Archive for the ‘lost’ Tag

Write Your Own Story!   4 comments

Most of us have heard the old saying, “He who angers you, controls you.” I contend that anger is not the only emotion that we can let others to control us. These emotional ties come from many sources: past abuse or trauma, abandonment/rejection, unfaithfulness. Other sources include current disturbing behaviors such as substance abuse, violence run away, etc. They control us because we choose to have our lives driven by our emotional reactions to the behaviors of others. Lets discuss these two very different scenarios.

First lets look at control from the past. Please consider the following example;

A young man feels and believes he was abandoned and rejected by his birth mother. Despite being raised by a loving and caring step-mother, he never gets over the feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and bitterness. As a result of these feelings, he grows to believes that he is not worthy of being loved or wanted. So all of his relationships are either short lived because as soon as things start getting “too close”, whether consciously or not, he sabotages the relationship and pushes others away. This is not true just in romantic relationships, it can also be true in platonic relationships as well. If this is not what he does then he finds the “sickest” or neediest girl that he can and goes to work making her dependent on him. Why? If she need him to take care of her, she won’t leave, and thus abandon/reject him. (So he believes anyway).

 So what is the driving force behind these behaviors?

 His behavior is controlled by his unresolved issues from his mother. Thus, I would say that because he allows these beliefs and emotions to continue to shape and direct his life, he chooses to give the control of his life, the pen of his story, back to his mother, rather she wants it or not.

 When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

 Now, lets look at the other scenario, current disturbing behaviors of others that control our emotions and behaviors. As mentioned above, there are a number of behaviors that may contribute to this type of reaction: substance abuse, anger, violence, criminal behavior, run away, manipulation, etc. We have all been in this situation to some degree or another.

 Here again, lets look at another example:

 A young lady is in a relationship with an alcoholic/addict that disappears on binges for days at a time. She sits at home, crying and worrying that he is OK. When he does finally come home, she nurses him through coming down and withdrawal and then does everything that she can to clean up after him. If he misses work, she calls the boss and tells him he is sick. She keeps the secret hidden, yet she is miserable, lonely, depressed and hates every minute of it.

So here again, why? Similarly, she believes that is what a “good wife” does; “no one else would love me and want to be with me.” Whatever the case she continues to let his behaviors and her emotional response. This is especially difficult when the individual is not a spouse or even a parent, but your child.

To a degree, you feel responsible, you blame yourself, you ask yourself over and over, “What did I do wrong?” The truth is, for most of us, we did nothing wrong. Our loved ones/children have made their own choices. Despite all of our efforts now an in the past, we have no control over their choices and behaviors.

On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to be consumed by worry and attempts to “save them from themselves.” then we are giving them that exact control over our lives. We allow their behaviors and our emotional response to them to consume our very being.

We all know exactly what I am talking about; it is classic “codependency”. Sometimes we are aware of it and are even willing to acknowledge it, but we have been this way so long, we don’t know any other way to live. We have completely lost our identity as an individual because we are so enmeshed with our addicted loved one.

I hear you saying, “thanks for pointing out all that is wrong with me. That was really encouraging.” I truly understand, but what is the first step of solving a problem or fixing something is wrong? We have to recognize that what we have been doing to this point is number one not changing the other person, and number two and most importantly we are unhappy and in fact, miserable.

That brings me to the good news or bad news depending on your point of view, some recommendations on how to change this cycle and reclaim our emotions and behaviors. Here why I say it could be considered bad news: It is NOT going to be easy, and it WILL take a lot of work. So if you are ready to take the challenge and start living YOUR life again, then keep reading, if not good luck.

When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

Whether, it is the current or past, we must find a way, to do the hardest, but most important thing: “LET GO”.

 We must accept that there is nothing that we can do to change the events of the past. Holding on to the pain, anger, and any other related negative emotions only hinders our ability to move forward and meet our full potential. I know that this is a painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The same is true in regards to letting go of the expectation that we can change the dysfunctional and negative behaviors of our loved ones. Our worrying about them, nagging, yelling, threatening does not effect positive change, in fact many of these behaviors lead to exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

 The very best thing that we can do is express our love and concern for our loved one and then pray believing that the Heavenly Father will keep is eye and hand upon them. We can not go on protecting them from the consequences of their choices and behavior. When we do so, we simply enable the behavior to continue.

 Just like overcoming the past, and moving on, I know this is a difficult and painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The next step is probably just about as difficult, we must start reclaiming our own identity. For many of us we have been so entangled in the past or the behaviors of others that we have lost even the ability to recognize who we even are without that to define us.

 Start simply, set aside some time with just you, paper and pen or your computer.

  • List all the current roles that “define” you (mother, father,son, sister, teacher, friend, etc).

