In this episode:
Her husband's betrayal and sexual addiction affected their earlier years of marriage, but transformation ultimately turned it into a counseling ministry. Debra talks about how growth through pain and finding God’s purpose.
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About Debra Laaser:
Debra Laaser is a licensed marriage and family therapist and cofounder and director of Faithful and True. She was involved in recovery with her husband, Mark, for 30 years and is committed to helping couples find healing and transformation from the pain of sexual addiction and relational betrayal. Debra has facilitated therapy groups for wives for over 20 years and now devotes her time to counseling spouses who have been relationally betrayed. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book Shattered Vows and, together with Mark, coauthored Seven Desires. She lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
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Quotes to Remember from Debra Laaser
- In time, with community of other women walking through this in good helps professional help, you can slowly begin to see the transformation that happens in all areas of your life. And that is so glorious to watch.
- I did not want to recover my old life. I wanted a new life, a different life, I wanted to transform through trials to become more of the person God created me to be.
- You can not only survive something really difficult, you can go on to thrive and grow in five different ways that they have found through research. One is that you can become a better self.
- Rarely do I find, in people I'm working with anyway, where there's really good information and training in terms of how to deal with difficult things.
- What does self-care look like? What are some of the next right steps you can do? What are healthy things you do to manage hard stuff rather than what we would call strategy strategies that really are unhealthy for us such as addictions?
- All addictions are a management strategy to really manage pain or woundedness, or trauma in one's life.
- One of the ways I dealt with hard things was simply to withdraw, and not to talk. And in some ways, that's a little bit like lying and hiding, too. …it doesn't give my spouse the chance to really know me.
- My faith is not only my own stories about how he's intervened in our lives to set us up for the perfect next step that we're facing, but also the hundreds of stories I learned from my clients.
- If you do not know how to describe what you are feeling, you may miss the chance of knowing what you need. Instead, you may just find a way to manage that feeling. You find a way to cope.
- We refer to coping as unhealthy ways we manage difficult emotions. When we're talking about healthy ways, we manage emotions, we call it self-care.
- This I find becomes one of the hardest things for many women who are walking a Christian journey because I think I'm hearing this so often, that we're not to attend to or focus on needs of our own, we're only supposed to focus on needs of others.
- And when we do that, I think we miss the opportunity of taking good care of ourselves through self-care so that we can be strong in herself and available kind of like we filled up our gas tank and we're ready to go to now help others.
- And I know God won't waste my pain, if I let him grow me up through this. Both can exist. I can be sad about some things sometimes. And I can know that it's taking me to a different place of transformation.
- When we pay attention to self-care, when we look at what our needs are, when we watch what gives us curiosity and a little bit of joy or passion, and we follow those threads of curiosity in our lives, I think what we find is they slowly lead us to the journey God has in mind for us,
- We start to reclaim who we are, first of all…we also start to connect more to things that really give us joy.
- When we're facing difficulty, we're not always our best self… tend to be our best self when things are going well.
Book: From Trauma to Transformation: A Path to Healing and Growth
Counseling Center Faithfulandtrue.com
www.classicmarriagebook.com Classic Marriage: Staying in Love as Your Odometer Climbs
Is your marriage ready for the long haul? There will be moments where you haul yourselves back to the garage for work. Like a trusty old truck, a classic marriage isn't perfect, but who can put a price tag on it? In this book, you'll find inspiration, honesty, and self-deprecating humor from the front seat of adventure with Michelle and Phil. Tips to get under the hood and keep your marriage on the road to a long future. Tune Up questions in every chapter to work on your communication tools to cool overheated emotions and repair broken hearts.
Michelle Rayburn 00:00
This week, my guest, Deborah Laaser, and I talk about what it's like to experience transformation after trauma. She talks about how she went through her husband's betrayal and sexual addiction in their earlier years of marriage, and how they experienced transformation from that and ultimately turned it into a counseling ministry. Now she's going through new trauma after having lost her husband. But we focus today on how trauma and transformation can coexist. Debbie is an expert, and I really appreciated this conversation. So if you need some hope in the middle of trauma, or you're going through a transformation of your own, maybe you haven't learned how to deal with hard things, and you've avoided pain. We talk about all of those things. So join us in this conversation as we talk about moving forward.
