Sometimes just one or two decisions made in a dysfunctional (not healthy) family can cause many, many problems for themselves, for their children, grandchildren, etc.
It seems that in dysfunctional families, the two most dysfunctional are either alcoholic (or another addiction) or rigid (set rules that must not be changed, i.e., religious views, punishments, etc.). A relationship between two dysfunctional people could be exemplified below:
This guy grew up in a dysfunctional family and feels worthless, unloved and incomplete. There is no bonding process he knows of, because he believes he is not worthy of being loved. This type of person will constantly search for someone to fit in the "hole" (the place within a person that feels like something's missing), and will happily give away his boundaries. He will say "yes" and will not feel "complete" until he has been "rescued" – and if he marries and it ends in divorce, he will be completely devastated, and may even commit suicide.
Imagine both Brad and Mary portrayed as circles, like two pies, with a slice (or two) of each of the pies missing. Since both of them have this piece(s) missing, they both feel like "something's missing," but neither one of them can "put a finger on it." They meet and "fall instantly in love." Mary makes Brad feel "complete," and gives him an emotional and spiritual lift. They both believe that arguments could never tear them apart, yet they are not able to have a resolution to any of their fights. They also believe that they are healthy and that they should believe the things they believe – after all, that's the way they were raised, right? Mom and dad wouldn't lead them astray – doesn't everyone come from a household like they did? After a while, Mary begins to feel like she's being "sucked into" Brad – and Brad begins to feel like he's being "smothered," taken in, perhaps even possessed by Mary.
This girl also grew up in a dysfunctional family and her only bond is a "passion" bond. She needs to rescue and pushes boundaries.
Mary starts to push, asking Brad if he still loves her. Brad says yes out loud and secretly says to himself that he will eat this and say yes this time. Mary asks again. Brad says yes again – and this happens several times. Finally Brad gets fed up with everything and when Mary asks once again, Brad tells her that maybe he doesn't love her – and then they both feel like failures. Mary feels the need to rescue, but Brad doesn't want to be rescued at that moment.
A relationship should be between two people who CHOOSE to be together – not because they HAVE to be together. If you are either Brad or Mary, and you are single, with no one to "be" with, then you may be going through life trying to find "the missing piece" that will fit your missing piece – and as you "thump along" (and you thump every time you hit that empty hole), it is very painful.
Brad and Mary "break up" for a while – but something's still missing from both of their lives. Loneliness overwhelms Brad and he finally decides that he needs Mary in his life, so he calls her up. He tells her he loves her and she's the only woman in the world that can make him happy. He also promises her that he is going to be Mr. Nice Guy from now on. Mary agrees that she will be "his woman" and for a while they are "happy" – not allowing any arguments to harm their relationship, even though there are still no resolutions to those arguments. Pretty soon Brad puts up a wall to shield himself from Mary and she begins to feel like she's trapped in a cell with Brad. Mary will fight, kick and scream to get out, but the only way out is to destroy the wall Brad has put up – and if she destroys the wall, then Brad will feel destroyed. Brad is miserable, too, and they both ask themselves how they got to this point. They both begin to question how they can fix this mess.
So, how do they fix the mess? Well, the "self" of each of them got their "selves" into this position. So the "self" of each has to make the decision to be WHOLE – all by the "self." If each person can give the gift of self esteem to the "self" and then choose to be in the relationship, choose to have resolutions to any arguments, choose to learn how to become healthy and then choose to be healthy, they might just have a chance.
All behavior has a purpose – why do you feel, think and judge the way you do? Perhaps the following example will give you a hint about an event, the feelings about the event and the early decisions that were decided, usually at a very young age:
Abandonment - a major issue with young people. Death, divorce, a move, a traveling parent, an alcoholic (who needs a drink worse than wanting to be with the child, so the child feels abandoned), etc.