  • List your values? (What is important to you? – faith honesty, kindness, family, friends, etc.)

  • List the character traits that either define you now, or that you would like to do so. (strong, independent, hopeful, etc.)

  • List your strengths. (What are you good at?)

  • List your weaknesses. (What do you need to work on?)

  • What are your goals? (Where are you going, what do you want to do with your life?

  • Finally, write out a narrative that would describe you as person. Start with the list from above and describe your personality, your likes/dislikes, strengths weaknesses and most importantly where are YOU going in future?

Now, each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I can love and support others, but they must choose their own path. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

I feel like this article has been a little disjointed, but I hope and pray that it helps you to let go and start living your own life again.

Thanks for reading!

R2R

 

So You Think You Know Me….   4 comments

The Paradox of Masks

“Society is a masked ball, where every one hides his real character,and reveals it by hiding” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all wear a mask from time to time, many of us more than one and to tell the truth some of us live in them.  I consider the afore mentioned quote, “Society is a masked ball….” I envision people all standing around talking, but each is holding a masquerade mask covering his/her face. Then as someone leaves one group to visit with a different group, they change masks before they get to the next group.

 Even the great Apostle Paul said the following, “I have become all things to all people” in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

It is actually natural and healthy to adapt and conceal our parts personality to a degree when we are interacting in different situations or settings.  We all have different roles that we play. We  are a father/mother, a husband/wife, son/daughter,  supervisor/employee, teacher/student, a friend, etc. In each of these roles, we portray a little different version of ourselves than we do with the others. This adaption is normal and expected. I was recently discussing the concept of masks with some other travelers on the “Road” and the idea came to me that in these situations, it is more like having a veil that only partially hides the face; we partially conceal our true personality rather than covering it entirely.

However, many of have taken that next step and we wear a various masks, thus hiding our true personality entirely.

The question that must be asked is, “Why?” Why do we feel it is a necessity to wear masks and hide who we really are from others?

There are many different answers to this question; we will focus on the one that fits more than any other.

Life experiences have taught that others can not be trusted. If others are allowed “too close”, then they will disappoint and hurt us.

What kind of hurts have we experienced? These include: abuse, neglect, rejection, abandonment, just to name a few.

I know in my life personally, I felt abandoned and rejected by my mother. So in order to feel loved and accepted, I would enter a group and look around at the attitudes, behaviors and personalities of others in the group and I would proverbially, paint my mask to be similar to theirs.

The mask that I wore more than any other was the mask of caretaker and hero. Everyone of my “romantic” relationships up until I met my now wife of 15 years, were very co-dependent and dysfunctional. I figured that I wasn’t good enough for the “normal” girls. So I found subconsciously I sought out someone that needed to be “fixed” or “taken care of” as much as I needed to be needed.

Along my way on this journey, I have met MANY others that due to whatever reason, they have taken on the same types of behaviors. We have become people pleasers and co-dependent, seeking to insure that EVERYONE else is happy even when doing so makes us miserable on the inside.

This is no surprise to anyone, but if we live our lives hiding behind a mask, we will never be happy or find peace. We go from place to place and group to group always making sure that we are wearing the “right” mask for the occasion. Then we find ourselves in a crisis when we encounter people from different groups simultaneously. For example you out to dinner with your significant other, and “one of the guys” form the office comes up to you and tells you an off color joke that you know that your date is going to find offensive. What do you do? Which mask to you reveal?

Although I know it’s unfair I reveal myself one mask at a time” Stephen Dunn

 “It’s a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don’t lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath –as terrible as you like –but a mask.”Katherine Mansfield

There comes a point that as much as he hate it as unhappy as we are wearing masks, we get to the point that we no longer know how to live without them. We do not know how to interact and relate with others in any other way. We wear s certain mask for so long that we “become” the mask that we wear, yet we despise every moment of it, and start hating ourselves for getting to that point. We are miserable within our own skin and consciousness and have no idea what to do about it. This misery has led to many of the self-destructive habits and behaviors that led to us being on this journey; substance abuse, self-harming, eating disorders, suicide attempts and ideation, etc.

“Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.”  William Somerset Maugham

 “He who wears a mask cannot see within himself.” Anonymous

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. …You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” Jim Morrison

We have gotten to the point that we have completely lost knowing who we really are because all we see is the mask. We have even tried to “look inside” and we don’t know “who we are” anymore. Our personality has become so enmeshed with our mask, we do not know which are which and what emotions are real and which are the result of wearing the mask. Eventually, we get to the point that we stop feeling completely.

So, no what? Seems like the picture that I have painted to this point looks pretty grey and dreary, BUT there is hope! One day at a time, one step at a time we can RECLAIM our emotions, our behavior and ultimately our personality!

