The family does the best they can with the knowledge they possess and with what they have – and even if the family is dysfunctional, that does not make the family bad. If there was a small problem 5 generations ago, it may be a major problem now, and may have caused some screwy belief systems. When tribes were warring those many, many years ago, it made sense to "keep your mouth shut, don't cry – hide – keep all your feelings bottled up!" Now that belief system will cause a lot of unnecessary pain. We have to change now, in the present time. We must communicate, cry if necessary, open up, become aware of our feelings and share those feelings. Maybe in the past our ancestors somehow got off a more healthy, "normal" path – and as the years went by, each generation got a little farther and a little farther away from that path. If you, 5 or 6 generations away from your ancestors, feel a little "lost" and confused, it's very understandable.
Families are structured around agendas. An agenda may be hidden. A hidden agenda is not talked about because no one thinks about it. We have to become AWARE of the agenda(s) and sort the healthy and unhealthy ones out.
AGENDA: DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY – Life is screwed up!
The RULE is "all or nothing" and there can be no mistakes! If a person makes a mistake, that person becomes the mistake – and thereby a "shamed-based" personality is formed. Shame has to be healed from within. Shame keeps us "stuck." You can put a label on your "self" or accept a label from someone else, for example "dumb, stupid, ugly idiot." And only YOU can change your "self," ONLY YOU CAN GIVE YOUR "SELF" THE GIFT OF SELF ESTEEM.
A "guilt-based" personality, a more healthy type, means that a person makes a mistake, feels regret for the mistake and knows he/she can do something about the mistake – like not making the same mistake over and over again, expecting different results each time – one of the definitions of insanity.
AGENDA: FUNCTIONAL FAMILY – Life is NOT black and white! Life is grey.
MISTAKES ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN. The only RULE is: LEARN, DARN IT!!! Don't keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results! (Again, that is one of the definitions of insanity.)
AGENDA: DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY – Feelings are NOT OK!!! WE will not talk about them or anything else! We will "sweep everything under the rug and leave it there!"
The RULES are: Don't talk, don't trust, don't feel. A frequent conclusion in an alcoholic family is that a 6-year-old child thinks every bad thing that's happened in the family is his/her fault. No one tells the child that dad or mom is sick. A young child's world revolves around him/her, so the young child blows everything out of proportion. With no one to talk to, for example, a male child will probably go from one extreme to another extreme. He can grow up to become (in his eyes) either a baton-swinging macho truck driver or a "wuss" dancing in a tutu. He may not grow up – he may decide that he was "at fault" so much that he does not deserve to live. Suicide may be his answer to life.
Other unhealthy attitudes include: 1.) I don't make mistakes. 2.) I am logical – no feelings are needed. 3.) I'm the boss in my family. 4.) Don't talk about anything except maybe cars or the weather. 5.) No help – don't need it.
AGENDA: FUNCTIONAL FAMILY – Trust is valued, feelings are OK!!! We can talk about "it."
There are many RULES in a healthy, functional family. ONE of the RULES is to control behavior. One can be angry, just don't throw tantrums. It's okay to feel, just CHOOSE what action you're going to take, and be responsible for those actions. An example would be if your child becomes very angry about something and you know that he/she is. You can help your child to become more healthy by telling him/her that it's okay to be angry and it's okay to express the anger verbally and/or by taking action – "what do you want to do about it?" Punching someone, breaking windows, etc., are not healthy actions, and therefore not usually acceptable behavior. Help your child find a healthy way to express his/her anger, perhaps by writing about it, drawing a picture, playing basketball or soccer, etc.
A healthy family is usually a "true democracy." There is no boss. The family is neither patriarchal or matriarchal. (Many times in a patriarchal family, the females are "not worth much.")
Many years ago (and sometimes even today) the AGENDA for a farmer/rancher was survival. There was also a HIDDEN AGENDA that no one talked about and no one was really aware of it. For every agenda in the family there is an unwritten rule. You knew when you "got the look" that you were going to get hit or you were going to face rejection. Then family members started playing roles – and each member picked (or was assigned) a role for the family system. No one was an individual – you were a family. Five generations ago everyone had to have a role – it made sense then. Now it doesn't – but we are still "stuck" with roles and depression sets in. Many families had boundaries that were used to maintain distance (or closeness) to one another. One of the biggest things that made the family "work" then was rejection. That was the single, largest, most intimate fear. Most people who were rejected couldn't make it on their own and died – life was very harsh many years ago.