Fear of abandonment, no trust, being insecure, feeling worthless, feeling angry at the self and then turning the anger inward – which causes depression. The child feels helpless, confused, unloved, abandoned, shamed (and will label the "self" as unlovable, worthless, ugly, bad, stupid, etc.), and/or the child will have family shame and be embarrassed, feeling guilt, inadequacy, and out-of-control.
"I must gain control. I will never get close to anyone – or, if do get close, I will trap them so they can't get away." If the latter decision is made, there will be a fear of intimacy, and intimacy will be replaced with ownership – a male may say, "It's my pickup, my shotgun, my dog and my wife – in that order." This child will probably take possession, and will be extremely jealous. It hurts too bad to be abandoned, so he/she might perform and do what needs to be done to be liked – anything – and would probably give a piece of the "self" to prove it. These children will probably have no expectations and may play dumb so no one asks them to do anything. They will probably look for someone to give them worth and they will most likely look externally, not internally. If this child were 13 to 14 years of age, and if the same event(s) and feeling(s) were to occur, he/she would probably make different decisions – and decisions made on feelings are the important thing.
Almost all of us have a fear of intimacy. If we end up with an extreme fear of intimacy, we will probably substitute something else for it, like drinking, gambling, etc. A compulsive gambler will believe that money is the root of the problem – and also the solution. He/she will not be able to see that the "self" is the solution.
If you are a male and you decide to control everything, your wife may come home from work and you will probably meet her at the door with, "Where were you? You got off at 5 p.m. and it's now 5:30 p.m. – did you stop off someplace and find a boyfriend???" Your belief system tells you that you are unlovable and therefore, you can't love or be loved – unless you are performing. You will require another human being to perform with and both of you will probably get ulcers.
If you go into a relationship with revenge in mind because you are angry, you may end up "sucking that person dry" and then going out, getting another one and doing the same thing (over and over again). If you are angry and you turn your anger inward, you will probably get sick. The illness might be physical, such as headaches, ulcers, cancer, etc., or you could become mentally ill. If you beat your "self" up every day, telling your "self" that you are no good, worthless, unlovable, etc., you will most likely commit suicide – either slowly or quickly.
Two people may get into an unhealthy relationship and one of them may decide to "get healthy." This person matures, learns, grows up and begins to see the big picture – yes, it may be a big jigsaw puzzle – but once the person can see the big picture, the pieces can be filled in. This unhealthy relationship may become healthy if the other person also decides to mature, learn and grow up.
If you made an early decision as a child to become a rebel, you may have chosen to be a rebel quietly or not so quietly. If you were the quiet rebel, you would probably get a tatoo, get your body pierced in some way(s), get "wild" and drink beer, steal cars, be stubborn, etc. If you smoked and someone asked you to quit, you would smoke even more. You needed an illusion of independence. If you were not a quiet rebel, you would probably organize a gang and go shoot up the neighborhood – and you would be in control of your gang and what did or did not happen on your "turf."
In a relationship, you might fight emotionally, physically, etc., and you may try to control the situation(s). It can get chaotic really fast because the more out-of-control you feel, the more control you try to feel – and both partners may go back and forth with trying to control.
Kids may manipulate or try to control by compulsive behavior, i.e., eating, exercising, cleaning, etc., and as adults they may start gambling, working long hours, etc. You may need the illusion of control, and if you do, you will voluntarily give up passion for life. If you are "in control," you probably won't have any spontaneity and you probably won't do things you want to do because you will have to be in control.
Perhaps every time someone says that your hair looks weird, or you thighs are too big, etc., you feel hurt. Based on early childhood decisions, that hurt could be reinforced and possibly even magnified into out-of-control feelings. If that's true, then every time you feel "that hurt" you will fear intimacy more and more – and your wall will get higher and higher. You will want someone to "get closer," yet every time someone tries, you will raise the wall because you are afraid to become intimate. Intimacy equates to being unloved, abandonment, more hurt, etc. And the reason it hurts too much is because you didn't go through the hurt. You decided to ignore (deny) "that hurt." The hurt scabbed over but never healed, so it festered, became infected, and got worse until the pain got so bad, so unbearable, that you felt like you might die – and you knew something had to be done.
