What is a functional family? Functional means "it works."
What is a dysfunctional family? Dysfunctional means "it don't work."
We can be constructive or we can be destructive. We have the choice!
Did you know your "belief system" is in place by the time you are 5 to 7 years old? By the time you are 7 years old that belief system is usually about 80% intact, and it usually takes major trauma to change. Did you know that the difference between a supposed "winner" and "loser" is just a decision?
If your family was/is dysfunctional (and at least 97% of our families are dysfunctional in some way or another), there is a high probability that your family had some element of: 1.) Military, 2.) Alcoholism, 3.) Divorce, 4.) Physical Illness, 5.) Physical, Sexual, Emotional Abuse or 6.) Extreme Religious Views.
Dysfunctional families are multi-generational, handed down over five generations, so don't get mad at mom and dad or even great-grandma or great-grandpa! The only thing we know about parenting and families is what we have learned in our own way. Dysfunctional doesn't equate to being "bad" dysfunctional just doesn't work well, is not healthy for us and does not allow us to get our needs met!
1.) Kids need attention, especially before age 3-4. When kids don't get attention by being "perfect" or "the responsible one" then they try getting it by being a "rebel" (I'm bad, rotten, etc.) or a "victim" (I'm giving up or I can't). Things usually go downhill rapidly. A perfectionist is set up to fail. Every mistake is a personal failure (shame-based personality) and approval from someone else can never be obtained. The "perfectionist" can turn to a "rebel" very quickly.
2.) Kids will usually switch to power/control games when "trying to get attention" doesn't work or has stopped working. These games are usually played with the parent who doesn't pay attention, i.e., working, drinking, etc.
3.) Kids will switch to revenge if they don't get attention (or get control), then they may try to "get even," especially in adolescence, for real or even imagined hurt. They will try to "get even," i.e., in divorce, one parent will be blamed for driving the other one away. This is usually not a deliberate, conscious decision.
4.) These kids will feel worthless. The whole world revolves around a young child's "self." Everything that happens externally must be something that they caused, so they figure that if they can't get what they need they must be worthless or unlovable. When something fairly significant happens in the kids' lives, they feel out-of-control and start to feel "unraveled." The more out-of-control things get externally, the more control they need internally, i.e., anorexia is usually a control issue that has been unresolved and the only thing "controllable" is the food intake.
5.) These kids will feel that they have to "earn regard," i.e., "I don't like me, I must get approval from others I must adjust myself to what I think you want. I can be a clown, the strong, silent type, etc., whatever YOU want."
When you adjust yourself like that, you whittle the "self" away little by little and end up having no idea of who you are by the time you're 30-40 years old. It's a depressing process to try to fit everyone else's ideas of who you are or who you should be and one of the worst things that can happen is to die without knowing who you really are!
6.) These kids will start wearing "masks." There are thousands of masks, i.e., you are one person at school or work, another at a meeting, another with a friend, etc. You could peel off the layers like an onion!
7.) These kids are always hypervigilant. They have to be able to "read" other people so they can adjust to be what someone else wants them to be, i.e., a drunk husband comes home and the wife and kids eyeball him to see if he is cheerful or mean they walk on eggshells, constantly anticipating any change of mood so an adjustment can be made. They are always tense, wondering what they should "be" or adjusting to try to get what they need from him.
8.) These kids start living a lie. "How are things at home?" "Oh, fine, fine, everything's fine!!!" These people are not living a "Leave It to Beaver" type of lifestyle. They go home to kick each other and live a lie, trying to pretend they are happy and successful never sad or depressed or angry. They start losing their "selves." They will have a fear of rejection and probably won't be able to say "no" to drugs, etc., and will probably end up with very few boundaries.
9.) These kids will have a need to be needed. They watch dad in the family take responsibility for mom (or vise versa). He will pay all the bills, get the car license and make excuses, etc. ("I wanted to be at your ball game, but I had to work late." The wife and kids know that this is a lie, that he was really at a bar, because they can smell the booze on his breath!) When these kids grow older, they will usually end up picking a "loser" so they can be needed. "Winners" don't need caretakers, so by picking a "loser," who is immature, they can feel needed. The problem is, many times the "loser" grows up and doesn't need the "winner, so the "winner" gets really mad and ends up "getting rid" of this "loser" so he/she can go out and find another one to relive the whole scenario again (and again). Or, the "winners" may start pouring all their energies into their kids, trying to decide everything for their kids, keeping their kids from any harm, etc. and their whole "being" is tied up trying to rescue others "somehow."
Both "winners" and "losers" have to believe that they are either "winners" or "losers" and this decision is usually made as a child. When each of you in the relationship can decide and then begin to feel deep in your gut that you are a "winner," that you deserve to be a "winner" and you're in recovery and growing both of you will be able to take a bite out of life and learn how to enjoy it. You will be independent not dependent and you will become interdependent. You will WANT to be with one another, not be with one another because you HAVE to be.
10.) These kids usually end up in the "triangle" of the persecutor, victim and rescuer. This is "normal" for a dysfunctional family. This triangle requires an "identified patient." Everything is focused on the "patient." The family is set up for chaos fighting, hollering, screaming, kissing and hugging. No one gets to grow up and be an individual. They have to fit "the system," and this is usually done subconsciously.
11.) These kids usually try to become "mind readers." There is indirect communication between family members. The kids can't have a relationship with dad because they can't have a direct relationship with him, only an indirect relationship (and vice versa). So they try to "read his mind" to see what would make him happy. Perhaps one child becomes a very successful businessman (and hates it) because he thought it would please his dad, who is a mechanic. The dad figures out that his child hates his life's work, but doesn't say anything. Then later, on his death bed, the dad finally tells the child (who is now almost at retirement age) that he always wanted him to be happy, to work at a job he liked, and not be a businessman if he hated it so much. The dad tells his now-grown son that he "should have" told him as a kid that it was all right to be a mechanic but his dad wanted his kid to have something better in life! The young child heard what WASN'T SAID by his dad.