Michelle Rayburn 01:07
You're listening to Life Repurposed, where you'll find practical biblical wisdom for everyday living, creative inspiration, and helpful resources. Grow your faith, improve your relationships, discover your purpose and reach your goals with topics to encourage you to find hope amid the trashy stuff of life. Thanks for joining me today. I'm your host Michelle Rayburn.
Michelle Rayburn 01:31
Debra Laaser is a licensed marriage and family therapist and co-founder and director of Faithful & True. She was involved in recovery with her husband Mark for 30 years, and is committed to helping couples find healing and transformation from the pain of sexual addiction and relational betrayal. Debra has facilitated therapy groups for wives for over 20 years and now devotes her time to counseling spouses who have been relationally betrayed. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book Shattered Vows, and together with Mark co-authored Seven Desires. And today we're going to be talking about a brand new book that came out. We'll talk about that in the episode. So let's just jump right in.
Michelle Rayburn 02:12
Have you always lived in Minnesota? Because I found out that we're not that far away from each other.
Debra Laaser 02:17
Well, I actually grew up in the Chicago suburbs until I went to college and and then shortly after that, I got married and my husband and I moved a number of different times to the east coast where he was in school at Princeton, back to Iowa, and then eventually here to Minneapolis. So I lived here the longest of any place really, almost 35 years. So it feels very much like home to me. Yeah,
Michelle Rayburn 02:41
I don't think you've quite picked up the Minneapolis accent.
Debra Laaser 02:45
No, I still have the Chicago accent. And you guys and you know, I definitely talk like that.
Michelle Rayburn 02:53
I've lived in northern Wisconsin for about 16 years southern Wisconsin prior to that. So I still have the Wisconsin accent because I've been in the Midwest my entire life. But the longer I live here, the more I'm starting to say Wisconsin and Minnesota. Catching the accent is catching on for sure.
Debra Laaser 03:12
In the You betcha. And you know, the one thing for sure I do as a Minnesotan is the three long goodbyes I definitely fall into that category.
Michelle Rayburn 03:22
My husband has mastered that even with our kids. They can't come over without a long, long goodbye.
Debra Laaser 03:28
Yes. Well, it's a great place to live. I do like it.
Michelle Rayburn 03:32
It is Yes. We've talked about possibly thinking about warmer climates as we get older. But for now we'd like the snow. Yeah, I do too. So I'd like to know a little bit about your faith journey. And you don't have to tell the entire thing but sometimes going back to like, where did you start out? Were you in a family of faith that helps to set the foundation for those who are listening today.
Debra Laaser 03:54
I did grew up in a family that was they were church attenders. I grew up in the Methodist church actually so more traditional, I would say that what my faith journey has looked like is, is a slow growth towards a more personal relationship with Christ. And actually that has happened through painful traumatic situations in my life. I think that's drawn me into what it really means to walk a Christian life and depend on God in especially in times that are really difficult. So I would say that that's a continual journey for me is living that out. What does it really mean to trust in the Lord depend on Him in all things. And right now as a widow, which is part of my story of the last three years, that's even growing more and more, you know how to delight in the Lord so that he fills you with all the desires of your life. That is becoming more and more real as I faced this really difficult time of being a widow.
Michelle Rayburn 04:51
And just from having looked through your bio, I know that you've been through a lot of seasons, ups and downs, and I was really drawn to your story when your latest book came through a newsletter from your publisher, I saw the cover, I saw the word transformation, I thought of my life repurposed audience and, and I knew immediately without even opening the book that you would have a story that my listeners would want to hear. And one of the things that you talk about in your book is the difference between recovery and transformation. And we're gonna get to that. But I'd like to know how you got to a point where you have a counseling ministry. And tell us a little bit about who you counsel, the audience that you serve there.