The chart below may help you understand some of the hidden or implied agenda/rules found in families – those "you got the message, but no one ever told you" agendas/rules.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 1. We live on a farm, we are poor, we save everything! String, broken tools, scrap iron, clothes, etc. were saved. The youngest kid wore hand-me-downs, fruits and veggies were canned - we are self-sufficient - we need no one else's help!
Rules: Do not throw anything away, make everything useful. If you do not do this, we will reject you (and every kid knew they would die if they were rejected).
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 2. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is an all-or-nothing agenda. Kids hear, "Do it perfect." You are either good or bad and if you don't do it all exactly right, you feel like a failure. The role is to be perfect.
Rules: Don't make mistakes! So someone has to make all the mistakes in the family. Someone has to be the "patient" or the "scapegoat" because this system requires someone who's NOTHING, or a rebel.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 3. We are a close family - that's the only way we survived five generations ago.
Rules: Avoid conflict at all costs! We can't be a close family if we have conflict because that means we don't love each other. Feelings were generally negative. Run from conflict. If there was trouble, or if they thought the family was breaking apart, someone would get ill or create a crisis to bring the family back together.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
Sometimes the agenda may be lethal because of our belief systems:
- 4. We are a strong family. We don't feel. It used to be that you couldn't take time to feel. Aunt Mary is being buried. We don't have time to process grief and we don't cry! We don't have time for such foolishness as hugs and kisses.
Rules: Be tough! However, no one can be in a real relationship if the man has to be tough and the woman wants intimacy and needs hugs, snuggles, etc. The guy will pat her on the fanny and jump into bed. He can't ask for help, he must "lift himself up by the bootstraps" (which is physically impossible), he can't be "soft," he can't cry, he can't tell his mate or his kids that he loves them. He can bring home the paycheck for his mate or work on cars with the kids, mess up their hair, etc., but his mate and his kids need to hear the word "love."
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 5. We are a patriarchal (matriarchal) family. Either the male or female wears the pants in the family. The male will say, "Keep your biscuits in the oven and your buns in bed." The male will tell everyone what to think, feel, etc. If the female wears the pants, then she will tell her only son to pick up his shorts, sox, clean up the dirty dishes, etc. She will tell him that he should have cleaned out her pockets before he washed all the clothes, etc. He will become very immature. She will pick out her "jobs" (cooking, some cleaning, etc.) and his "jobs" (taking out the garbage, mowing lawn, clean the toilets, etc.)
Rules: Win/lose situations – someone is "god." If the male is, whatever he says is "cut in stone," so he has to win all arguments to prove the female wrong. His word is law. The female will feel like a second-class citizen (or a slave). The male will tell her, "Don't do this or that," "Pick up the house," etc., and the female will keep on dancing on egg shells. If the female is "god," she will usually play the game "rape-o." She will try to knock the male down verbally, etc., and when he tries to get up or get "one better," she will knock him down again and again. This sets up a destructive relationship and usually ends up in divorce.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 6. We are God-fearing and we are extremely rigid. Everything is cut in stone. God will "get ya." We use the threat of God and the devil to reinforce our beliefs and rules. The kids believe they have to be perfect or the devil will "get ya." A few of the kids may decide the devil will get them anyway, let it all hang out, become a rebel – and that can become tragic. We may do some pretty dumb things, not knowing why we are doing them! One of the kids may become a marine – who tries wearing long hair! (Etc.)
Rules: Use guilt to manipulate.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
- 7. We are a successful family – we make a lot of money and we conform to a certain belief system. We have a double income, no kids, we eat tofu, we have a beautiful home on the beach. We conform because we don't want to be a "nobody" (we have a distorted reality).
Rules: You live your entire life as a lie – one of the biggest perversions. You will lie about your life and/or your family when someone asks how things are. You will be motivated to live a lie (I'll be happy when I get a raise, a new house, 2 kids, etc.). If you are unhappy, it's "someone's" job to make you happy ("If you love me, you'll make me happy"). A male child won't even pick up his own underwear.