That's also how a woman gets the message to get married and have kids! The parents see a baby and say, "Gee, we wish we had a grandchild or two." It's an indirect message, a subtle message: "You want to go to college? Are you too good for us? We never went to college, and we don't think you should, either." The woman heard what WASN'T SAID. (Which may or may not have been what the parents were really saying.) There are even "traditional" toys. Very few boys admit to playing with dolls. And how many women get the message that boys "count" and girls "don't count?" The dad makes a "fuss" over the brother who plays football, or who gets his first car, etc., and the girl doesn't get any "fuss" made over her for anything. Again, indirect communication which may or may not be what was really being "said."
12.) These kids usually perform for someone else. They feel they have to subjugate their lives and give up what they want to do to please someone else. They feel like they're not good enough to be liked, so they will do anything they can to "make" someone else like them. WE CANNOT MAKE SOMEONE ELSE LIKE US! What do I have to do to get you to like me? I have to give up a piece of my "self." The other person has a choice of what he/she likes. Again, you can't MAKE another person like you! You will give up physical, mental, emotional or spiritual energy trying to make others like you. A good "con artist" can promise to love you and you will give up everything of your "self" for that promise. When a person starts thinking, "I don't like myself, so it's important for others to like me," it becomes VERY UNHEALTHY for the "self."
13.) These kids will learn early in a dysfunctional family to adapt and even hyper-adapt. They can do really well in sales, office work, etc. They can immediately change their "mask" to suit another person. "Other people don't know who I am, nor will I ever let them know who I am." These kids won't "get close" to any one because they will feel like no one can accept them for who they really are. They don't even know who they are! How can anyone else accept a person when that person won't allow themselves to be "known?" Two people can pretend they are in love, but don't really get to "know" each other. It can last 2 years, it could last 7 years but eventually the relationship will be recognized as "broken" or "not working," and each of them will go on to another relationship and do the same thing over (and over) again. A dysfunctional, abusive family system shatters the "self" and the "child within" tells the person that he/she is awful and is not good enough and will NEVER be worthy of love.
It's okay to be "born again" "I AM GOOD ENOUGH! I AM OKAY NOW! I AM WORTHY OF LOVE!" Just make those decisions and keep telling yourself every day. If you have really traumatic, hidden "stuff" it can prevent you from even saying that you are okay just keep trying until you CAN say it to yourself. Eventually you will realize that you are okay and you will start feeling better about your "self."
14.) These kids have an 80% (or more) chance of marrying another dysfunctional person. If they think they have met someone who "loves only them" and who will "make things wonderful," they will usually "fall head over heels in love." The problem is, if both people are messed up, nothing is going to go very well. If the master manipulator is a male, he will hone in on a female who does not love the "self" and will tell her that he loves her, and that she is the ONLY person who can make him happy, and that she is the ONLY person in the world for him! The master manipulator (usually subconsciously) knows she doesn't love her "self" and will "bait and hook" her and "reel her in" just like a fish! This type of relationship usually doesn't last very long. The master manipulator fears intimacy, so once he reels her in and she wants to become intimate, he gets very uncomfortable and he will push her away from him. After a little bit he starts feeling lonely, and not liking that feeling either, he will "bait" her again, and she, not having learned how to love the "self," will probably take the hook again and again and again. This unhealthy pattern of "go away no, come back!" continues until someone starts to grow and learns how to become more healthy.
15.) These kids will probably either manipulate or be manipulated. Most females manipulate others with guilt. Most males manipulate others with either charm or the threatening "look." Some people will actually threaten others or become a physical threat to others. They will feel that they have needs, think that another person will fill those needs and will have to start manipulating that other person. This is not a warm and fuzzy relationship! Both people are constantly angry, having to "go to all this work to get my needs met." Both people start playing "games" to not meet the other's real needs. They may even play the game of the two cups: I can't "fill my own cup" (no one made me happy or did anything to meet my needs), apparently you are not going to fill my cup (make me happy), so I am going to switch cups!
No one else can make you happy! If someone surprises you with a nice party, candle light dinner, etc., you may feel the excitement and feel "okay" perhaps even "loved" for a little while. But that doesn't last for long. True happiness comes from inside of you. You have to "fill your own cup." No one else can do that for you and you have to replenish your own cup by taking care of your "self," not allowing that cup to be drained dry.
A female may meet someone she thinks may "meet her needs." He told her that she is the ONLY person he will ever love. She falls in love, and tries to "fill her mate's cup" but her mate keeps drinking the cup dry before she can fill it up! She thinks she should nurture and raise the kids, keep the house clean, work hard, and make her mate happy by meeting every need. Neither she nor her mate realize that each person is responsible for his/her own happiness. Of course, if neither person realizes that "I have to make me happy," then the games get even worse. One of them will tell the other that if needs aren't met, someone else will take their place, and then possibly an affair or a divorce is the next step.
NEITHER OF THEM REALIZES BOTH OF THEM NEED INTIMACY (sharing your hopes, dreams, fears, etc., done with your clothes on) AND THE CAPABILITY TO FILL THEIR OWN NEEDS. I have to meet my own needs, you have to meet your own needs. I WANT to be with this other person, NOT because I HAVE to be with this other person. We may negotiate and share some of the household labor. If the male is adamant about "I don't do toilets!" then the female may choose to do the toilets and compromise with him to do the lawn because that is something she doesn't like doing. To live together and get things done, people MUST communicate, negotiate, compromise, resolve issues and think about the "self" and the other person, too.
