Category Archives: self-destruction

Hurting Ourselves For Others (living their expectations instead of our lives)

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“It wasn’t until I began to love myself that I was willing to let others down.” Lucille Zimmerman

When my cowgirl friend told me a story about Bob, I related to her horse like we were old buddies. Bob’s trainer said, “You have to be careful pushing him because he’s a pleaser. He’ll hurt himself for you.”

Unfortunately, people don’t think much about this when it comes to each other, so we push.

Like the church worker who “pushed” – she knew I taught school and had two young children at home, but still asked if I’d help with the youth program. When I turned her down because I was burnt out by late afternoon, she said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.”

“If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have one,” I said. My atypical response even surprised me. 

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Self-care like this, even though the church-worker never did “get it,” would have helped when my family balked at my idea to eat out on Thanksgiving. They pushed for the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which took days of preparation. I felt overwhelmed locking myself into traditions I didn’t want to keep. Sometimes I’d have to throw out food from the first holiday so I’d have a dish to put the same food in for the second holiday. I wondered if I could get by at Christmas on Thanksgiving’s leftovers.

It would have been a relief to know about self-care when my husband, John, pushed to buy a fishing boat, two jet skis, a Triumph TR6, and two motorcycles. I wanted him to be happy whether I was or not. Spending money on big toys caused a lot of tension I didn’t talk about.

I wish I’d known about self-care when I kept teaching even though the stress of the job contributed to my anxiety and high blood pressure. Plus, I didn’t enjoy a lot of what went along with teaching like scrutiny, endless meetings, and duties outside the classroom. John didn’t mean to push, but he did, when he sat silent while I talked about quitting every August before school restarted. His silence, instead of a discussion about changing careers, made me think I had to go back again and again and again.

When I talked over self-care with a friend whose personality tends to be more like my husband’s than mine, she admitted she wishes she’d encouraged her husband to change jobs sooner.

However, like John, she’s not the caretaker in the family; her husband is. Instead of offering support, she ignored how miserable he was at work for fear he’d quit and put an end to the family’s substantial income. They could live on a lesser budget, but she didn’t want to. It wasn’t because she didn’t care about him, although I’ve thought this of my family and friends when they’ve pushed their agendas that hurt. She pushed because she liked staying home with their babies and being able to spend what she wanted. Her husband’s now working a different job and happier, and they are fine financially.

I admire my friend for piping up about the topic of someone else’s self-care because it’s rare for the person who wants what they want to stop the one who is providing it.

The person in the most pain typically is the one who has to change, but it’s hard because we’re also the ones most caught up in the “push.” We want others to have what they want, and they want that too. We end up pressuring ourselves and so do they. We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when others don’t like how we change.

I learned about self-care because of a health scare and depression, because one of my kids urged me to figure it out, and because a doctor warned me if I didn’t pay attention to my physical and emotional health, I wouldn’t be around to see my son and daughter graduate from high school.

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Not overnight, but gradually I’ve pushed myself to change, making strides toward self-care …

The Thanksgiving after I suggested eating out, we did. I made reservations for whoever wanted to join me because I wasn’t cooking. It’s been an annual tradition ever since to try a different restaurant unless our grown children volunteer to make the meal.

I encouraged John to sell everything on wheels in the garage and driveway except his truck and to swap it all for something we both liked riding, a golf cart.

Almost two decades ago, I quit my teaching job a week before school started. I tried to talk Larry, a fellow teacher, into doing the same. He and I talked for an hour about self-care while I sorted through teaching supplies to leave behind for the teacher taking my place. Larry had been offered a job as full-time music minister at a church, but convinced himself he had to teach two more years until his son graduated. He had a heart attack a couple of months later (during a faculty meeting) and died. Sadly, he was the one who didn’t see his child graduate. His death had a big impact on my continued self-care.

Change isn’t easy. Our caring people – parents, spouses, children, friends, bosses – care most about us staying the same because that’s most convenient for them. In the psychology books, this is called homeostasis, which is the tendency to keep things as they are.

Homeostasis is promoted by negative feedback loops like pulling back from something because it hurts.

Change, on the other hand, is promoted by positive feedback loops like noticing exercise makes you feel better so you walk more often. Both loops are necessary.

(The info about homeostasis is from an article by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A., and I’ve shared the link below if you’d like to read more. Also below is a story I heard during one of my counseling classes about homeostasis, and its power to trap us into hurting ourselves for others.)

It’s important to recognize, however, that homeostasis, a necessary state of maintaining sameness, is easier than creative change, a necessary state of constantly transforming.

In other words, it’s a push and pull that keeps life balanced and beautiful. However, few people advocate change when they can’t yet see the beauty. They’re thinking about the change and how it may negatively impact them like giving up the household’s second income.

So, our pain (that may be contributed to by someone else wanting us to stay the same) ends up being ours to fix.