Debra Laaser 05:33
Well, actually, it It all began with the story, my husband and I were facing about 15 years into our marriage, when his sexual addiction was discovered, and brought out into the open. And prior to that, I really, I used to say, I didn't know anything about that. So it was a total shock to me. As I look back, though, there were red flags, they were hunches, they were what I would call now really Holy Spirit urges to look at things and for various reasons, I really didn't. So when that came out, it was a real shock. And thankfully, we were surrounded by some people who really knew where to find help. And this was back in 1987, where really, sex addiction was only beginning to be labeled. Dr. Patrick Carnes, the founder of the field had opened in a treatment center here in Minneapolis, actually, which was the first one of its kind and there was a man who was part of the as we would say, intervention or firing of my husband, when colleagues found out about his secret life. And he was led to that to that treatment center. That included also a family week where I attended and really for the first time, I began to be introduced to what counseling was what group counseling was education about addiction, I mean, I, I grew up in a very naive home. And all of this was totally off my radar. So that was the beginning of my journey. And when when we both left there—Mark was there for 30 days, ad I was there for one week of that—they arranged for both of us to get counseling when we got home. And I was thinking to myself, hey, you know, this, this is the guy that needs fixing, not me. I was a little surprised that they had found something someone for me to go to. But I wanted to look supportive and loving and not oppositional because I figured they were kind of watching that in me and maybe labeling me with something or other. And so I dutifully went to my first counseling session and my first women's group, and I'll tell you, I worked with such an amazing therapist at the time that it started to change my whole outlook on getting help and what that might mean. So for both my husband and I, we worked diligently, he understanding the root causes of his behaviors. And me dealing with the grief and the loss and the pain of what I now knew to be true about him. And we worked on that for many years, actually. And my husband was a pastoral counselor when he fell from his own addiction. And so when he re entered the field, and a number of years later, he began to specialize in addiction. And there's a much longer story to all that, of course, in terms of his working with Dr. Patrick Carnes over the years as well. And so I was doing some other things, I had started a company with a friend, and I was in that field for quite a while, and I just kept feeling God's nudge to leave that and work with my husband. So eventually, I went back to graduate school, I earned my degree in family and marriage counseling, and became licensed in the state of Minnesota. And that led us to work together in the field, open our own counseling center. And we've been doing that for many, many years.
Michelle Rayburn 09:04
I imagine there's a listener right now, who is feeling how you felt when you found out about your husband's betrayal, because since that time, the internet has brought so many opportunities for sexual addiction that didn't even exist back in the day. And so now, I'm discovering there are so many people in church circles, that have secrets, and the wives are often the ones carrying that. So how did you—how did you save your marriage during that time, because I've known so many people whose marriages have ended because of sexual addiction?
Debra Laaser 09:37
Well, I think what's true, Michelle is that there's so much pain when we're introduced to something traumatic. And I think our gut reaction is to want to reduce pain. I mean, that's just a natural reaction. And fighting that, fleeing that is often the first thing someone will do because they believe that this is so painful. The only way to find In some relief and peace in their life is to leave. Thankfully, in our situation, we had help that arrived, it was kind of like an ambulance, really, that arrived at a crash scene, and we were taken to the ER. And we got a lot of help very fast. And I do believe God was in the timing of all that, as I said, there wasn't much help. At that time, there were not many people trained. And here we were, at really the best inpatient treatment center within three days of all of this. I think, without education without support of others that understand root causes of things. We start interpreting things from our behavioral perspective, you look at someone who's been unfaithful, you think this is not the person I married, I'll never be able to trust again, they've ruined my life, nothing will ever work, it will be good again. And we live with those beliefs about our life. And if we don't get help, to really reframe some of that or to live in what is really true, we will often flee. And so my greatest hope for for wives, women who are facing this, is that they get help fast with someone who can hold hope for them, when they don't have any themselves. And that is what I find I do for a lot of women early on, I mean, and I wouldn't expect them to think they could ever trust again or things would, you know, have been wasted in their life. And what I find is, in time, with community of other women walking through this in good helps professional help, you can slowly slowly begin to see the transformation that happens in all areas of your life. And that is so glorious to watch.