Usually "the responsible one" marries "the irresponsible one." The responsible one wants to dole out responsibility and of course, if he/she just loves enough, will be able to change the irresponsible one. When that doesn't work, and they divorce, the responsible one usually ends up finding and then trying to change another irresponsible one (unless some lessons have been learned), and the irresponsible one usually just ends up latching onto another responsible one (so no lessons have to be learned).
A responsible one normally feels a significant amount of guilt when having fun. To "get better," the responsible one must let the "inner child" out and nurture and allow that child to grow and feel free. If you are that responsible one, for an hour or two EACH DAY do something for you and only for you! Encourage the child within. Stomp in the rain water, make mud pies, paint, dance, sing, etc. Develop the FUN part of you! If you are an irresponsible one, please take on some responsibility. Take out the garbage, clean the garage, vacuum the floor, pay the bills, etc.
Both types must take responsibility for the "self." Please do not blame other people when you are feeling sad or angry, etc. RECOGNIZE that you are sad, angry, etc., and then CHOOSE to deal with it in some healthy manner!
If you were abused (any type of abuse) you are going to have a bucket of feelings. Don't carry that bucket around, stuffing more and more feelings into it, and then allowing those feelings to spill out at an inappropriate time! Take ownership of those feelings! Recovery is a life long process a journey. If you are compulsively playing a role in your life, you have a problem(s) and you are screwing up your whole life! You can't change and become more healthy by yourself until you become AWARE of the problem(s)! If you need to read the Bible, pray, go to church, go to a priest, go to a psychiatrist, etc., DO IT! Help must come spiritually and sometimes professionally. You must learn how to "let go" and "let God." (And your God may be called by another name, that's okay!) You must have a Higher Power Someone or Something above your "self" that you will someday have to answer to! Turn everything over to your God!
If someone hurts you, it is not your job to "get even" and don't take responsibility for someone else's behavior. YOU are responsible for YOU. Nurture your inner child and meet your own needs.
So, what are needs? What are wants? Do you need a cigarette? Do you need a new couch? No, those are both wants. PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS IS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND DO FIRST THINGS FIRST!!!!
When you have been abused in any way, the dysfunctional thing is to allow this "injury" to the "self" to be bandaged without being cleansed ("sweep everything under the rug" don't talk, don't trust, don't feel). This injury will probably begin to fester but possibly still scab over; however, that injury is never going to heal properly! It's going to fester and open up again and again perhaps even getting deadly gangrenous until the infection is cleansed out and healing can begin from within. Yes, when you heal there may be a scar, but you won't die from gangrene!
CONDITIONS OF LIFE: Conditions of life REAL NEEDS FOR THE "SELF" must be met! Imagine a pyramid, with the bottom of it being the foundation of life one must have a firm foundation and graduating upwards, in order of priority, the needs that must be met in order to survive:
7. Self Actualize |
6. Self Aware
5. Like the "Self"
4. Handicaps (Real or Implied)/Accept Them
3. Alone/Higher Power
2. Freedom/Responsibility TAKE IT
1. DECISION TO LIVE OR DIE
1. WITHOUT THE DECISION TO "LIVE TODAY," a person is only existing. One must "take a bite" out of life, not just "I gotta get up, go to work, (go get drunk) and go to bed." God didn't put you here to just eat, sleep and work. Every day a person consciously or subconsciously DECIDES to live or die. If you decide to die, you can die in a variety of ways. You can die mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually and physically. You can sit on the "pity pot until your legs fall off," you can depress all your feelings until depression takes over, you can become numb and "stop feeling anything," you can take drugs or drink, etc., you can give your "self" away in the dance of self esteem (while you become a wind-up toy), or you can even get a gun...
If you decide to live, DECIDE TO LIVE! Put some passion for living into your life! Allow yourself to get excited over lilacs, the sunrise, the sunset, etc., and feel the feelings! And remember, if you get "stuck" in the control mode or some other mode, you will not be able to enjoy life. If you "save all the fun" in life for when you get older, there could possibly be no fun except in a rocking chair or a hospital bed. LIVE TODAY! The difference between a "winner" and a "loser" is just a decision (or choice) away.
2. You have the freedom to do anything you want as long as you also take on the responsibility. Your Higher Power gave you free will and free thought completely free as long as you take the responsibility! As a young child you really have no responsibility except to grow, learn and mature. As you grow you are supposed to learn how to take on more responsibilities until, as an adult, you have responsibilities in many different areas (and you actually need those responsibilities). You can set yourself free in a relationship by taking responsibility for your own feelings. No one else can con you then. A man can give a woman the "strings to pull" (gives the woman the responsibility) by saying, "You're the ONLY woman who can make me happy!"
You need to be responsible for your own feelings, for your own behavior and for what you ultimately do with your life. You can be a brain surgeon or you can be a drunken slob. If you blame others, then you become "stuck." Be responsible for your own feelings, behavior, thoughts, etc. If you say, "I'm bored!!!" whose problem is it? If you're sad or angry or lonely whose problem is it? Will someone come by and "rescue" you? Or will you "grow up" and take responsibility? The decision!!! The choice!!!
3. You are born alone (unless you are a twin, triplet, etc.) and you alone make the journey when you die (unless you believe in life after death and believe that there are loved ones who will be there to meet you and assist you). Every person really needs a Higher Power Some One or Something in the Universe Who will give you strength, love, acceptance and guidance. He/She/It will not come down and do it for you, but will help you. This Some One or Something will be there for you. You can talk or pray to this Some One or Something, knowing you are unconditionally loved. (It is best that you don't make a psychiatrist your Higher Power, however. A group, such as AA, would be a better choice for a Higher Power if you do not believe in God.) You are still alone in your skin and in your body, and normally you are alone in your head. You are most alone when you are making decisions. You need to know that there's Some One or Something higher than you God is in the heart, and it's not logical! God is as logical as self esteem is and you can't just say, "I know there's a God because..." That won't get it only KNOW that there is a He/She/It that loves you unconditionally and from Whom you can ASK FOR strength and guidance.