First of all you MUST learn to believe in ourselves again, and that often entails rebuilding our self-esteem.  Here is an except from a previous post “Baby Steps – Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem has to be built from the ground up and learning to walking in it really is a step by step process. Let me borrow from a life experience and lesson that we have ALL learned from.

When a child learns to walk, he/she does not turn 10-months old and just start walking independently. There are MANY smaller steps that have occurred over the months leading up to day.  He/she rolled over, scooted, crawled, pulled up to stand, etc. He/she took one “baby step” after another until he/she got to the point of taking those first steps. Even then, once he/she starts walking, there are going to be falls, bumps, and bruises.  Does the child give up? NO. He/she cries for a bit, but then gets up and tries again. Slowly but surely, he/she gets better and better, more stable, and ultimately more and more confident.

We must translate these same “baby steps” into our recovery. As we start out, we slowly put one foot in front of the other, a little wobbly at first and reaching out and relying on our support systems to a degree. We begin with simple say day to day challenges: getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, going to support groups or meetings. If faced with more difficult decisions we seek counsel from among our peers and support. As we grow more confident and stable in making these simple day to day decisions and solving problems, we gradually start taking on more difficult ones. Again, we are becoming more and more confident in the process. Just as with the child learning to walk, we are learning that there is hope, we can be successful and it really is not as scary a place as we thought that it was. We have learned to be hopeful, seeing ourselves and our circumstances from a optimistic perspective, seeing the good that our lives can be and how we can be an asset to those around us.

I want to leave you with a few practical exercises to help as you begin “crawling” in your self-esteem:

  1.  List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  2.  List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  3. Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  4. Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be  “worse off” than you.

As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

Of course that is just the FIRST step, and as we all know that is a definite chore in and of itself. The good news is that as we are working on our self esteem, we become more and aware of our aware, comfortably and happy with our REAL personality. As we do so, then how do we get out from behind the mask and start revealing this “new person”.

Similarly, to building our self-esteem, we MUST take BABY steps. We start by taking little risk in trusted and safe relationships.

You and a group of friends are going to the movies and they are discussing what to go see, SPEAK UP! Jump into the discussion and share your opinion. Very low risk, but you’re giving yourself and your wants/needs a voice.

Slowly, over time take bigger and bigger risks in your relationships.

I know this sounds paradoxically TOO simple, yet at the time very difficult. The techniques are rather simple, the application “not so much”. I know from experience that working through the emotions related to this issue can be very painful. But I ask you, would you rather suffer the pain of dealing with the issues that got you to where you are, or do you want to continue to suffer in the misery of nothingness hidden behind a mask.

I hope pray that you choose to BELIEVE in the good that is within and the good in others.

When you hide behind a mask, it is like taking a priceless jewel and hiding its beauty from those desiring to admire it. You steal a little piece of the beauty out of the world.

So as was so appropriately stated my Jim Morrison, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.”

Be Free,           Be Beautiful,                Be Happy!

Forgiveness Part 3b   Leave a comment

As I begin this post, I start thinking about this very simple yet paradoxically complicated word. There are so many implications. This word affects us in all relationships areas of our lives:  with God, with friends, with significant others and within ourselves. Each of these is intertwined delicately with each of the others. All of us have needed to forgive and be forgiven at some point in our lives. I believe that being able to forgive and willing to seek forgiveness are attributes that must be developed and honed in order for any individual to truly live a fulfilling and successful life. We have covered two of these three entirely and one side of the other thus far. With that said here is Part 4 (or 3b), applying forgiveness in our relationships with others by accepting it when it is offered.Forgiveness in our Relationship With Others – Accepting

As noted I the previously, the concept of forgiveness in our relationships with others is a two-edged sword and as mentioned in our earlier discussion of forgiveness, is dependent and entangled with both of the others as well. As we have begun to discuss, forgiveness in our relationships with others entails two separate yet delicately intertwined actions:

  • Being willing and able to grant forgiveness to those whom have hurt, disappointed or otherwise offended us.(See Forgiveness 3a)
  • Being willing and able to receive forgiveness from others whom we have hurt, disappointed or otherwise offended.

Some of us struggle with one or the other of these two, but unfortunately, most of us struggle with both.  They are each necessary for us to be healthy and whole; but at the same time they are very difficult. Neither is more important or needed than the other.

So, let’s take a look at this final component of forgiveness – Being willing and able to receive forgiveness from others whom we have hurt, disappointed or otherwise offended.

Receiving forgiveness from others has two very distinct elements:

  •  Being able/willing to seek forgiveness when we are conscious of either intentionally or unintentionally offending another.
  •  Second, is accepting forgiveness when it is offered by another rather freely or sought after.