Hidden / Implied Agenda
LIFE = CHANGE (events, hormones, moving, death, etc.) = CONFLICT (feelings) = REACTION (run, booze, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.)
- 8. We must EARN REGARD. We will do whatever we must so others will like us. We have a car so others will like us. You will spend your entire life as a "performing bear," and the kids will usually believe it, too. If the bully beats up your son, he will believe that if he is nicer to the bully next time, he won't get beaten.
Rules: You will perform for others. They will say to you, "If you love me enough, you can change me or make me happy." Or, "You were doing something wrong," "You are too fat – you need new perfume," etc. You will be very easily conned or manipulated.
It's a good possibility that during the first 50 years of your life you will worry about what other people think of you, and during the next 50 years you will figure out that no one even really thought about you.
If a guy feels that he might kill someone if he got mad enough and his wife came from a family who fought, argued and then resolved conflict, they could have some major problems. If the man and wife start arguing, the man will probably keep backing off while the wife keeps on wanting to resolve the issue. This relationship will probably die when he starts calling her names, punching her, etc., because she won't "back off." Yes, sometimes in history, like when we lived in caves, we could avoid conflict – because we were too busy watching for our predators!
A guy may avoid conflict by running, saying, "Yes, dear," and doing what he wanted to do anyway. Or, he may work 18-20 hours a day, which is rough on the relationship. Or, he may read all the time, watch TV, take time in the garden, take time with his hobbies, etc. However, if he does so, then he usually takes his frustrations out on the "patient." If he is married and has no children, the wife usually ends up being the patient. If he has children, one of them will probably be perfect, to avoid any conflict, and one of them will probably be the rebel (patient), who takes the heat from the dad. We can't avoid conflict. By trying to do so, we depress our feelings and that leads to depression.
Again, for a family to be healthy, the family does need rules. One RULE in a healthy family is "NO WINNERS IN AN ARGUMENT." It's unhealthy to always have a "winner" in an argument because then someone has to back away, "eat crow" and become the "loser." Many "traditional" families are set up to believe the "male is always the winner." However, that usually sets up game playing (i.e., "who can scream louder?") and manipulation.
Another RULE in a healthy family is "NO WINNERS IN AN ARGUMENT." It's unhealthy to always have a "winner" in an argument because someone has to back away and "eat crow." No one is absolutely right all the time. Many "traditional" families are set up to believe the "male is always right." However, that usually sets up game playing (i.e., "who can scream louder?") and manipulation.
Another RULE in a healthy family is NO ONE IS EITHER RIGHT OR WRONG. You have to prove someone is wrong all the time if you want to be right all the time. There can be no communication in this scenario. You need to communicate! There can be no "sacred subjects" that are "off limits." If there are problems, talk about them and resolve them! The main rule is that there are no rules – only common courtesies. You don't "have to do this or that." One can win the battle and lose the war! And you have to show some emotion at times – it's distorted NOT to show some emotion! In a healthy relationship, families will discuss the conflict. Try to not place blame or make someone "right" or "wrong." Relationships are normally based on feelings. Males are usually more "logical" and females are usually more "emotional." Logical is neither "right" nor "wrong" and neither is "being emotional." Male brains are just "wired" differently than female brains.
Relationships are normally based on feelings. Males are usually more "logical" and females are usually more "emotional." Logical is neither "right" nor "wrong" and neither is "being emotional." Male brains are just "wired" differently than female brains. A male's brain is usually wired so that he focuses on just one or two things at a time. The female's brain is usually wired so she can do 5 or 6 things, all at the same time. This was really necessary in the past for families to survive. The man normally hunted and protected his family. The woman normally raised the kids, cooked the meals, made the clothing, etc.
When a child has parents who have "knock down, drag out" fights, who never hold each other's hands or who never touch each other except to hit the other one, that unhealthy behavior becomes "normal" to that child. A child makes decisions at a very young age. A female child (in the scenario described) may say to herself that "no man will ever hit me or treat me like that" and end up distrusting her future mate if, indeed, she ever has one! A male child may feel too vulnerable and become "cold and callous" because he doesn't want to "show his feelings" for fear he may end up physically hitting his future mate. (He might still end up verbally or emotionally "smacking" his future mate.) He may not talk much. He may decide to become the "big, bad macho man" – when really he is scared to death of becoming vulnerable and of getting hurt because he cares too much. And he may get "stuck" in the role of "being strong" and not allowing anyone else to help him in any way!