You can pray for guidance, but you are still the one making the final decision. You are most alone when you make a decision like, "I need to get my husband/wife to stop drinking." (The issue is not how you can stop someone else from drinking. The issue is how you are going to deal with the drinking how you are going to live with it or are you going to live without it?) We need a Higher Power Some One or Something higher than "me" and that can be God. At this point, just understand that there is Some One or Something higher than ourselves or, if you believe, at least farther along in the evolutionary pattern...
4. A handicap is always something that can "addict you." Once you accept your own strengths or weaknesses, you become stronger. You can be too short, fat, skinny, have a painful past, etc. just accept the handicap, and change it if you can, or develop other senses if you must, or if nothing else, say "poor me." Perhaps your handicap is being bald. If you're bald, remember that being bald could equate to being "solar-powered" also remember, however, there can be some cloudy days...
Life's like a horse race. The horse who is the fastest has to start last. With acceptance, you can win. Most handicaps won't just go away "I wish I were taller, shorter, etc." Or, "My reality is that my childhood was really, really bad!" Now what? Can you wish it away? Will someone come along and change it for you? You don't have to like it, but you do need to accept it!
Acceptance is a good hard look at reality: "Gees! Mom, it really wasn't YOUR fault when you took me to the grocery store and I ran off and then got lost and scared! Now I don't need to blame you for not being there' and finding me quickly! I was the one who ran off! I was so scared, and I thought you didn't love me any more! Now I can accept what REALLY happened and start healing emotionally, mentally and spiritually!" Once you can accept your handicap(s) you can learn how to use your strengths. In a healthy relationship, especially, you can learn how to use each other's strengths to help balance out each other's weaknesses and since we are human, we all have strengths and weaknesses.
5. Like yourself! Say to yourself that you are "good enough" and that you are "okay." Yes, you may have done some stupid things, but you are still okay. You will probably do more stupid things and you will still be okay! That is part of your SELF ESTEEM A PRESENT THAT YOU GIVE TO YOURSELF!
Remember that self esteem is the cake esteem from others is the frosting so even if someone doesn't like you, that's their business, not yours. If you have a good foundation and a healthy personal relationship with your "self," you won't need to hand over "the strings" to anyone else because you won't feel like or even want to be anyone else's puppet!
If "I esteem me," then I will have self esteem. You won't be worth "diddly squat" to yourself or to anyone else if you don't like your "self!" And you will hand over "the strings" to everyone else to pull doing a disservice to yourself and to everyone else. So give yourself a gift from your "self" self esteem and remember that God, or your Higher Power, gave it to you already, so accept it! You can be more healthy, more peaceful inside and much happier!
If you go through the first five items everyday, after a while you will probably start liking your "self." Decide to live, decide to get out of bed and decide to not drink or self-medicate so you can muddle through the day. Then decide to go to work (even though the boss is a real jerk) and pray to your God, "Hey, Coach, yeah, You up there! Help me through this awful Monday! I'm trying to like myself, and I'm trying to become a healthy person in every way. HELP!!! Give me the strength and energy to keep on putting one foot in front of the other, PLEASE!!!!"
You will be pleasantly surprised many, many times how the day goes by relatively smooth and calm, with no traumatic incidents. You may have to ask for help several times throughout the day and that's okay! You don't have to like your job or your boss (or whatever) just do your job how you are told that it needs to be done, and do that job to the best of your ability. And hope your boss judges you on performance instead of who you are, your age, sex, religious preference, etc.
Also, understand especially if you have kids and can relate to how you feel about them that a Special Some One or a Special Something loves you UNCONDITIONALLY as His/Her/Its special child, even more so than you could ever love your own children, mother, father, etc. (Imagine being that Special Some One or Special Something, and then try thinking about a loved one like your mom, dad, children, pet, etc. Would you want to see them unhappy, sad, or think that they felt unworthy of your love? Would you just say, "No!" to anything they asked you for?)
You have help! Ask for it! The answer may sometimes have to be "no," but most times the answer is "yes." Sometimes God's answer is "no" because a Supreme Being knows what would hurt you and even though you might get angry, would still say "no" because at a later time you would understand the "why."
6. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You are human. You will make mistakes. Learn from them. You may like yourself for your strengths other people may like you for your weaknesses. Look at all your values and your belief systems. "Who am I?" Are the values and belief systems yours or your mom's, your dad's, your teacher's, etc.? Do these values and belief systems cause pain or joy? If they cause pain, perhaps you can change something! Of course, you may have to accept things you cannot change, like being too short or too tall. However, if you get angry and then swear too much and that's causing your mate to get angry because now the kids are starting to swear too much at home and at school, well, that you can change if you choose to and you can say that you are working like hell on changing it! No, you may not be the "best thing" but you're not the "worst thing" either! Just become aware of the "good" and the "bad" parts so you can "know thyself."
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE, AND IT MUST FOLLOW, AS THE NIGHT THE DAY, THOU CANST NOT THEN BE FALSE TO ANY MAN. - SHAKESPEARE
7. Finally, self-actualize. This is a natural "high" one of those rare moments when you know you're doing what you were supposed to do perhaps being part of another person's recovery, feeling a oneness with a Higher Power or having a glimpse of joy (like holding your first born child), etc. The pay off is when you understand that you are helping others or that you are doing something healthy that you feel you are supposed to be doing and you are feeling it. Joy, most people would call that. You will catch glimpses of joy, and even feel peace, along the way. You will feel love for your "self" and then for others.
NEEDS WHAT ARE THE NEEDS FOR THE "SELF" AND FOR TWO OR MORE PEOPLE?
It is important to separate needs from wants. It's okay to let a partner know what you want, but don't expect your partner to do or want your "wants." He/she may say, "I love you and I choose NOT to swing from chandeliers." You can still swing from the chandeliers if you want to...