As in a physical injury (caused by a knife, gun, fall, etc.), that doesn't heal in the proper way and becomes infected, when you go through recovery, you will have to peel the scab off "that hurt" – you may even have to bleed a little. As you peel the scab off and push and squeeze to get the infection out, it is going to hurt even worse for a while. You may need medicine to fight the infection so that the hurt doesn't turn into gangrene, and that's okay. The hurt will eventually start healing from the inside and will heal the right way. The pain from this hurt will lessen as the hurt heals and will eventually go away. Yes, there may be a scar, and perhaps there might be a little "pang" of pain in that area upon occasion, but you won't die from gangrene!
During this time of healing you will probably go on an emotional roller coaster ride. This applies to alcoholics (addicts), co-dependents, adult children of alcoholics, family members and even friends. You may cry like a baby at a movie, or even "for no reason," and that's okay. Go through the pain and grieve – go through the process so you can get to the other side. It may hurt and throb – and you may need to baby "that hurt," pamper it and soak it in the hot tub until it starts healing. And to heal you have to share with other people – experience help. You can't really do "it" by yourself. You need others with you who have been there and got through it in a healthy manner, and by sharing your fears, hopes, dreams, etc., you become intimate (done with your clothes on).
You may be mad, sad, hurt, etc. Feel all the feelings! Direct them outward in a healthy manner and in a safe environment. It is okay to be angry at mom or dad, it is okay for you not to love the "self" right now. You will understand that you can love a person – and the "self" – and be angry with the behavior. If you can begin to feel better about your "self" and others after you have been in the recovery process for a while, then you will know that you are making progress. If you don't start feeling better, you may be "stuck" and wallowing. A person can get stuck – just remember that recovery is one step at a time – and there's nothing that says you can't stop and rest for a while. If you do stop for a while, be sure to get back up and take another step!
Some people think that the only feelings they have are anger, rage and hate – and if they give those feelings up with other people (share in a healthy way) without other props (such as love, etc.), that they will just disappear. That is not true! You may have been mistreated so badly that the only way you could survive was to keep the anger, rage and hate alive at all times. During the recovery process you provide the love and support for the "self" by realizing that you are not the only one who has been hurt – and trauma is trauma is trauma – the results are that a person has been hurt. You will realize that you need to share your hurt with others who have felt hurt so you can really examine it. You will hear about other people's hurts and how they got through the pain so they could become more healthy and feel better.
If you made a decision to forever hate, be angry and have rage when you were 7 years old, you need to rethink and evaluate that decision day by day. It is okay to question your feelings, your faith, your relationships, etc. Try not to live with a decision made by that 7-year-old child. Go back, remember and get in touch with the feelings, the actions, and make a mature, adult decision.
You may try to suppress feelings because you decided at an early age that when you got sick you got attention, but if you were "mopey" you didn't. So, feeling "mopey" was not okay – perhaps feeling other feelings wasn't okay, either. Usually one of the belief systems we formed as a child is that certain feelings were unacceptable, so we try to shut down one feeling, then another, etc., until we end up shutting down all of our feelings. If you shut down anger, hate, etc., you will also shut down love, peace, etc. When you shut down, or depress one feeling or more, you will almost always end up depressing all of your feelings and you become "numb" – which usually brings on depression.
We are very much like early man. Yes, early man probably had a lot of feelings, too. The most common one was probably fear. Fear was natural, it was normal and it was real! Stay away from a person who is not afraid. You will most likely get killed. Heroism is the process of walking through the fear. You feel it, acknowledge it, know that it is there and choose to go through it. Usually the fear of loneliness is greater than the fear of intimacy.
Anger was also natural, normal and real to early man and could cause an adrenaline rush which could then cause a fight-or-flight response. In a life-or-death situation, adrenaline took over and was early man's best friend – or his worst enemy. Anger is designed to motivate people – fight or flight. If you don't choose to do something, the result is called anxiety – and you won't even be able to move if you have severe anxiety. If you experience anxiety for too long, your endorphin level (which allows you to feel happy) can become depleted, anxiety then takes its toll and you usually end up with diarrhea, ulcers, gastritis, depression, etc.