Another RULE in a healthy family is WE CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING...SO DO IT!!!! Some people say that they are really open with their kids and talk about anything in family discussions. However, if your family agenda is "strong people play like problems are not there, and the problems are supposed to go away," then that family doesn't really talk about everything. That family usually talks about the cars, the weather, the new fashions, etc., and the kids can't mention certain things to their parent.
Another RULE in a healthy family is HELP IS OKAY!!! Many ethnic groups have an iron rule that "we do not ask for help – we are self-sufficient." That belief may have helped them survive four or five generations ago, but now it can cause people to stay in pain for a long time – a lot longer than they have to! Use a professional for this help – not necessarily a psychiatrist – a priest or a person who's "been there" can help. You can talk to a person (you can trust) who's been through an experience and survived it and learned how to cope in a healthy manner – or you can read a good, nonfictional self-help book (written by a well-known professional who is trustworthy) about your particular problem(s).
RULES should not prevent growth. Some RULES are "courteous" – such as: 1.) I won't pick my nose at the table. 2.) I will put the toilet seat down after use. 3.) I'm not living in my house, I'm living at my parents' house, so I won't come crashing in through the door at 4:00 AM. (No one will get any sleep.) 4.) I will do my own laundry.
RULES (depending upon children's ages) can be negotiated IN ADVANCE, with penalties if children do not follow them. It's okay to come in from the date at 10 PM, or a later time can be arranged if they call before 10 PM. However, if they haven't arranged for a later time and they come home at 11 PM or later, the keys will be jerked away and they won't be using their "wheels" for at least a week!
Kids shouldn't fall into roles! A child shouldn't be a perfectionist or a rebel or peace maker, etc. and get stuck in that role! A child can get stuck in a role if it's the only way he/she can get attention or can feel loved. Because of family agendas, rules can get rigid and then people can fall into "roles." There should be no games! You should be able to be yourself! That's what your "role" is – to be yourself! And remember, you can say "I love you" to someone while you still feel like breaking that person's neck because of the behavior. The love you feel is still there! (You just don't break any necks.)
If a person doesn't ever have someone significant in his/her life during childhood who showed love, then that person doesn't know what love really is while growing up or when adulthood is reached. It's very easy for that person to fall into the manipulation of "if you love me, you'll do what I want you to do."
Which brings us to BOUNDARIES. This is how a person identifies the "self" (who you are). The "self" is bordered by 4 boundaries: the physical, the sexual, the emotional and the mental boundaries. One of the scariest thing for a male is a female with no boundaries and vice versa. You can have walls and still have no boundaries. Some people establish walls to keep from being intimate. They don't want to get hurt, so the walls go up.
In a dysfunctional family there aren't any boundaries! The person who controls, or the "boss," will tell you how to feel, will confuse you about sexual issues and/or other issues and will touch you when he/she wants to. The "boss" is in power – and when the "boss" touches you any time he/she wants to, you can MENTALLY curl up, spit, fight back, etc., but you won't actually DO anything. The "boss" may jab a finger in your back for years – and you take it – because you believe you don't have a right to do anything about it.
So, as an adult you must recognize your boundaries! If the "boss" tries to jab a finger in your back again, you must make a CHOICE! You can move! Or, you can sit there and take it, and eventually you will probably allow the jabbing to kill a part of your "self." If you have been building anger for a long time while someone was jabbing you in the back, then you might feel like if you allowed any anger to surface that you might lose control and might even actually kill someone. If that is the case, ACKNOWLEDGE the anger and CHOOSE to allow the anger to come out in healthy ways, a little at a time – before it actually does erupt violently. Remember, to become more healthy, you will have to acknowledge that you are angry (and have been for quite a while), and that now you WANT to take back your physical boundary. How do you do that? You can ask the "boss" to stop jabbing you in the back, you can pray that the "boss" will stop, etc. – but if the "boss" has no boundaries, the "boss" probably won't stop. You will have to physically move – or allow him/her to keep on jabbing.