Needs are critical and very basic. You need food, water, air, shelter, clothing and some sort of organization to society that tells you that you probably won't get shot when you leave your home. Of course, if you're in Ethiopia where there is very little water and food, you may have different needs and you may not be too worried about self esteem! Here are the usual needs for the "self" and for two or more people:
1.) Physical needs like food, water, air.
2.) Physical safety society in general also needs shelter and clothing and the hope that when you walk out of a room that someone doesn't hurt you in some way.
3.) Emotional safety and/or trust, the ability to trust and the first person to trust is YOU. Of course, at the very least, on that same level of trust should be your Higher Power. If you don't trust the "self," then you will project all your fears onto yourself. Some people have trust torn from them at an early age. One of your responsibilities is to give trust back to the "self." The only way to trust is to be responsible and be able to make decisions and part of making those decisions is to accept your handicaps. Even if someone else were to spit on you and/or tell you that you are too fat, short, etc., you have to learn to have trust in the "self," that you will survive and that you are okay. You have to trust yourself first before you can trust others. If you can't trust yourself, then you will live a lie. If you were sexually abused as a child and your body betrayed you and sometimes it "kinda felt good" you would probably wonder how could you EVER trust yourself? Separate the action and who had control (do that for the rest of your life, too). Your dad beat you? Who controlled? How do you build trust? A little at a time!
4.) Love, acceptance and belonging if you never had these as a child, you usually end up in a hospital. There are lots of people like this in the world, and they are usually found in a mental hospital or an AA or other group meeting. If you can go to a group to share your feelings, and the group doesn't puke, in fact, if the group actually gives you a hug after the meeting, then you know the group can accept you and that you belong. You can then allow the "real" you, not the "masked" you to come out. You know you will get accepted for the contents of your package the inside "you." You can learn to love other people in the group and learn how to "love the self." You feel like you belong. Home is where the heart is where ever you are, learn to accept yourself and hug yourself!
5.) Self Esteem whatever you have done or whatever you were is NOT what you are doing or who you are NOW. If you were a hooker yesterday, you do not have to be that today today you could become a student and start learning how to become a secretary, a nurse, etc., if you choose to do so! Learn how to like the "self." Again, SELF ESTEEM IS A GIFT THAT YOU GIVE TO YOURSELF!
6.) Self-Aware take inventory today why you are upset and/or angry, i.e., usually when you try to "take control." Just try to keep 34 ping pong balls under the water. When you do, if you try to pat yourself on the back, at least 17 of those ping pong balls will pop up! Should you try to control all those ping pong balls or is that even possible? Will you die if the ping pong balls are not under the water? Who cares? Should you care?
Start learning from your mistakes and you could change the next 5 to 7 generations for the better! A mistake is an opportunity to learn but you can't learn if you're too busy beating yourself over the head for making the mistake! You can't change the past, but you can change the future for a more positive outcome! Break the chains!
And remember, one of the definitions of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. You can hit your head against that extremely high brick wall only so many times before you end up all bruised, beaten and bloody or worse yet, also with a concussion. Learn how to walk around the brick wall.
7.) Self-Actualize Again, this is a natural "high" one of those rare moments when you know you're doing what you were supposed to do perhaps by being part of another person's recovery, having a oneness with a Higher Power or having a glimpse of joy (like holding your first born child), etc. The pay off is when you understand that you are helping others or that you are doing something healthy that you feel you are supposed to be doing and you are feeling it. Joy, most people would call it. You will catch glimpses of joy, and even peace, along the way. You will feel a true love for your "self" and then for others.
These are REAL NEEDS. Everything else is a WANT.
For those of us who have not learned how to share, who are from dysfunctional families, who are hurting beyond belief, HAVE HOPE! LEARN! If you fear rejection, you will only show and live behind "the masks." You will be a "closed" person. Probably the only way you learned to trust in the past was dysfunctional. Your father and/or mother most likely had a "wall of risk" and held it in front of them at all times. You could see their smiles and their feet but everything in between was covered by "the wall."
Your "walls" can suffocate and perhaps even destroy your "self." When you are in the process of recovery, you must grieve so your emotions can heal. Once your emotions start healing, so does your body. When you can break through denial (walls), you can look at your depression, anger, sadness, etc. You may have to grieve and feel the loss of your own identity as you were growing up. You may have lost family, a healthy sibling interaction, ideals, school performance, etc. If you lost your self worth then you were "left empty." You might have tried to fill that emptiness (fill your "cup"), and fill that "void" by trying to make other people happy (so you could maybe feel their happiness) or by trying to be perfect (so your life could be perfect), and you forgot your "self." Or, you tried to "self medicate" with alcohol (or other drugs) so you didn't have to feel the pain. Nothing seemed to work, however. The emptiness and/or the pain would not go away.
If your loss occurred when you were 3 years old, and at age 35 you go through the loss again so you can actually deal with it, the intensity of grief will probably still be there, just the same as when you were 3 years old. You can't push it away, and you can't pretend it's not there. You have to go back, walk through the trauma and grow. The issues may be abandonment, death, the sense of fear, etc. you may feel like crying, and you may think that if you do start crying, you may never be able to stop. It's okay crying is healthy and you will be able to stop. Perhaps you may feel like you are falling into a bottomless pit with no visible way out but there is a way out! And one of the ways is to get on the path of recovery and then learn how to share your "self."