Early man had to trust, too. It was also natural, normal and real. Babies trust implicitly. If a very young child says he/she don't want to be around a person, listen and be aware.
If I love you and you love me, how do I prove to you that I'm trustworthy? Be a perfectionist? No – it's always your decision to trust me. If I "screw you over" 15 times and you still trust me, it's your decision – and it will be your decision to trust me the 16th time (or not). It's also always my decision to trust you.
If we become intimate and then you say something that I misconstrue, I may feel hurt and I may be afraid that I can't talk with you and I can't trust you anymore – and only I can choose to trust and become intimate with you again. I may have made a childhood decision that if someone hurt me once, they would never have another chance at hurting me again – and that decision was cut in stone! We may have a nice relationship, we're great, we talk about the kids, sleep together, get a house, a boat, etc., but we will both be lonely if we can't become intimate again. The only way I can become intimate with you again is if I examine my earlier childhood decision and, with an adult perspective, choose to trust (or not to trust) you again. If I take a chance and trust you, and then you hurt me once more in the same way, I probably won't take another chance.
In the above scenario, I really should ask you what you meant by the "something" that you said. If you tell me something different than what I thought you said, then I don't have to go through all the other "stuff" – because I stopped to clarify what was said to me – instead of just assuming what was said. For example, a girl may want ice cream – the guy may tell her no, that she doesn't need it. Does the girl assume he thinks she's fat and shouldn't eat ice cream? Should she ask him what he meant? If she asks, perhaps he might tell her that she didn't need any ice cream right then because he wanted to take her out to dinner in just a little while and she could have her ice cream for dessert!
If a male child gets drunk for the first time, goes out, gets in the car and ends up getting a DUI (driving under the influence) ticket – do I let him drive ever again? Does he have to wait until he's older than 50? I have to decide to trust (or not) and decide to live with the consequences. If I trust him once more and the kid gets drunk again, drives the car and gets another DUI, then he may have to wait until he's 50!
Always try to keep hope in your heart – and realize that goals of a big house, car, etc., won't bring you lasting happiness. One way to true, lasting happiness is the ability to feel love, peace, etc. – and that's done by learning how to love the self and others, and allowing yourself to be loved; to forgive the self and others, and allowing yourself to be forgiven; and to feel and then choose how you want to feel, dealing with negative feelings in a more healthy manner.
Therapy may motivate change and get me "unstuck" – or someone may have to do an intervention to let me know I am lost. For example, some people drive around aimlessly for a long time, ending up in quicksand up to their windshield wipers before it dawns on them that they are lost. They may have been saying all along that they know where they are going, that they are "in control," while trying to prove they are not lost by driving faster and faster until they speed into the quicksand. Then they end up spinning their wheels while the car just keeps on sinking. Sometimes other people who want to help have to wait until the people who are in the quicksand get to the point where they finally know that they need help and say, "HELP!" Then the others can toss a rope and pull them out.
If the people in the car realize they might be lost and haven't hit the quicksand yet, they can ask for directions and others can give them a map and say, "That's how we got out of here – and watch out for the quicksand ahead." The people in the car can then choose to accept the fact that they are lost, that there's quicksand ahead, and they can choose to follow the map to safety and not speed into that quicksand and lose their lives in that sinking car!
Love is also natural, normal and real. Love starts with trust. I have to trust that you won't hurt me deliberately. I know (or should know) that I will feel hurt sometimes in a relationship, but I have to trust that you won't hurt me because you wanted to. Love and intimacy are sharing hopes, dreams, fears, etc. – done with your clothes on. I might have dependency, passion, sex, etc. – but that's not really love and intimacy.