The "boss" will tell you how to think (mental rape) and will shatter your boundaries. He/she will tell you that you're stupid, that "I know more than you do – don't you dare get angry!" For a woman, the "boss" has a special saying: "There's a word that describes a woman who shows anger!" and the "boss" will call her that word. And every time the "boss" jabs that woman in the back, she will say to herself, "Oh, wonderful! I can't get upset or I'll be a ‘#&*@!' – I can't get angry!"
The "boss" may have even physically tickled you in an unmerciful way when you were a child. You might have gotten really, really angry – but you knew you didn't have the right to say so – because if you tried to say something, the "boss" usually tickled you even harder, making things even more unbearable! You knew that you didn't have the right to say "stop!" – or, "I don't like that!" You just laughed and giggled and hated every second of it!
So now you know the "boss" will either shatter or talk you out of your boundaries. You may say, "It really upsets me when you come home drunk." The "boss" doesn't care! He/she may even say, "So what?" And, you probably will be or have already been conned: "If you love me, you'll let me." – or, "What do you mean, you don't want to party??? Those drugs are good! What's wrong with you???" So now "they" won't like you – you won't be "part of our group." So what do kids do when they don't have boundaries? Well, one of them is being conned to "come with us, we will accept you and love you." How could a kid who has no boundaries refuse? And so that child becomes part of a gang, or a mob or a cult – and ends up???
A large portion of humanity is dysfunctional. There is no permission to make mistakes and there are no boundaries. We are expected to figure out the rules so we can be okay – the only problem is, someone keeps changing the rules!!! Functional families say that it's okay to make mistakes – just learn from them and don't repeat them. Functional families also say that it's okay to change – we may have conflicts, but we can discuss them and resolve them, and life becomes an adventure!
FUNCTIONAL DECISIONS – "What can I do now? I screwed up – how do I change this?"
Open up and talk about agendas! If you have children, let them understand that you raised them the way you were raised. Many of us grew up "playing games" – unhealthy games we didn't even know we were playing! And we adjusted! We usually ended up in the awful "triangle" – with the persecutor, the rescuer and the victim. One person can be the persecutor, rescuer and victim all by themselves, they don't even have to be in a family setting to end up playing that unhealthy game – which is "normal" in a dysfunctional family! When you persecute yourself, you say to yourself that you shouldn't do something. As the victim, you say "poor me." As the rescuer, you may "rescue" yourself with a drink, drugs, food, shopping spree or some other addiction.
The "triangle" of persecutor, rescuer and victim requires an "identified patient." Everything is focused on that patient as a victim. The family is set up for chaos – hollering, screaming, hitting, then kissing and hugging. No one gets to be an individual nor does anyone get to grow up. They have to fit the "system" – and all this is done subconsciously!
The "persecutor" starts picking on someone else, an in-law, a brother, etc. The "persecutor" will not feel "normal" until he/she finds someone to pick on. For example, if a kid wants a relationship with his dad, and dad's busy, etc., the kid might try to get attention by telling mom to tell dad that he shouldn't have to mow the lawn (unhealthy three-way communication). The mom tells the dad, and he says the kid has to mow the lawn. Mom (rescuer) tells the kid in a very tempered way that the lawn has to be mowed by him, that dad said so. The kid, with hormones raging, says he's so mad he could kill someone! Mom tells dad the kid is a LITTLE upset – while the kid trashes his room. Dad (persecutor) hears the kid trashing his room and goes to the room, sees the mess, and says he thinks the kid is crazy because the kid was supposedly just a little upset! Now the kid (victim and "identified patient") has the unhealthy attention of mom (rescuer) and dad (persecutor). In this scenario, if the dad continues telling the kid that he's crazy, and the kid (and the mom) begins to believe him, this kid may end up in a mental institution – just because he believed his dad. Unfortunately, the dad may also have been projecting upon his son the way he was feeling – crazy and out-of-control.
And now we come to freedoms. Sometimes people say that a kid with long hair and an earring is not going anywhere in life. What a shocker for those people if that kid becomes president! Freedoms – we have freedoms! Either we will give our freedoms up for love because we think we'll get something in return or we will have them taken away.
