the “home” we knew before our loved one died.
Still another person in grief suggested that death is like a “passage,” both for the one who died and for those of us who are left behind.  As in a “passage” we experience a movement from one place to another, or we pass from one state, condition, or stage to another as we learn to live without our loved one. In our pain and fear we understandably wonder, “Is this really happening to me?”

“Say, friend, where are you heading?” Whether it’s a road trip or a relationship, the question is meaningful. The question is often an excellent conversation starter, especially for folks at rest stops and travel centers. The fellow-traveler may not respond, perhaps thinking, “What business is that of yours? Why do you want to know where I’m heading?” But most folks reply with a disclosure about their destination, then you follow up with your response, and the conversation is underway.

 If we’re referring to our human relationships, the question and the response are far more complicated and challenging. Consider your own relationships for a moment, and then ask yourself several questions. “What is the destination for my relationships? Where am I heading in my relationships? What’s my ultimate goal? What’s my purpose?”
Too often we’re a lot like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She asked Cheshire-Puss, “Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?” The cat replied, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice said, “I don’t much care where--.” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” the cat interrupted. Alice continued, “—so long as I get somewhere.” “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” replied the cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

 Are you currently experiencing a relationship mess? Have you hit a major roadblock and your relationship is in big trouble? Are you feeling hopeless and miserable? Are you looking for some type of Travel Guide to help you clear away the roadblock so you can move forward in your relationship journey? Let’s consider some Roadside Assistance.

 Can you identify the specific roadblock you’re hit? Could it be “relationship purpositis?” If it is, I can see why your journey has been stalled. Allow me to define the meaning of this deadly relationship roadblock by consulting the BDCRT.
According to the Baker Dictionary of Current Relationship Terminology (the BDCRT, Version 2005)*, the following description is provided on page 369 under Relationship Inflammations:
 “Purpositis:  an inflammation of the interactional purpose nerves occurring within human relationships.  The condition is usually characterized by increased irritability, anxiety symptoms, and sometimes severe depression depending upon the level of inflammation and whether the condition is in the initial or acute phase.  The inflammation which causes Purpositis may result from one of several underlying causes:  a lack of meaningful purpose, the conflict of different purposes, or the harmful effects of joint but negative purpose.  The condition usually worsens over time and, without resolution, may lead to relationship paralysis or demise.  Medication is not currently available for effective treatment. Purpositis is best treated preventively through the usage of Relationship Purpose Therapy conducted by a certified RPT therapist.”

 “Three people dead, five hospitalized.  Road-rage strikes again!”

Traveling Tension HighwayThe television video reports a multi-vehicle wreck scene on the interstate. The newspaper headline describes a growing threat in our everyday travel—road-rage! A driver allows inner tension to escalate to a boiling point, and then he explodes. Without thought of safety or consequence he chases a car ahead of him, or he tries to force someone off the road. His unmanaged tension becomes a major threat to the safety of every other driver—and their passengers—who occupy the same road.
 A civilized society does well to be deeply concerned about the alarming increase in road-rage incidents. Such a concern is certainly in order. Yet, while we attend to what is happening on our national and state highways, we must not forget that unmanaged tension is continuing to wreak havoc on our relationship roadways. Individuals are not accepting responsibility for their personal tension. They do not learn how to prevent the escalation of tension or how to reduce the tension that does occur. Rather than controlling their tension, they allow the tension to control them. The results are devastating: relationship injury and death!
Many men and women have entered therapy specifically to work on anger or tension management. One man explained, “I’m tired of being dumped by every girlfriend because she can’t take my anger problems.” He had paid a heavy price for unmanaged anger. Other people suffer different types of price tags for escalated tension:  sleep deprivation, health problems, and relationship stress. Their high levels of inner tension aggravate and intensify the problems they have already been battling. An entire family suffers horribly because one family member has had a tension meltdown. An individual’s health problems caused or aggravated by tension produce many ripple effects; every other family member is adversely affected. The tension highway is indeed a rough road to travel!

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