Michelle Rayburn 11:44
Yeah, and that's where we come to that difference between recovery and transformation. I want to read something from your book for the listeners, you said, "I decided to abandon the word recovery many years ago. It is a term used by many people who are working through difficult life situations or addictions. But it seemed an inadequate and limiting way to describe the ultimate outcome of experiencing growth. I did not want to recover my old life. I wanted a new life, a different life, I wanted to transform through trials to become more of the person God created me to be." That gave me such encouragement because we do use that word recovery. So tell us a little bit more about that distinction.
Debra Laaser 12:26
Well, just as I mentioned, there recovering something for us as a couple where there were secrets and lying and unfaithfulness. That wasn't very attractive, although that it's also true that we had a lot of good things in our life, we had three small children, healthy, we were involved in community and church and careers. And those were all good things. It wasn't like our life was awful. In fact, that's probably why I overlooked some of the red flags that came along the way because there was so much that was good. But transforming means that in in the clinical world, there is a word that we use called post-traumatic growth. And that word really describes what we're finding through a lot of research in all kinds of traumatic situations, that with resources and the right kind of support, you can not only survive something really difficult, you can go on to thrive and grow in five different ways that they have found through research. One is that you can become a better self, as I mentioned. They're stronger, better self. Two, your relationships can be much richer. Three, your faith journey grows, as I was kind of explaining early on when you asked me about that. Four, your priorities often change in life. And five, there are often new possibilities for you, which may begin to speak to your question for your listeners about how can I find purpose and passion in my life, a lot of times that is birthed out of something very difficult. So what I loved about post traumatic growth, as I actually did my thesis on that, in my master's program, I knew that I had fallen on a topic that was definitely my personal growth over a number of years. And it totally matched with my theology in Scripture. James 1:2-4 is my really my favorite, you know, count it all joy when you face things that are difficult, because it leads to perseverance and perseverance will grow you up and not leave you incomplete, about anything. And so, you know, God knew this all along, we face her things. And I think for many of us, it's whether we're going to face her things and accept that. While he may not want them for us, I can't believe he delivered sexual addiction to our lives for some good reason. And I also know that he will use it and he won't waste that pain in my life. If I'll start asking "What would you have me learn?" rather than "Why me?" So that becomes the journey, I think to growing through difficult things.
Michelle Rayburn 15:07
Debbie, you've mentioned hard things a couple times here. And there was something you said in your book that it made me grin, but also grimace because I was thinking of it. You said I did not learn how to deal with hard things growing up. And I thought about that I was I lived in a Christian family, I was sheltered from things. Is this something you commonly see in people that you counsel that there's a we haven't learned how to deal with hard things?
Debra Laaser 15:34
Yes, I think that can be very much a part of a lot of families. And, and there are reasons why we do that. As a parent today, I know I want to protect my children from difficult things, I want to jump in and rescue them, whether it's keeping them from flunking a class and reminding them about turning in things to making sure they're driving safely. You know what I mean, as parents, we do that we want to protect our children. I think sometimes we can overdo that, however, and we don't teach them how to handle hard things. You know, for instance, in my family, I never really saw my parents argue about anything or resolve conflict in front of us. I'm sure there was some. I mean, we all have that when we are in close relationships, there's no way to grow close to people, without what I call having differences, may call them conflict, I like to call it difference, resolution. And so in some ways, we didn't know how that look. Now, in some families conflict is solved by fighting and drama and those kinds of things, which are also hard for children to watch. But rarely do I find, in people I'm working with anyway, where there's really good information and training in terms of how to deal with difficult things. What does self care look like? What are some of the next right steps you can do? What are healthy things you do to manage hard stuff rather than what we would call strategy strategies that really are unhealthy for us such as addictions? All addictions are a management strategy to really manage pain or woundedness, or trauma in one's life. And so when we begin to know that we could begin perhaps to find safer solutions to things, rather than unsafe ones,
Michelle Rayburn 17:30
I think about even in terms of things that happened within the church, how I in the past would just quit a volunteer position when it got too hard. Having those difficult conversations with people in your marriage as you moved forward, then and you realize we have to deal with this difficult thing. What challenges then did you face after you started to experience that transformation and healing in your relationship?