The "self" is pretty much arranged as below. On the one side is the public "self" that can be intimate when you share some hopes, dreams, fears, etc., with other people, and on the other side is the public "self" that you show to others, sometimes as the "responsible one," or the "rebel," etc. Below (and behind) "the wall" is the private "self," which most people will not share unless they feel really safe, and also the private "self" that is unknown, i.e., in the event of a fire, you may try to save someone else or you may not, depending upon the emotional state of your mind, circumstances, etc. The unknown part can be pretty unpredictable and scary for most people. Each person has a varying degree of how high "the wall" is even varying from day to day. Sometimes that wall can be so high that you think you can hide from everyone, including your "self."
|Public Self, Sharing with Others - Public Self, Showing to Others |
Private Self, Not Usually Shared - Private, Unknown
When we are young we tend to "let it all hang out" (no wall). The first time you fell in (puppy) love you just "let it all hang out" and then you were probably rejected immediately and possibly taunted and teased. You made a decision to never do that again and promptly put up "the wall." (Later, hormones took over and you attempted another relationship.) Or, the first time, when you were 5 years old, you risked asking a question and someone called you a "dummy." Or, you were 11 years old and a speech teacher laughed at one of your speeches, making fun of you in front of the whole class. Or, you were a teenager and the love of your life broke your heart. Sadly, most of us fall "in love" with another person who holds "the wall" up to cover his/her "self."
Normally people allow themselves to be completely vulnerable about three times in their lives. After that, they will defend themselves with behavior and logic to keep from ever being hurt again, and they will refuse to share. The key is to learn to risk in manageable "bites" so you are not vulnerable all at once. Risking in small amounts at a time will help you build trust in the "self" and with others once again. If a person hasn't risked for a while, it takes a lot to share that first thing.
Another person does not have to love you or live with you to be intimate with you (done with your clothes on)!!!! The only thing YOU have to do is drop the "wall of risk" a little bit! You can tell another person that you like classical music, for instance. If his/her eyes don't roll upwards, indicating that he/she may think of you as "one of those people," then you can tell that person a little more perhaps you will be accepted for just who you are and what you like and dislike even if that person doesn't like the same things!
Then you can tell this person that you like country music, too. You can watch the other person's body language, and if the other person doesn't judge you on that either, then you can throw out a few more things, i.e., for a guy, "I like to read poetry," or "After I saw Bambi I couldn't kill and then cut up a deer, so I don't hunt," to see if you can trust that other person. A woman might tell another person that she doesn't want to have kids or she might tell her "possible mate" that she doesn't want to be more than friends right now. Both of them decide that each other is "okay" and go to a deeper level of divulging more scary stuff, i.e., talking about the Higher Power, the fears that are within, the inadequacies that they are feeling or have felt, i.e., "You might meet a younger person and leave me."
If one of them doesn't "poo poo" and giggle, giggle, they both can get very close and intimate, sharing hopes, dreams, fears, and even inadequacies, i.e., a guy telling his possible mate, "I am afraid to try to turn you on, because I may not be man enough to turn you off." If the woman giggles and makes a demeaning remark, "OUCH!" the wall goes up a little. The man could tell the woman that her remark hurt him and made him feel like "less than a man." If she reciprocates and tells him that she is sorry, that she was hurt very badly by a man when she was a child, that her remark was almost automatic and that she didn't mean to hurt him in any way, then they can go on exploring their "selves" if they so wish. This process is building trust and is called intimacy. The man may think, "I risked and trusted, even though you giggled and made a sarcastic remark you didn't mean to hurt me and it's okay, I'll survive. Then I risked some more and you didn't giggle. Whew! That was some scary stuff but I survived!" Both the man and woman now feels accepted, and they both experience trust, acceptance and intimacy.
Lower "the wall" of risk just a little at a time until you feel like you are able to tell the other person something more private. This involves the private "self" and can be pretty scary for a lot of people. You may think that other people are going to gag or spit, or that you will see rejection in someone else's eyes. If that does happen, then you will know that you can trust this person to this point and probably not much more. You can have a friend that likes to listen to classical and country music, ride horses, go on walks, etc., and nothing more than that. You can have a point at which you stop sharing your hopes, fears, dreams, etc. with that other person. It's okay! With yet another person you may be able to share those things and even more! And you can survive! The next person didn't puke, didn't reject you at even a deeper level of intimacy AND THAT INTIMACY IS DONE WITH YOUR CLOTHES ON! PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING TRUST INTO ANY RELATIONSHIP ESPECIALLY IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO GO ON TO A DEEPER LEVEL BEFORE ANY PHYSICAL INTIMACY!!!!
If you find someone you would like to be more than just a friend, and you have shared many, many things (not physically yet, except for maybe hugs) and this person has not puked, has not rejected you in any way, then you know that you survived, you didn't die and it's okay to begin sharing more hopes, dreams, fears, and even some fantasies and inadequacies. If you see something in this other person's eyes after sharing something particularly deep, then STOP. Everyone is entitled to a secret or two in a relationship. It's okay if you feel that "just one other person" should know ALL your secrets, BUT BE AWARE THAT "JUST ONE OTHER PERSON" MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DO SO.
If you have another friend with whom you have no romantic interest, but you do have a deep, abiding friendship, then you could try to share that particularly deep secret with that friend. It's okay to have several friends of the same sex and of the opposite sex! If you are in an AA program, you could try sharing that particularly deep secret with your sponsor, then with the group. You may never share everything with your hope-to-be partner. That's okay. He/she doesn't have to tell you everything, either. Later is okay, when you or your partner chooses to share more and you have to RISK to TRUST. Just don't let everything hang out all at once! Let a little at a time out so you don't overwhelm the other person.
Your hope-to-be partner may tell you to get away from him/her if you share a particularly deep and perhaps unsavory secret with him/her. That person may not be able to hear it when you're ready to tell it. This hope-to-be partner may tell you to wait, he/she can't deal with it now, maybe later. That's okay, too. This hope-to-be partner may tell you that he/she never wants to be near you again! Accept it and deal with it in a healthy manner. Remember, you can not force another person to like (or love) you! You wouldn't want another person to try to force you to like (or love) them, would you? So, if someone tells you they don't like you and want nothing to do with you, accept it and leave. Remember, how someone else feels may not even have anything to do with you perhaps what you look like or what you said brought back memories of their own childhood that were extremely traumatic and they can't deal with it yet. (They will have to someday in some way, but that will be up to them, not you.)