Guilt is natural, normal and real, too. This feeling can become lethal – any guilt that lasts over 20 minutes can get really ugly. I feel guilt when I disappoint my "self" (or other people). I can beat on my "self" with a whip – but either I do or don't do "that" any more. If I accept other people's guilt, that is unnatural and I begin to feel shame.
Imagine feelings being represented on the lines below, the intensity rising, from left to right:
Slightly Upset----More Upset-----Getting Angry-----Angry-----Extreme Anger----Rage
Mild Guilt--Feeling More Guilty--Feeling Guilt for Others' Behavior-Shame--Ashamed (Guilt for Others' Behavior is Shame)
If my son goes out and robs a gas station, and I'm a loving, wonderful father, I will probably feel like I should have done something better, feel the whole gauntlet of guilt and end up ashamed. Am I supposed to accept my son's guilt? No – and that's not easy. Your son is responsible for his behavior and for his feelings. The most grown up thing is to understand just what you are feeling and understand that the feeling(s) is yours. You don't have to like it, but the feeling(s) is yours. Acknowledge what you feel and decide that you did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time your son was growing up, and it was your son – not you – who robbed the gas station. It is now your son, not you, who should feel the guilt. Try to forgive yourself and your son. Hopefully your son will learn how to be more healthy if you remain a healthy role model for him – and parents are role models! Children learn by observing.
If you were abused as a child, a dirty, rotten someone gave you an ugly package of fear, anger, trust, love, guilt, etc. Suppose that someone dies while you are young. Later on in your life, you may look at the package that was given to you and wonder why you are still carrying it around, beating yourself over the head with it. That package is history – in the past – and you can choose not to carry it around anymore. If that someone didn't die, and you try to hand the package back, that someone won't take it back. Then you'll probably say, "That dirty, rotten person gave me this package of "stuff" that I don't want!" If you try to get revenge, the package becomes hot and can burn you. If that dirty, rotten someone handed you that package and you took it (i.e., by becoming what that someone wanted you to become) – then that someone has control over you. For example, because of the abuse you might end up becoming an angry, fearful alcoholic hermit or a needy, pathetic hypochondriac (etc.) – you may be unhappy and hate who you are...because what you really want is to be happy and like who you are. So the dirty, rotten person (who was unhappy and hated everyone) has "control" over you and how you feel. Do you really want to hand over any kind of control to that dirty, rotten person?
Can a psychiatrist take that package? Could drugs, alcohol or some compulsive behavior mask the package so you don't have to look at it and you could forget it? No, you still have the package. You have to let go of what you want to or need to. You can set yourself free from the control that dirty, rotten someone has over you by owning your own feelings and ridding yourself of the feelings (letting go of them) – and you have to feel those feelings first. So, the most healthy option is to say the Serenity Prayer (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) – and give that package up to your Higher Power. Your Higher Power knows how to dispose of that package properly.
Am I supposed to accept and take responsibility for my behavior and feel shame if I was sexually abused as a child? Who was in control? Was I in control as a child? Or was the person who abused me in control? If you are a female and you were sexually abused, you may not want to feel female. You may feel worthless, unlovable, and try to over achieve, be perfect, etc. You may even start dressing so that almost all of your body is covered, including the big hat – so no one can see you. It will probably even be worse if the abuse "felt good" and you think your body betrayed you – things don't seem quite so clear then. Now you feel guilt, shame or ashamed – you can feel all three things. Remember who had the control then! Realize that you can become more healthy and feel much better – you can end up liking your "self!" GUILT, SHAME AND/OR ASHAMED SHOULD NOT APPLY BECAUSE YOU DID NOT HAVE ANY CONTROL!
If you keep trying to "be in control" you will probably run into a vicious circle and end up not feeling and not having any passion. You have to let go of the control and forgive the "self," if you really think you did something wrong – which you did not! Someone else's behavior may affect you, but you are not responsible for the other person's behavior. One way to let go and stop someone else's behavior from affecting you is to write it out – get your feelings down on paper and get them out of your head. You can cry, yell, spit, write letters and burn them – just let go in your head and get those feelings out in a healthy way. If you have felt guilty for a long time, then you are taking responsibility for someone else's behavior.