Debra Laaser 18:00
Well, I think some of it is about learning how to trust Mark in a different way. And I do have a pretty thorough chapter on that in my book. I think one of the things is I learned how to trust more maturely in any relationship for that matter. Because as I described, when I fell in love with Mark, we were young, and I love to he was and I just trusted Him about everything. I just didn't even think about it. And I think when we move forward, we learn to trust more maturely and more completely in other ways. So I won't get into all of that. But that is a chapter in my book. I think we also learn how to trust ourselves. And that was something I needed to learn as well meaning you know, those hunches those is I call them today, really Holy Spirit, directions in my life or messages, feelings, thoughts that are passing through, am I really learning that these are important for me to scrutinize until and to make sure and check out at least to make sure that there's something that I need to deal with? Can I also start to trust that I have needs and it's okay to ask for those needs? And can I talk about what I'm really feeling and thinking?
Debra Laaser 19:14
One of the ways I dealt with hard things was simply to withdraw, and not to talk. And in some ways, that's a little bit like lying and hiding, too. I mean, what about unfaithful behavior, and it doesn't give my spouse the chance to really know me. So that becomes a really important part in terms of trusting myself, and of course, all the elements of trusting God in situations, his timing, first of all, I think, for most of us, we want to drive the agenda and how quickly things happen, and what we need to make things happen. And I have certainly found over the years that his timing is often way slower than what I would like and trusting. Then he has some amazing ideas for how to heal things and way beyond again, my efforts, there's that learning to surrender when I'm trying trying to manage something, and it just doesn't seem to work out. You know, when do I make a decision when I've done all I can do to surrender to God and all of his wonderful ideas and ways. And I think that's one of the things that continues to grow. My faith is not only my own stories about how he's intervened in our lives to set us up for the perfect next step that we're facing, but also the hundreds of stories I learned from my clients. I mean, when we learn to trust God that way, it is a totally different thing than just kind of reading Scripture. It's more of an intellectual place where I think this new place is way more at a heart level.
Michelle Rayburn 20:53
Yeah, listener for for your information. We keep talking about Debbie's books, I want to give you the title in case you're someone like me who likes to go to the internet and look things up. And we'll give links at the end here too, but it is called From Trauma to Transformation: A Path to Healing and Growth.
Michelle Rayburn 21:15
This episode is sponsored by ClassicMarriageBook.com. Is your marriage ready for the long haul? In a marriage, there will be hours of maintenance work tinkering, breakdowns, meltdowns, blow ups, cute photo ops, wear and tear, overhauls, memories, vacations, celebrations, and repairs. There will be moments where you haul yourselves back to the garage for work. Like a trusty old truck, a classic marriage isn't perfect, but who can put a price tag on it? In this book, you'll find inspiration, honesty, and self-deprecating humor from the front seat of adventure with Michelle and Phil. Tips to get under the hood and keep your marriage on the road to a long future. Tune Up questions in every chapter to work on your communication tools to cool overheated emotions and repair broken hearts. You can find more at ClassicMarriageBook.com and find out how to get your copy of Classic Marriage: Staying in Love as Your Odometer Climbs and the downloadable discussion questions that you can do together.
Michelle Rayburn 22:22
Debbie, in the book, you have a quote that really stood out for me because I'm an emotional person, but I'm not very good at identifying my feelings. And you said this, you said "If you do not know how to describe what you are feeling, you may miss the chance of knowing what you need. Instead, you may just find a way to manage that feeling. You find a way to cope." That was so insightful. And I'd like you to talk a little bit about coping. And I know we can't get into all of it because you really go into in great detail in the book. And that's super helpful. But just for we use that term cope and and it's not always healthy.