1. TO PERCEIVE! Perceive, really see and hear what IS, not what SHOULD BE. If you were raised in an abusive family, look at what IS – what your reality is NOW. We have a tendency to chain ourselves to fantasy. The "I should have's" chain our "selves" to the past. We almost have to get angry enough to take back our freedom. Perhaps in order for something to be good, it's got to be hard – nothing is easy, but IT IS SIMPLE. Challenge your belief system and see the distortions, the straight and narrow, and how you got off the path (sometimes as early as age 5 or 6 years old). By the time we're 30 to 40 years old we may be WAY off course. (And sometimes we will go to extremes trying to get back on course.)
The Texas Serenity Prayer: Screw it!
The Serenity Prayer:
So the real Serenity Prayer asks God to bring you peace of mind and body – serenity – and the knowledge that you can't change the past, but you can change the present (anything that you can change, such as your "self," and how you are, how you behave, etc.), and the wisdom to know the difference.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
As I've mentioned before, one of the definitions of insanity is that a person keeps doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time. Out of change and difficulties (hurts) we grow. It hurts to be irresponsible. Pain is growth, and pain may let us know that we care. If we don't care, we don't hurt!
You can learn from the past, but try not to spend too much time on thinking about what "should have been" or what "was." You are a different person now – different than even 10 minutes ago! Claim complete freedom!
2. TO THINK YOUR OWN THOUGHTS! It's not the way you think you SHOULD! Religion (or any higher power) can be okay. However, if someone tells you that you should believe something different, then you might start wondering, "If I'm thinking I'm right, it's okay for me – is it okay for you? If not, somewhere along the way I will change the way I think for you."
Yes, it's a good thing to explore different beliefs and learn how other people think about things – just don't think the way someone else thinks!!! And don't think the way you think you "should"! Think your own thoughts! You can use a lot of energy saying "I shouldn't be thinking this way!" Thoughts are your own – and remember:
You can never tell what your THOUGHTS will do In bringing hate or love; For THOUGHTS ARE THINGS, and their airy wings Are swifter than carrier doves. They follow the law of the universe, --EACH THING MUST CREATE ITS KIND: And they speed o'er the track to bring you back Whatever went out from your mind.
3. TO FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL! Denial is to feel the way you think you should! If I call you a name (you're an idiot), hurt you (you don't deserve to live) and then I die – wow! Now how do you get rid of that hurt? If I come up and punch you in the arm, run out into the street and get struck by a car and die, how do you get rid of that hurt? If I hurt you, whose problem is it? Your problem? My problem?
Don't deny the hurt! Acknowledge the fact that you hurt! But don't continue the hurt! No, you can't give the hurt back to me – I died! You CAN take ownership of the feeling and decide what to do with it. You can understand that it was not your "fault." Was it my fault when I called you a name and/or hit you? Even if I hadn't died, if you try to give the hurt back or if you try to "get even," you're still "stuck" with it! You have to say that you are tired of carrying this feeling – that it is not your problem anymore! No, it was not fair that I handed you the problem(s), but now you have it. So you can't blame any one else now and your mom or dad can't take it away.
It's like having a bully wipe one of his nose "buggers" on your finger – you have to say that you are tired of hanging onto the "bugger." You are certainly not going to be able to stuff it back up into his nose! (And no, life is not fair!) So, you have to let go of the "bugger" (problem), or figure out the problem. Perhaps you have an anxiety attack. Identify what caused this attack by remembering what happened right before it. No, you can't seem to throw the problem away – yet you're tired of carrying the problem. One way to put the "bugger" down is to JUST PUT THAT "BUGGER" DOWN! – put down all the fear, the anger, the hurt, the shame, the guilt, the hate, etc. You have to examine the "bugger" – write it out! While the "bugger" is in your head it's a fantasy. You have to organize thoughts and feelings and articulate them. You may feel really bad while you write down these feeling and thoughts...it's okay! Just let that pencil (and perhaps the tears) flow. Don't worry about punctuation, etc., and eventually the problem(s) flow from you onto the paper and you can look at them realistically – that's therapy!
