Something Familiar

May 28th, 2009

I was driving in my car and heard a very familiar song.  I said I know that song, as I hummed and sang more to it.  Oh yeah, “Careless Whisper”.  That was the George Michael song, but after listening some more, I said, but that’s not George Michael.  With the beauty of Sirius radio, I found out it was Seether.  I said “wow this is very familiar, but it’s not good.” Familiarity doesn’t equal good, it just equals familiar.

A feeling of familiarity is much like an old shirt, it’s comfortable, and  is filled with memories and experiences.  It  doesn’t mean that it looks good or that it is good for me.  People get into and stay in relationships because they are familiar.  They act in a ways that they have experienced before.   A woman that I see gets involved with a married man.  He treats her well and takes care of her.  She knows that he’s married, but the goodness overrides the obvious complication–he’s married! It’s a familiar script, she’s dated married men before, grew up in a family where dad cheated on mom.  It’s very familiar, it’s even predictable, she and I know the outcome.  It won’t be the “disney ending”, it will be the painful ending.  Both of us know that this comfort, familiarity, and safeness, will end in pain. Familiarity is not good, just familiar.

People get into familiar behavioral patterns.  They are scared to take action that would make them better.  They know intellectually what would make them feel better. They also know what would make them healthy,  and what would produce change, but familiarity here breeds stuckness(not contempt).  [It may lead to contempt of myself, but that’s another story. ] A person wants to lose weight.  He knows that he is  obese, which has some potentially dangerous ramifications.  He knows that to lose weight is actually very simple, eat less, drink more water, and exercise.  Does this knowledge lead him to weight loss?  Of course not.  It leads him to feel crappy, beat himself up, and ultimately gain weight.  It’s a familiar pattern.   He’s done it for years and years and years.

 How do we change this familar pattern?  Let’s recognize the obvious–as the AA people say “insanity is defined as repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results”  I first need to accept that my behavior in this context is insane(it doesn’t work).  I then have to decide to take a small risk–get out of my familiarity and comfort and move towards discomfort(the discomfort zone).  If I want to lose weight, I need to make a comittment to: stop a particular food,  stop eating after a certain time, or drink more water. This action will lead to some discomfort. After evaluating this discomfort, I need to look at the data.  What happened?  Did world peace change?  Did I die?  Was the world as we know it effected by this change?  Once the answer to these and other evaluative questions are answered, I then can take a next step towards change. .  Small change leads to bigger change, which leads to more change etc.  It is the exact opposite of the familarity cycle.    In the process of making these small changes, I’m going to need to do something about my fear and anxiety–prayer, meditation, relaxation, exercise, medication, imagery, yoga, self talk, etc will all work to reduce my anxiety. 

If I keep making changes, my new familiarity will be good and healthy.  It won’t be the cover version of an old song.  It will be a new song with new lyrics, a new melody, and one that sounds and feels good.  The music in my head and in my soul is the music of change

No It’s Not

November 12th, 2008

A man is driving down the road.  He hears a noise coming from the front of the car.  Fortunately there is  a gas station right ahead.  He says to the mechanic “I have a noise coming out of the front of my car.  Can you take a look at it?”  The mechanic looks at the car, and says, “Sir, you have 3 wheels, that’s why you have that noise”.  The man automaticatically and without hesitation says “No I don’t” and angrily drives off.  The man continues to drive from gas station to gas station.  He repeats his complaint about his front end sound.  Each mechanic gives him the feedback about him driving on only 3 wheels. The man gets angrier and angrier after each gas station stop.  Instead of examining the car himself and possibly considering that he may only have 3 wheels, he continues his drive.  In fact he continues the pattern every day of stopping at gas stations, hearing about his 3 wheels, and driving off angrily.

Our driver is using his defense mechanisms.  He continues to hear something that he is unable to hear.  He defends with the “no its not” automatic response keeping himself from having to acknowledge something that everyone sees.  This is addiction.  Everyone else can see the man has only 3 wheels except for the addicted person.  He needs to tells us that this is not so.  This is his denial, his refusable to admit the truth.  If he admitted it, he would have to with great fear, apprehension, and dread, examine his car and potentially do something about it.  It’s much easier, more familiar, more comfortable to just keep driving!!!

Addiction to chemicals like alcohol or other drugs, or processes like eating, gambling, spending or sex has built in to it this defense stucture.  The addicted person as a result of his/her behavior  uses the addicted behavior and needs to deny, minimize, or rationalize why it happened, how it happened, or that it happened at all.  Over time, as the addiction grows and progresses, the person feels great guilt, shame, remorse and self loathing(gsrl).  As the gsrl increases and progresses, there’s a need for more denial, minimization, rationalization.(dmr).  This become directly proportional –the more gsrl the more dmr etc.  Interesting enough, over time, the addicted person needs to go into the defense mechanism “bag of tricks” the dmr just isn’t enough.   This is described in detail in this article from wikapedia :

In the article,  the “level 2 and level 3″ defenses are  used more and more to protect the person from their ever growing  gsrl.  Over time, the entire system collapses, leading the addicted person to seek some type of help.  This of course, does not mean that our driver has gone to Goodyear and is adding that wheel.  He might go to Goodyear and evaluate  the type of mechanics they have, the type of servies they offer, the cost of these services, and if they are interested/ready to drive differently.  If not, those defense structures may activate one more time and the person may “choose” to continue his/her bumpy and familiar 3 wheel drive. 

This cycle can and often does continue many times.  Each time, the defense structure collapses, and the person considers treatment, it gets them closer and closer to permanent change.   For a caring outsider, it’s hard to see that these “pit stops” are actually steps of progress not failure. 