Debra Laaser 22:58
And different people use coping in different ways to sometimes people, therapists or people in general and books use coping as we have good coping, and we have bad coping. We like to distinguish between those though those two things in our counseling center. And we refer to coping as unhealthy ways we manage difficult emotions. When we're talking about healthy ways, we manage emotions, we call it self care. And so I guess it might be easiest to talk about the first of all that my belief is our feelings are great messengers to us about things we need. This I find becomes one of the hardest things for many women who are walking a Christian journey because I think I'm hearing this so often, that we're not to attend to or focus on needs of our own, we're only supposed to focus on needs of others. And when we do that, I think we miss the opportunity of taking good care of ourselves through self care so that we can be strong in herself and available kind of like we filled up our gas tank and we're ready to go to now help others. But what I find and I did write about in my book is we get so depleted if we work from that place of not caring for ourselves, but only listening to the needs of others. We are human beings living on earth and we have needs for someone to say we shouldn't have needs I think is ludicrous, really not bad. But if we listen to our emotions, it can very much at times tell us something we need. I'll give you an example of you know, my speaking for instance, is never something that comes that easily to me in front of audiences. And I can get very nervous when when I'm asked to do that. Thankfully historically, I generally did that with my husband, and he loves speaking. And so I always had his support there. But all that to say my anxiety was telling me that I needed something. And one of the things, I needed a couple of things I needed to make sure I was prepared. Because when I spoke with my husband, he's very ad lib, he remembers everything, he can have a speech, and they'll have it in his brain for the rest of his life. I don't work that way. So I needed to ask him, when we spoke together to do a certain amount of preparation. I also found I needed to know a few people in the front row when I went to speak. And so when I went to someplace to give a workshop or training with him, I would go up to the front row, introduce myself, get chatting with them a little bit. And, and by the time I started talking, I felt like I had a whole bunch of friends sitting there nodding their head at me, and that was great. And you know, all of that led to my anxiety reducing tremendously. That's a great example of how our feelings will lead us to needs. And they can be very simple. So a lot of times women are very afraid of, of being triggered about things. That's another word I use in the book triggered is when we have an emotional reaction to something that's going on. And if we can learn to interrogate that, and first of all, name, what the feelings are, tell ourselves what it is, we're thinking about that. And then we can figure out what we need, we start taking amazing care for ourselves, it leads to amazing growth in who we are,
Michelle Rayburn 26:36
You have some helpful tools too, in the book that I really liked. Like, there's a chart where you can circle when I get mad, sad, scared, lonely, ashamed, what do I tend to do? And then to look at? Are these self care? Or are these just unhealthy coping? So I really appreciate the tools that you have in there, you also ask the question or ask your your readers to ask the question, what is it like to live with me? That's a really vulnerable question to ask. Because I asked myself that question. And I thought, you know, there are times where I don't think my husband feels safe. Living with me, because of how I express my feelings when I'm scared, angry, lonely, you know, those kinds of things, where then he isn't safe to express how he feels. Because I'm, I'm twitchy, you know, I'm, like, really, like, there's a trigger there. So I love that you asked that. But you you talk about how despair and growth and trauma and transformation, all of those things can coexist. So what word of encouragement do you have for the listener who's thinking that they need to get rid of the despair so that growth can happen or the trauma has to be gone before transformation can happen?