We shouldn't think that any feelings are unnatural. It's what you choose to do with those feelings that matters. As a young child you may believe (because you've been taught by your parents) that people who have sex before marriage are going to a really hot place. Then when you turn 16 you end up with your boyfriend (or girlfriend) steaming up the car windows. You have a choice now. You can "act like" or really try to be "lily white" from then on. If you choose to "act like" you are not steaming up car windows with your partner, you will end up lying to your "self" and to others – and you will probably even start feeling really guilty if you were taught not to lie. If you choose to be "lily white" until you get married, you will probably need to explain to your partner why you want to wait for marriage or, if you have not waited, why you'd rather wait from now on until you marry. You could tell your partner that you love him/her and you feel like you are going against your values and beliefs if you continue steaming up the windows. It will then become your partner's choice whether or not to continue the relationship on different terms.
Perhaps you think God allowed hurt on this earth to let you know you care – and you think the flip side of that is if you don't care, then you won't get hurt... But when you try not to care, you feel lonely – you just pretend like you're not hurt – and you'll be lonely until you can become intimate. Both parties in a relationship must make the decision to become intimate (done with your clothes on) so that both of you can alleviate the loneliness. INTIMACY IS THE OPPOSITE OF LONELY!
If another person thinks "if I show you my stuff, then you'll show me your stuff," and then that person shows you some stuff – but you don't want to show your stuff – the other person will probably get angry and tell you to show your stuff. If you still don't want to show your stuff, and if that person tries to force your boundaries, you will probably just "close up." In fact, most people will react the same way if someone tries to force their boundaries – and having boundaries forced really doesn't feel very good to anyone! Voluntary sharing, or being intimate, is much more healthy and feels a whole lot better to people in any relationship!
There may come a time when you will have to decide if you want to be in a relationship with someone or not. If the other person does not want to be intimate, and you try to force intimacy, the other person will probably either "close up" or run away from you somehow (by working, reading, etc., or physically leaving). If you stop trying so hard, the other person may become intimate – sometimes. If you choose to stay in an alcoholic relationship, you will probably be faced with a "don't try to change me" attitude from the alcoholic – and until the alcoholic gets into recovery, he/she will be intimate with the booze, not with you.
There is a purpose for every behavior. If you continue to pick so-called "losers," or if you pick someone who is not a threat to you, or if you pick someone who could be a threat – there is a purpose. If you pick someone who could be a threat to you, it might be for the illusion of power – that if just you love him/her enough, you will be able to break through his/her barrier and then you both will be able to live "happily ever after." The reality is that only that person can break through the barrier of the "self." If you choose this type of person, there is some belief system or perhaps a fear of your own intimacy behind your choice, and you might think that you have recognized a person who could be "the missing piece." If you are a rescuer, you probably think that you have to find a person who believes he/she is a "loser." And this so-called "loser" may think, "Wow! Found a person who promised to make me happy – okay, baby, do it now!"
Sometimes you might think you would be more comfortable if you don't have to grow – but then you will probably end up substituting control for passion – and existence for life. Do you want to feel "in control" and just exist? Wouldn't you rather enjoy life – with passion?
When each of you in the relationship can feel deep in your gut that you are a "winner" and 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. You may want to go to the coast, your partner may want to go the mountains. It's okay – no one is being abandoned. Or, if you want to go to school, your partner won't feel like you are trying to be better than him/her.
If your partner wants to go to school and ends up meeting someone, and for some reason he/she has an affair, then tells you (after realizing he/she loves you, not the other person) and asks you for your forgiveness, you may still want to maintain your relationship. It is your decision. You can forgive – or choose to end this relationship. If you choose to end the relationship, take some time to learn more about your "self" and healthy/unhealthy patterns before getting into another relationship so you can have a more healthy one.