Ultimately, and over time, the person will go to the mechanic of his or her choosing and utter the words of surrender ” I quit”.  From there, the process of recovery will begin.  At that point, we will hope that the driver will begin to notice all the sounds of the car and hope that the very familiar “No it’s not” will not create further driving disasters.

Life’s too short

October 8th, 2008

The title of this entry seems pretty obvious.  Read the newspaper especially the obit section–everyone dies; some at a way too early age. So what’s the point.  Look at how much time gets wasted on a daily basis dealing with  relationship ambivalence–For example,  look at your current relationship.  Is it good? Is it meaningful?  Is your partner the person you thought they were?  Have they changed? For the better or worse?  On the other hand, do they have good strengths and assets?  Are they a good parent? Are they a good provider?  Is the idea of starting over just too scary?

There are many people that I’ve seen who struggle with these questions. These questions are confusing, and fearful.  They create sleepless nights and stress.  They provoke anger and resentment.  They lead to  asking others “what should I do?” as if someone else has the magic elixir to this perplexing question.

People that I see spend weeks, months, and in some cases years asking and analyzing questions about their relationships.  They see themselves age, they see time passing by, they see others making changes.  They can’t “pull the trigger” on action.  They have anxiety with a captial F(FEAR) and ask themselves the question “why can’t I make this decision?”  Of course there is no answer to this question.  There may be many answers to this question, and for each person those answers are different.

I unfortunately have worked with people who have lost a loved one at way too early an age.  When I see their reaction to this untimely death it reconfirms the “life’s too short” concept.  It brings back  the “One Day at a Time”, “Live in the Day” “Seize the Day”sayings that are prominent.  It says to me that in order to be in today, we have to do something, anything, in order to make change happen. 

Change occurs by creating action.  Action leads to momentum which leads to more change.  If a person does something towards ending this dilemna, it moves them in a direction.  If they keep making changes, even small changes, momentum will continue.  At some point, they will know their answer.  It may be a scary and bumpy ride, but they will get some clues to the “right” answer.

 If we recognize the obviously statement “Life’s too short” means that we need  work on today’s change, then we can then bring about  our own happiness.  It’s much easier to evaluate a relationship when I am happy about me.


Of Course It is

September 24th, 2008

My blog has been an titled incorrectly–it should have been 3 months in my life!!!!.  Thank you to all the cartoonists who have filled this space with their witty psychological insights.

 When you go to the movies in 2008, you get  some fascinating things.  You get commercials, more commercials and then you get coming attractions.  Here at “A week in the life” we are going to give you some coming attractions without all the commercials.

 Here are some posts you can look forward to:

LIFE’S TOO SHORT–dedicated to all those folks that I see that are in  ambivalent relationships .

 NO IT’S NOT-Dedicated to all the people in denial of certain things and a certain building owner’s favorite phrase.

 SURVIVING VS. LIVING– Dedicated to all the survivors of some type of trauma.

STARRING AS THEMSELVES— a personal favorite of mine in which people need to examine the interpersonal relationships that they are in and make some important decisions about their own craziness.

And now our feature presentation———————

I am blessed by the stories I get to hear day in and day out.  Some are more painful than others.   Some are more tragic than others.  In the course of these discussions people end up saying some interesting things such as “he was a bad alcoholic”, “he had really bad bipolar”, she had really bad panic attacks” etc. in which the person is describing the obvious.  I have said “I’ve never seen a good alcoholic” to illustrate the issue with that person’s alcoholism.

I have spoken to professionals who have described the person as –she drinks daily, lies about her drinking, her family covers up her drinking, she has personality changes etc.  of course the person acts this way, they’re supposed to!!!!  is my unspoken thought.

We get into situations on a regular basis where we  comment on the other person’s behavior.  “I can’t stand it when he gets so OCD about everything” Of course they do, the person has OCD.

 “Her mood swings and irrational behavior drive me crazy”  Of course they do, the person has a mood disorder

It seems to me, we get upset over the obvious.  Instead of taking 2 steps back–the Alanon concept of “detach with love”and saying ‘yes living with a person with OCD or a mood disorder can be pretty upsetting, they do and say some hurtful and confusing things, but it’s their illlness or disease that’s causing the behavior”, we get upset, angry, hurt or  frustrated  over this behavior.

We then amplify these feelings, perhaps letting them develop into resentment or acting in unhealthy ways, using the person’s “OCD or mood disorder” as a rationalization for the behavior.  The unhealthy behavior then grows a life of its own.   It adds more and more layers to what starts  out as a difficult, frustrating, and hurtful situation. Over time, we have the difficult sitution + the unhealthy behavior + our good “friends” guilt shame remorse and self loathing= me being 1 big mess!!!!!

If we recognize that the person has to do the behavior that they are diagnosed with, accept that diagnosis, detach with love, and take a deep breath, life with them will be a lot easier and I can and will be a lot healthier.

In Amador and Rosen’s book, When someone you love is depressed they speak quite clearly about this approach.  It includes education about the illness, self care, support and/or counseling.  Their approach can be “transposed” for all illnesses or problems. 

If we can use Amador and Rosen’s suggestions for health, and  recognize: OF COURSE THE PERSON IS DOING THIS-they couldn’t be doing any thing else,  then we can live a healthier and happier life.

Coming Attractions

September 20th, 2008

We’ve been without good posts long enough–within the next week look for this  –“Of course it is” with other posts on this blog to come.  You can’t beat the cartoons, but…………………………

This is really Fast Food Therapy

September 20th, 2008

Jumpstarting a marriage?

July 13th, 2008

Here is a new fear of the 12 Steps

June 28th, 2008

This is a Father’s Day Story

June 12th, 2008

Some mother’s day problems are worse than others

May 3rd, 2008