Debra Laaser 27:54
Well, I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the both and or we have ampersands all over our counseling center here, because we believe that the truth is complicated. And the only way to make sense of truth is to think about using both and statements instead of either or, if we're thinking about it in a black and white way, or either or we say, well, I either have to live with this trauma forever, and I'm victim of it, and it's going to impact me for the rest of my life. Or I have to put it away somewhere and just focus on moving forward and not not thinking about that. That doesn't work. You know, unfortunately, our bodies remember hard things were learned to forgive because we face hard things eventually. But if we can embrace it with both and and say, I know that I can go through hard things. And I know God won't waste my pain, if I let him grow me up through this. Both can exist. I can be sad about some things sometimes. And I can know that it's taking me to a different place of transformation. And that's truly where I am with the two largest, you know, traumas in my life with a sexual addiction and now the death of my husband. Yeah. And I would have to say is I can think back easily 35 years to remember some of those days that were so difficult I can I can bring that up in a nanosecond. Do I need to not not usually except that I work in this field and we talk about it all the time. If I weren't doing that, I can say that generally speaking, it does not identify my my life today at all, except that I realized God has taken something very difficult and grown me up so that I can be a helper to others through my own experience and story. So yeah, both and is a wonderful way to think about sharing things that are going on for you. You know, it could be I hate what my husband is doing right now, and I love the guy, you know, both can be true. And so we don't want to throw either one away, we want to deal with the part that's not doing so well or it was painful or traumatic. And keep the part that is good, hopefully.
Michelle Rayburn 30:17
That's exactly the message that I want to get through to listeners on Life Repurposed. Because that's how it is, it started with decorating ideas where we don't throw the thing out, we find a different way of presenting it, so that we see the beauty in it. And so that really is the the essence of life repurposed. Debbie, where can people find you online? Where can they connect with you?
Debra Laaser 30:41
The website for our counseling center is faithfulandtrue.com. With "and" spelled out. Also, my recent book, of course, is is available in our bookstore in our on our website, it's available through BakerPublishingGroup.com. Amazon, I know also, and I honestly don't know what other bookstores yet it's newly out. So I know, the place is for sure.
Michelle Rayburn 31:07
Yeah, I will link in the show notes to your website and to your book so people can find it. Who did you have in mind when you were writing From Trauma to Transformation?
Debra Laaser 31:16
Well, because I work in the field that I do, I obviously have been looked at as kind of an expert in terms of helping women work through betrayal trauma. However, what I have come to know overall, my counseling over the last 20 plus years is that this is for anyone facing something difficult and wanting to be a better person and connect with their own passion and purpose. Because all of the things that I talk about in this book, I think, well, first of all, do help you move through something hard if you're in that place. But more so they lead you to a journey that I believe is about your journey of being filled with passion and purpose by God, which I know all of us have been given. When we pay attention to self-care, when we look at what our needs are, when we watch what gives us curiosity and a little bit of joy or passion, and we follow those threads of curiosity in our lives, I think what we find is they slowly slowly lead us to the journey God has in mind for us, you know, this whole idea of how do I find purpose in my life is so difficult. For many, it's just too big of a concept. But I think when we start working slowly, slowly with the ideas I am talking about in the book, we start to reclaim who we are, first of all, and I think in that reclaiming, we also start to connect more to things that really give us joy. When we start asking for our needs and getting help for instance, we start unburdening ourselves from only taking care of others so that we can spend a little time knowing what's giving us that little passion or jump for joy or a little song in our heart. And we start following that slowly and see where it leads us. And so I guess why I liked this book so much is it's all the practical things I have talked to forever in my therapy groups, and in my counseling, and I thought, you know, these are not rocket science necessarily. Maybe if I have them in a book, someone can do a lot of these things by, you know, reading about them, gathering some friends to do this together. Probably getting some professional help along the way, I think. And there was just so much that's practical. And I'm such a practical person. I wanted to get it into print all these things that I've been working on for so many years.
Michelle Rayburn 33:47
Yeah, it really is practical. And then at the end of the book, you have Gentle Assignments, so people can apply that. So how have you seen people using that part of the book, The gentle assignments and personal group? Or how are they using that?
Debra Laaser 34:01
My hope is, of course, that it could be used personally. However, I do know that we tend to take more serious what we're working on and talking about, if we can do it with a few other people, I think it's a great thing to maybe do with other women who are interested in just the self exploration, which can start when you're in something difficult. You know, what's true is when we're we're facing difficulty, we're not always our best self, you know, we tend to be our best self when things are going well. So it's a great time to not only move through something difficult, but then to start observing who we are be our own little gentle observer. And asking these questions and contemplating them with other women is a great way to kind of do a little bit of your own counseling, I would say with some other folks.