If you're not sure you should share a particularly unsavory secret with your hope-to-be partner, you could try it out on a third party, someone who cares for you, perhaps one of your other friends with whom you have shared some "pretty hairy" secrets and still remains a friend. If that friend pukes, then perhaps you should keep that secret to yourself from now on. Just remember that some people (perhaps even yourself) have done some pretty mean things and now feel regret for them and would not repeat doing them. Remember that you will survive, even if this third party pukes, and that you will like your "self" enough that you will survive. The mistakes of the past are in the past and hopefully will never be repeated.
Also remember, you may think that there are some secrets too scary for any human on earth to hear. It's okay. YOUR HIGHER POWER KNOWS EVERY SECRET and all you have to do is just ADMIT those secrets and DISCUSS them with your Higher Power through prayer. This secret may involve something you feel regret about, i.e., maybe you kicked your beloved female dog when, as a child, you were angry at your parents, and just a few days later your dog died. Ever since that time you have felt that you killed her and that you are a murderer. Yes, perhaps the kick did kill your beloved, faithful companion, and you did, in fact, kill her. Did you know what to do with your anger when you were a child? Did you mean to kill her? I would guess the answers to both of those questions would be "no." I would also imagine you have felt guilt and grief every time you have thought of her.
Acknowledge how you felt then and how you feel now. Ask for forgiveness. Do you think you are the only person in the world who has accidentally killed? No. If you were to turn the tables around, and try to think as your beloved pet, who loved you unconditionally, do you think she would want you to feel such guilt and hatred for your "self?" She loved you, and wanted to be near you. I would imagine many times she comforted you when you were unhappy and hurting for some reason. Imagine her comforting you now. If you can believe in life after death, then know that she still lives, that she is still with you, that she knows you did not mean to harm her and that she still loves you.
Also, remember that there are laws that we must abide by in this country. Please do not break them! If you've always wanted to have seven wives, perhaps it would be best to move to a country that allows you to have seven wives!
INTIMACY (again, done with your clothes on) IS THE OPPOSITE OF LONELY!!!! When you go to an AA meeting and you can share your hopes, dreams, fears, inadequacies, etc., and can be intimate with others and STILL get hugs and be asked to have coffee with the group, then you can know acceptance and you won't remember feeling lonely if you truly shared yourself. Sometimes you might ask yourself "why did I say all that stuff?" It's okay! You want and need acceptance from yourself and from others, especially if you didn't get it as a child! Yes, it may feel uncomfortable! It may feel abnormal! But was your childhood "normal?"
What is NORMAL? Rather than be angry all the time, not show any feelings, lash out at all the people around you, be a clown, etc., wouldn't it be better to share your true feelings in a healthy way? Without masks? Wouldn't it be nice to become vulnerable in a safe environment? Wouldn't it be nice to actually CARE about something or someone? Sure, if you don't care then it can't hurt, right? You don't want to be the animal that's been beat up, laying on the ground with its belly exposed to others so they can rip it open, right? Yes, someone could use what you share to tease you or taunt you or hurt you in some way. That type of someone would probably do just such a thing if they were afraid to open up to you! That type of person has the "do unto others before they can do unto you" attitude and probably is projecting how he/she feels about his/her "self" onto you. Somewhere down the line that person will have to face the "self" and face the truth. In the meantime, you will "know" that other person for who he/she really is, and you will probably not want to be near that person because that person is extremely unhealthy. That type of person will not usually be even close to an AA meeting, by the way.
To be loved and have a sense of belonging and acceptance, you do not have to perform. You do not have to ask yourself if the other person wants you to be logical, serious, happy, sad, etc. To be accepted, you must share your needs, your wants, your fantasies, etc. If you can't do that, the other person won't be able to accept you and the "we" won't feel like we "belong" and the "we" won't be able to find "home." So, say to yourself, "I will accept me' when I have hopes, fears, fantasies, etc. It starts with me.' I have to risk and then I have to experience what I feel and fear. I have to accept and then experience my inadequacies and the acceptance of them. I will trust my self.' I will love because love starts with trust, and then more love comes with sharing and intimacy."
Yes, a lot of people play "games" which ups the needs for you and for me. You may start playing the game of the "empty versus full cup" and say, "I can't fill my need (cup). I need you, and if you fill my need, I'll fill yours...you go first!" If you do try this, both of you will end up with empty cups. You may try and try to fill someone else's needs but only that person can fill the needs that they have. "What? I have to do this for my self?' that's not fair!!!" The harsh reality is that even if we were to exchange cups you need me to give you self esteem, confidence, etc., and I need you to give me self esteem, confidence, etc. it's not going to happen! If adults try to exchange cups, it usually happens because the woman was raised to fill or to nurture needs, and the man asks for and the woman gives and gives and gives... And the man thinks that by making a lot of money, buying a lot of things and providing a roof over everyone's head proves that he has provided for their needs.
Yes, you do have to help guide young children and sometimes disabled and/or elderly people. Parents have to fill their young children's cups (needs) from the time they are born (and even before) so the child can grow up to be healthy. Parents should probably start about age 5 and little by little, allow the child to start filling his/her own cup. The parent can say, "I'd like to see you get an A. I know you're capable of doing so!" If the parent can use positive encouragement, it's more healthy for both of them, rather than saying, "By gosh! You better get an A or else!!!" Eventually, around adolescence, parents need to gradually stop filling cups. They must stop telling the children that they are handsome, pretty, smart, etc., all the time. The young adult needs to learn and to know for the "self" how to fill his/her own cup.