It takes a lot of courage to admit when we have made mistakes and to sincerely seek to make amends.  Many of us have said, “I’m sorry” so many times with no intent to actually change our behaviors, and continued in this pattern for so long that we have invalidated the great impact and power which those simple words could have in our relationships with others. Those closest to us have learned that when we say “I’m sorry”, our words are empty. Thus, our insincere apologies fall to the floor unreceived, because they have no faith in our actual willingness or attempt to change.  I am reminded of a quote I believe that most if not all of us are familiar.

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”   Mark Twain

Yes we need to seek forgiveness with our words and confess them before God and man, more importantly is that we are sincere and follow up our words with corresponding and appropriate actions.  Consider the following scripture reference:

“Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.” Proverbs 14:9 

Another translation uses the word “wise” in place of “godly”.  Thus seeking reconciliation and forgiveness can be considered not only the “right” thing to do, but also the “smart” one.

Admitting our guilt and mistakes to ourselves is part one, then we take the next step and acknowledge them to the ones that we have wronged.  I will let them speak for themselves, but take a look at the “heart” of the 12 steps of AA:

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact   nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make          amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

What do we see… FORGIVENESS and reconciliation in our relationships with                     God and man.

In conclusion, one final Biblical reference:

 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may   be healed.”  James 5:16

Confess… I will restrain myself, but could go on and on just looking at that one word.

Confess your faults… pray for one another… so that you may be healed.  In this one verse we the summary of forgiveness as it relates to our relationships with others.

  • Confess your faults:  Seek forgiveness when needed
  • Pray for one another: Grant or Receive forgiveness as needed.
  •  So that you may be healed: Reconcile and let go of the hurts of the present and past and let time do its healing work.

So much of our ongoing suffering is easily resolved when we stop looking back and “reliving” our past hurts and disappointments, whether they are our own doing or someone else’s.

Finding a way to practice forgiveness is not an optional component of our recovery, it MUST be a skill that we develop and use on a daily basis. We must face each day and situation granting, seeking and receiving forgiveness, because if we do not do so we will not truly live. We will survive from day to day the slave of our anger and unable to experience life and love to its fullest. Finally my friends I remind you one last time:

Recovery   1 comment

Recovery similar to hope is a term that we all use on a regularly, but its meaning is very obscure and abstract. This is especially true when discussing recovery from mental illness and/or substance abuse.  To begin, lets look at the most basic definition of recovery: ”a return to health: the return to normal health of somebody who has been ill or injured”. In other words to get better after being injured or sick. We recover from a cold, flu, broken leg, etc. This concept is also true regarding our mental illness. We “get better” following a return or increase in symptoms that affects our ability to continue function normally.  As we all know, recovery from any set back, physical or psychiatric doe not happen overnight, it is a process, a journey. It will take time and effort on our part to achieve.

Another definition of recovery is “gaining back something lost or taken away.” I know many of us have made the statements or thoughts “I am loosing my mind,” or “My life is out of control.”  Relapse of her illness can and/or has taken many things from us: freedom, relationships, employment, housing, children, etc. The good news is that with time and effort, some of these things that have been lost or taken away can reclaimed. I once heard a persons describe their life during a relapse as feeling like it was a wasteland with nothing of value left. Through the journey and process of recovery, he was able to salvage his own value, purpose and usefulness and eventually also started reclaiming his freedom, relationships, employment and other things lost or taken away due to his illness.

Another view of Recovery is quite similar to our first definition, but one significant difference, “the return of something to a normal or improved state after a setback or loss.”  The most important part of this definition is the simple phrase, “or improved state”. Mental illness and Substance Abuse are the only conditions in which I feel this is possible. With most, if not all, other conditions there are residual effects of the illness that never truly heal to their previous state. Some have said, “How can I recovery to a better place than where I was before I got sick again.” This is possible because through our journey of recovery we learn new things about our illness and gain new skills for managing it and coping with the other issues of daily life. Thus we are better equipped for our journey as we continue our journey.

Personally, I fell the most important thing for all of us to remember is the journey of recovery is different for every individual that endeavors down this path. Due to the multitude of varying circumstances, strengths, weaknesses, supports and perspective, each of our journeys are as different as the snowflakes, none alike. Consequentially, we each of have a different interpretation of what recovery means to us, and we should.

On finally definition, that I think summarizes these concepts better than I feel I may have in these paragraphs.

William Anthony, Director of the Boston Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation developed the following definition of mental health recovery.

Anthony (1993) Recovery is “a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”

So no matter where you find yourself on your journey along the Road to Recovery I hope that you are moving forward and actively making progress towards getting better and reclaiming those things in your life that have been lost or taken away.

Anthony, W. A. (1993). Recovery from mental illness: The guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990’s. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), 11-23.

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