Michelle Rayburn 34:53
And preparation. I like how you tied together the fact that going through the trauma you did with your husband prepared you for your current season after having lost your husband. So each each thing we go through is preparation for another thing, we're not promised a trouble-free life. So I love that this is a tool for preparation too.
Debra Laaser 35:15
Yes, absolutely. I would definitely say that Michelle, and given my age today, and you know, I've worked through life with my children and all their seasons of growing and they're all adults now, too. And they've had difficulties and, you know, I, I've faced a number of different things, as you said, I mean, we we are not a trouble-free life and learning what to do with those and how to what do I want to learn when I'm in difficult times? And how do I want to grow? I mean, I think for me, a lot of it right off the bat is what is my self-care when I'm in really difficult times, I think I mentioned in my book about needing to sleep after Mark passed away, I, I couldn't believe how exhausted I was with the four year journey with him through his cancer. And I had no idea because I was just on that get her done pace that I'm very capable of doing. Get 'er done, run the Counseling Center, get to work, help him drive to that stuff. You know, it was an exhausting journey. And I had no idea how tired I was until I sat down and really listened to how Spirit was speaking to me. So it's a great example of how some of these next right steps are not huge, you know, they're just very practical things. And slowly, slowly, it has led me back to my work and what feels right and given me joy in smaller and different ways. But those next right steps that are really led by how the spirits telling me, I think this is time for you to start this I listen to my emotions that listen to those thoughts, pray about those things, and just watch for where my peace returns. And what that's leading me to next.
Michelle Rayburn 36:59
Listener, the book is From Trauma to Transformation. Debbie, is there anything we haven't covered today that you would want our listeners to know?
Debra Laaser 37:07
Oh, gosh, there's so many things...[laughter] As a counselor, I love working with women and love knowing that women are working on really living in their loving loveliness and God's truth about who they are. And, you know, we get rocked off of that place through many, many experiences in our life. And I really think one of the first places is to recognize how that happened, and how to return to that place of living loved. When we don't live loved, I think we do start to cope in unhealthy ways. Lots of things, we may drink wine, we may buy all kinds of clothes to try to help ourselves look better. We may constantly be avoiding others, we may be withdrawing a lot. We may be irritated and angry a lot arranging a lot. But oftentimes that that core belief that I'm not really enough for, I'll never be good enough, or I don't know that I'm all that livable is a great place to start. And when we start loving ourselves more by liking how we're doing life. I think we can slowly slowly start embracing God's truth about who we are, that I you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you're a treasure to me. And when we live life, such that we also like how we're reacting, how we're treating others in all areas of our life, I think it's easier to finally connect to what God says about us. So I want that place for everyone.
Michelle Rayburn 38:40
Debbie, thank you so much for sharing with my audience today. And congratulations on the book release.
Debra Laaser 38:46
Well, thank you. I so relate to you and your upcycling and repurposing. We're right on the same lane so to speak cu rrently.
Michelle Rayburn 38:54
Debra Laaser 38:56
Thank you, Michelle, for having me.
Michelle Rayburn 38:57
Michelle Rayburn 38:58
You'll find a link to everything we talked about in this episode in the blog post that accompanies it at MichelleRayburn.com/146. I'll link to Debbie's website to the book and anything else that we talked about in our interview. I am just about wrapping up in a couple of episodes. We wrapping up this season. I'm excited about the other guests that are coming up. So stay with me all the way through the rest of season 5 here, because we're talking about more transformation, and more ways that we can learn through the hardships of life. So thank you so much for being here with me today. I look forward to seeing you next time. You've been listening to Life Repurposed with Michelle Rayburn. Check out tips, resources, and inspiration at Michellerayburn.com to get the show notes for this episode. Each week, I share links to everything mentioned in the episode, graphics you can share, and guest quotes. Before you go, which friend needs to hear this episode? Share a link with a note to invite them to listen.
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