What if, as a young child, your younger brother pooped in a corner. You saw it and were ashamed and you've carried that shame for 25 years!!! Now, knowing that incident has bothered you "for some reason" and you have felt ashamed about the incident for years, you write about what happened, SEE it for what it was, and finally REALIZE that it wasn't YOU who pooped in the corner, so why are YOU ashamed?! Therapy is that you hear what the problem(s) is by talking with a professional or a trusted friend, or see it by writing it down and then reading it. Yeah, my dad died and I was close to him, then my dog died and he was like my best friend, then I got a puppy and he was run over by a car...everyone I loved abandoned me! Well, while you write you can finally see the reasons why you have abandonment issues. You get to the root of the problem and then you decide to carry it around with you longer – or to just let go of it! I think by now you understand that letting go is usually a lot more healthy.
Yes, you went through things. Yes, you're hurting and you may also be angry, sad and feeling full of hate, perhaps. You might even feel like your bottom is falling off! You can let the anger (or another emotion) out in a healthy manner, REALIZE that you are sad or angry about what happened, CHALLENGE YOUR EARLIER DECISION (like you ended up being a victim when the bully "buggered" you and you couldn't do anything about it), REALIZE you made a decision on what you knew AT THAT POINT IN TIME, and NOW you know more about life and living – and REALIZE that you made a survival decision! You decided to become a victim when you were 5 years old – it was a split second decision on how to survive with what knowledge base you had AT THAT POINT IN TIME. The bully was older and bigger, you were younger and smaller, you couldn't do anything about it and you didn't know that you could do anything differently. Now you do! You may have been living 20 plus years with a decision made by a 5-year-old child!
About age 30-35 you began to think that something was wrong, something was killing your "self." So, you decided to figure out why you always "gave in" to someone who seemed stronger, why people seemed to be taking advantage of you in various ways and why you had begun to feel like a "victim." You looked back on your life to see if there was some pivotal point that could have made you feel like a victim. You remember the incident that bothered you for a long time – and still bothers you when you think about it – the bully wiping his "bugger" on your finger. You begin to challenge your earlier decision about being a victim and then you choose to change your core "self." You are now free from the "bugger" BECAUSE YOU CHOOSE TO BE FREE! You wiped it off your finger (put it down on paper and/or talked it out) and washed your hands (let go of the past).
Freedom to feel something you don't think you should feel? Another scenario may be that perhaps lately you have begun to wonder if you really love your mate. Aren't you supposed to FEEL LOVE for this other person for all eternity? If you've been married 15 or more years and you wake up one morning feeling like maybe you don't love your mate, it's okay (especially if you've had a disagreement the night before and it has not been resolved yet)! It's normal! To act like or think you "should" love your mate at all times is phony and can give your mate some very mixed messages. (The next day you may feel that love return completely – especially if you resolve the disagreement.)
Freedom of religion? Can you challenge your religion? Yes, it's normal and healthy – you might just reaffirm your faith. You have freedoms only if you seize the freedoms. It's a process: I have the right to think and feel the way I do. I am functional! I also have the right to decide what to do about those thoughts and feelings and to watch my behavior by deciding to be healthy.
4. TO WANT OR TO DESIRE! No one else has any obligations to meet your wants or desires. In marriage a man may say he'd like his wife to take off her clothes and swing from a chandelier, but she has no obligation to do so if she doesn't want to! (It would be dysfunctional to leave a porn magazine out on the table which shows a naked woman hanging from a chandelier and never say anything because you think your mate will realize what you want to do – and then feel rejected because your mate doesn't even seem to notice the magazine.) You have the right to SAY what you want. If the wife says "NO WAY!" – then she would not have the obligation to do so. She may think about it later and then say "maybe." That would be functional. However, it is NOT functional for you to put the magazine on the table and then pout because she puts it in the trash or just doesn't want to acknowledge "it." It is also NOT functional to be quiet, not articulating your wants or desires, and then expecting her to "read your mind."
You don't have to want what you THINK you SHOULD. Suppose you start having a wild fantasy about the Dallas cowboys...but you "shouldn't" have. So you start labeling yourself as weird. You have the freedom to think, see and hear what you want – but you don't have the freedom to DO what you want. Please don't judge the "self" for having vagrant thoughts passing through your brain and then think "Oops! I'm weird!" An internal double-bind begins at that point. You feel one way and think another. For example, you think you should love your dad, but you hate him – or you think you hate your dad, but you love him. You can love the person AND hate the behavior. "I love you, and yet I hate what you do." In divorce, a healthy way is to love, not to judge. Tell the other person that you love him/her, you just don't like the other person's behavior. With kids, you need to tell them that you still love them, you just don't like what they did.