How do parents force kids to fill their own needs? Dad wanted to be an engineer, but ended up being a mechanic. The kid will be an engineer even if the dad has to break every bone in that kid's body! The daughter ends up being a ballerina because mom always wanted to be. Or, perhaps mom won't be happy until the kid gets an "A." Okay, the kid "performs" and the parent is "happy." The healthy way is to encourage the child to do his/her best and the child does so because that child WANTS to. You would like to see your son or daughter enjoying a job because they LIKE doing what they are interested in, wouldn't you? A young child is unable to change his/her life and is at the mercy of the parent(s) and others in his/her life. As an adolescent and as an adult, we can choose to change our lives.
So perhaps you think that a good, solid government job with security will get you to heaven. Is that your value system or, is it dad's or granddad's value system because he went through the Big Depression in the 1930's? Or, perhaps you think you can't really be a woman unless you have children and always wear dresses. Usually mom or grandma gives you those value systems.
Wouldn't it be great if you could think to yourself (and perhaps be able to say in a tactful way), "I can usually meet your wants, not your needs. It is okay if I choose to fill a want that you have I can say yes or no and it's still okay. If you want me to go to a family reunion in Puckerbrush, Oklahoma, I can tell you, I love you AND I'm NOT going.' I am not obligated to fill a want."
If the man is dominant, he would probably say, "Well, I'm not going to your reunion, but by gosh, you ARE going to mine in Mississippi!" In that kind of a relationship, the woman is usually submissive and would probably say, "Okay, honey." Doesn't that relationship sound somewhat unhealthy?
Each of you have a family reunion? You can always go to one partner's reunion the first year and the other partner's reunion the following year... You do this for compromise and you do it because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to or NEED to! And to say, "I'll do this for you IF you do this for me" is BARGAINING, not COMPROMISING. Compromise means that you will do something with no return: "I'll just do this, you don't owe me anything."
Two people in an intimate relationship usually seem to start leaning into each other and then end up needing each other. However, one of them usually starts growing up faster and steps away then the other one promptly falls on his/her bottom. Walk side by side, holding each other's hands. It's okay even if the man were to go to the Mississippi reunion and the wife were to go to the Oklahoma reunion. It's okay to let go of each other's hands for a while. After the reunions, they can come back together and share their experiences in a healthy manner.
Remember, when the honeymoon is over, and you meet each other in the bathroom by chance, you may end up having "passion," but if you have no thoughts being shared, no trust, etc., "we" will both end up being lonely and the opposite of being lonely is being intimate.
ALSO REMEMBER: You can change yourself. You cannot change someone else!
If some habits of your partner are driving you crazy, it's okay to say something (tactfully). Your partner may not be aware of his/her habits or that they are driving you nuts. Some of your own habits may be driving him/her crazy! So let's tell each other (tactfully) so we can change if we want to change. The WANT to change is one of the greatest gifts we can give in a meaningful relationship. Another one of the greatest gifts is TRUTH. Tell your partner (kindly, please) your wants. Let your partner know your likes and dislikes (especially in the bedroom). If you share and your partner doesn't, it's also okay. A female usually reveals herself by more than ½ before a male will even reveal the first scratch of himself since being "male" is supposedly never being sensitive or having inadequacies. Many males believe they are supposed to have a lot of testosterone and "gusto," and they're supposed to yell, scream, fight, make up and make babies...
It's also okay to share some fears and inadequacies with your kids. Let them know that it's okay to be afraid, and that you must choose what you do about it. Let them know you're human, and that you are not a perfect human. The child doesn't need to know all, but share things as you feel they are needed to help him/her grow and learn about his/her "self."
Fear can be a very significant factor. The fear of getting close can surface and a person sometimes just stops, freezes and that person just can not move they are "frozen with fear." If you are cautious, you are aware and you can move if needed and you can use your brain to make a decision to "stay away." Fear, true fear, is unreasonable. A woman can get beaten up and almost killed by a strange man. After that, she may fear all males. If the woman can change the word "fear" to "cautious" or "wise," then she is not frozen. She may have to change her fear in increments. She may have to be cautious of the way the strange man who hurt her looked, i.e., a white, bald fat man. She can be very cautious of that type of male until she can turn her fear back to a reasonable "caution." She may have a boundary for the rest of her life, and never allow a white, bald fat man to get close to her again, but she won't fear all men.
Also, if one of the partners in the relationship just can't let "the wall" down, no matter what, then the other partner will have a choice to make. A woman may think, "He's a great lover, a great dad, a good provider but he won't be intimate. Can I live with him or not? Will he compromise or will he compromise only if it doesn't get in his way?" Well, there is always an adult decision to make. Do you have other people in your life with whom you can be intimate (done with clothes on)? Will it be enough for you to have intimacy with other people and have mostly physical contact with your significant other? There are many things to consider.
So, if you start sharing and being intimate with others, and perhaps even start letting some things "hang out," do you think others will find you "weird?" Well, you really have to share with others to find out what is "normal." When you share experiences you start sharing your strengths and weaknesses. You will also be intimate. You will NOT be lonely if you are intimate with others. If you hide from your "self" and others, and you do not become intimate, then you can expect to feel that lonely feeling which usually leads to depression because you start trying to "depress" the lonely feeling. A wise teacher once told me that you can't just "depress" one feeling. All the feelings start becoming "depressed" which leads to depression. And that's NOT any way that I would choose to live! How about you?
Every morning I want to CHOOSE to live. I want to have my freedom and I WANT to take responsibility (not because I have to). I choose to have a Higher Power. I choose to become aware of my handicaps and accept them. I choose to forgive myself and others and to like myself. I want to become self-aware and to then self-actualize. I really, really want to live and be happy and healthy in every way. I want to love and be loved. How about you?
*Recreated from notes taken during lectures at various hospitals, and at the YWCA, etc., including classes given by Jim Osborn, a great teacher