If you are an alcoholic (addict), and you choose to go into recovery, learn and grow, then don't get into any major life decisions for at least six months to one year because you are going to be RAW. You may run around, acting like velcro, wanting to hook up with something – or anything – and that can be tough on a partner while you are growing. If you have a partner already, and that partner is a co-dependent type personality, and he/she is fearful, talk about it! Walk through it! "I'm afraid – I don't know if we have a relationship or not – I care for you...I don't know if I love you or not." That is intimacy – you shared something.
If you are in severe pain, i.e., if you were severely abused, tortured, etc., you may feel like you would do anything to get rid of the pain – and you don't know what to do or how to do it. If you expect someone else to "make you complete – or fill that hole," it won't happen. People will take drugs, drink, get depressed, numb out, lower expectations, kill the "self" – and perhaps even physically kill the "self" (suicide, fast or slow kind) – but they will not change reality. And that REALITY IS THAT ONLY YOU CAN MAKE YOUR "SELF" WHOLE. It's unrealistic to expect someone else can "fix you." YOU have to DECIDE that you are fun, honest, a good person, a good provider, etc. – NO ONE ELSE CAN DO THAT FOR YOU! GIVE YOUR "SELF" THAT PRECIOUS GIFT OF SELF ESTEEM! And to be able to become intimate, you have to share your "self" by sharing fears, inadequacies, hopes, dreams, etc., with other people.
It's okay to "explode" – just go someplace safe (the desert, if you must) and scream and cry – just let it go! And let it go in a healthy manner so you don't hurt yourself or someone else. Pain means you are stuck somewhere. Keeping a diary or a journal is a good way to rid the "self" of pain. Write to the people you feel caused you pain. Then take a look at your own expectations – so the last three cars you bought were lemons – the fourth one will hopefully be a good one.
Once you can live one day at a time (and occasionally it may be an hour, a minute or a second at a time!), you will remind your "self" that you can deal with "this" (whatever you are trying to recover from) for 24 hours – and then you can do something about tomorrow. If you feel that "it" is too overwhelming and you need to take a break for a little while, that's okay. Go to a good movie, read a good book, etc., then ask your Higher Power to help you make it through the day, to help you make it through the night and to help you learn how to recognize and deal with your feelings. If you feel anger (or even rage) toward someone, and you know that you "can't do anything about it" (i.e., maybe the person died), perhaps for a while it would help to believe that "someone" will "get his/hers" and that your Higher Power will have a hand in that whole process – and then ask your Higher Power to help you "let go" of all of the negative feelings so you can become more healthy and happy. Eventually you will get to a point where you can say, "I am responsible for my own feelings and I will take ownership for them – I will acknowledge those feelings and I will choose a healthy course of action to deal with them."
I'm positive that my God has a real sense of humor! Try to keep humor alive in your adult relationships. A wise teacher once told me that if a situation between he and his wife started getting out-of-control, many times he would head to the bedroom. Of course, he knew that she would follow him pretty soon, trying to resolve issues. Many times she would be greeted by a smiling, naked husband! He said it's extremely difficult to fight when one of you is naked! And inevitably they would both start laughing and the tension would be alleviated. Sometimes they would even forget what they had been fighting about – and she would get naked, too! Sometimes they would laugh and then start communicating and resolving issues in a positive, healthy way.
God (or your Higher Power) heats and hammers us and shapes us like a tool – and once you're a tool in your Higher Power's hands, you can help someone else, too.
I know this is tough – and probably contrary to what you learned when you were young. If you want to "get better" and stop the awful pain from consuming you, then you must learn, grow and listen to your Higher Power when He/She/It sends you help. That help may come when you least expect it – and from whom you least expect. We are all teachers, we are all pupils. Just remember, you are a survivor – don't quit now! Also remember, guilt belongs to me. Shame belongs to others. You should never feel shame for being a human being, for loving the "self" and being able to love others.
*Recreated from notes taken during lectures at various hospitals, and at the YWCA, etc., including classes given by Jim Osborn, a great teacher