5. TO BE WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO BE! AND YOU MUST CHOOSE! You don't have to fill a role. And until you make that choice, you won't be yourself! Now if you are tired of being "the responsible one" all the time, "bag it." Become irresponsible for a time! Don't take out the trash! Don't clean the toilet every day! If you are a single parent, you still are responsible for your children; however, you are not responsible for everyone and everything – separate responsibilities into realities. You must be guiding, nurturing, feeding and clothing your children. You must not be responsible for their feelings. If you become responsible for others' feelings, then "others" can make you feel guilty. You'll buy them things because they make you feel bad. "If you'd just stayed quiet I wouldn't have yelled at you..."
You have to confront the "self" and all the "should have's." REALIZE that the ONLY CONTROL you have, really, is control over your own feelings, your "self." If you need responsibility, if you need wildness, if you need to take time for yourself, it's OKAY! The purpose of guilt is "all or nothing." Remind your "self" of your OWN value system, the value system you have CHOSEN for yourself. Yes, you can allow yourself to feel guilt in a healthy way. If you make a mistake (and someone may have to point it out to you, hopefully in a healthy manner), you can feel the guilt about it and chose to do something about it. If someone else can make you feel guilty, then they can manipulate and "hook" you. "If you loved me, you'd let me..." "Mom! Dad! Everyone's doing it!" And if someone else has succeeded in making you feel guilty, you will believe what they say!
In tough love, when the kids say that "everyone's doing it," the parents can say, "Whatever! YOU are NOT!" In another example, I could poop in the corner and make you feel so guilty that you will clean it up because it's the only way you can prove to me that you love me!
If you have certain values or care too much, you can allow others to hurt you. It's okay to be vulnerable. It doesn't feel very good, and I feel very sad when others hurt me, because I love them and care for them. However, I CHOOSE not to feel so bad that I close my "self" off from the world and I choose whether or not to tell the person(s) who hurt me, "Well, don't let the door hit you when you leave!"
6. TO BE YOURSELF! You have the freedom to risk. You don't have to stay "safe" all the time. Ships are pretty safe in harbors, but ships weren't built for harbors. People aren't "safe" in relationships if they risk – but we must risk! You think it's too scary to let your partner know that you're afraid? To know your wants? You can't say that you want to cry or that you love the person so very, very much? Is it "safer" to stay distanced?
You can cut the amount of risk by taking smaller risks. Let your feelings out a little at a time with another person. If that person steps on your feelings, you will know you don't want to risk any more with that person! You can do that with your fears, your hopes, your dreams, etc.
For example, I can say that it's scary to talk to you. If you giggle and laugh at me, then I probably won't tell you anything else because I don't feel "safe." If you don't giggle and laugh, and you tell me that it scares you to talk to me, too, then we can stop right there. We can agree that it's scary to talk to each other and to other people and then laugh – yes, humor is the best medicine in almost any situation! If we can feel "safe," then we can continue to share our feelings, hopes and dreams with each other. Sometimes we may feel that by talking about our feelings that they may come out distorted. Writing can be wonderful then. You can write something, I can write something, then we let each other read the other's paper, one at a time. If we're afraid to see the looks on our faces, then we can each privately read the paper and then come together again and discuss the subject. Sometimes the only way to open up is in small bits.
Because I care for you, your reactions do affect me. If you are taking drugs and caused two accidents on the way to work, that affects me, too, because I care for you. That is healthy. However, it's NOT
healthy the minute you can get someone else to be responsible for your feelings! Then you don't have to grow up! And you will continue "upping the ante."
And if you think you must meet other people's demands, then every time you meet those demands you will give up a piece of your "self" – until all of a sudden you will wake up wondering who you are. By that time, you probably will have started wearing a mask(s) – you will have lost your "self." And almost the worst thing that can happen to a human being is to die without knowing who you are!
*Recreated from notes taken during lectures at various hospitals, and at the YWCA, etc., including classes given by Jim Osborn, a great teacher