We can let others know what’s going on with us. If they support us, this is a plus. Support makes it easier to implement the change to eliminate our pain. However, when the people we wish were our support group turn away or sit silent because they know our change is going to cost them something too, we have to change anyway. A lot of times, our lives depend on it.

Is there something you need to change because it’s causing you pain? Is there someone who doesn’t want you to change? I hope you’ll care for yourself enough to change anyway.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

“Getting Out of the Way: The Balance Between Homeostasis and Growth” by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A.

Here’s an extreme example of how we hurt ourselves for others, told by one of my professors during a lesson on homeostasis.

A young girl (of a mother who needed to be needed) became confined to a wheelchair almost overnight. She was taken to dozens of doctors, but not one of them came up with a diagnosis. Nothing was wrong, yet nothing gave them any hope she’d walk again. Not physical therapy. Not medication. Not experimental interventions. She stayed in a wheelchair for years until her mother died, and then miraculously got up and walked. She agreed to counseling and being part of a study that verified what doctors suspected – she’d become disabled because she recognized and took responsibility for how desperately her mom needed someone to care for.

What Happened That Was So Bad?

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“The real violence, the violence I realized that is unforgivable, is the violence we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are.” Unknown

While a friend and I talked about depression, she asked about my past and said, “What happened that was so bad?”

Although whining and blaming are unattractive, I didn’t mind a chance to tell my sad story. I launched about details I had never told her. Fortunately for you, I won’t share all of it here.

Emotional, religious, and sexual abuse contributed to what happened that was so bad. I knew better than to talk about my abuse with my parents because it wasn’t as bad as what Mom had been through, so I tried to help fix hers. The more I encouraged her to let go of her past and live happily ever after, the more strained our relationship became. She wanted sympathy, not solutions, but I needed her fixed.

My parents being unavailable and unpredictable contributed to what happened that was so bad. Dad spent nine months out of the year at the beach, running the family business. Mom either numbed out at home or couldn’t handle her emotions. I lived under threats like this one when I didn’t act like she wanted me to, “You’re lucky I didn’t do anything to hurt myself.”

Living around mental illness contributed to what happened that was so bad. Before Dad left for Vietnam, he moved Mom, my younger brother, and me in with my great aunt who raised Mom and her siblings. After Dad returned home and retired from the Air Force, we stayed put. It wasn’t long before my mom’s brother moved in with us. He walked around in stained t-shirts and with his pants unzipped, burned carpet and furniture with his cigarettes, and made sexual overtures that Mom ignored until he’d get so out of hand she’d temporarily commit him to mental institutions around the state.

I thought a sympathetic ear about my past would be comforting, but the more woes I shared, the worse I felt. What happened that was so bad was not about what someone else had done to me, but what I was still doing to myself. My family was long gone, but I still lived and talked about their crazy legacy.

Vivi, the alcoholic mother in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, describes it best in a conversation with her daughter’s fiancé. She said, “I know she blames me. Of course she does, just like I blame my mother. I didn’t screw up her life any more than my mother screwed up mine. She almost did. But all the real long-term damage … I did to myself.”

So, what really happened that was so bad?

  • I repeated my past by setting out to fix my husband and my children just like I tried to fix Mom. Even when a friend said, “Your family will get better when you get better,” I kept focusing on them. I felt overwhelmed (and still do sometimes) by focusing on/fixing myself and living my own life.
  • I doubted my decisions and myself all along. Self-doubt makes it hard to stand behind my commitments, as well as hard to enforce boundaries I’ve tried to set. Self-doubt makes taking care of myself almost impossible. I give in and give up instead of standing up for what I want.
  • I self-destructed because whining, being lazy, and blaming others come easier than practicing a healthy routine. I eat too much chocolate, stay up too late, and overlook opportunities to live a sensible and happy life. I defer to fear if things get hard. I’d rather wallow around with a problem than research a manuscript. It takes a lot of work to get well. It means #GettingYourOwnLife.

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I acknowledge the power of messy pasts and the power of destructive family patterns. I also acknowledge how powerful it is to take responsibility for what we’re doing to ourselves and to make a decision to do something different. I hope you’ll join the Conversation and the Change.

In This Together,
Kim

Thank you for the swamp photo, Joel Carter. It looks as desolate as my life felt for a while.

Thank you, Rhonda Hensley @ Inspiration Images and Media, for the photo of balloons. They represent change.

Where the Wild Things Are (letting go of our monsters) (even more)

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"There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them." Andre Gide

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” Andre Gide

Seeing Max on today’s Google screen reminded me of how I make up monsters, just like in author Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

And my monsters do the same sort of thing as in the book, “And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.”

In fact, this morning a friend asked about one of my monstrous habits – trying to get along with people best kept at a distance.

My answer to her, “The first thing that comes to mind is I’m stirring up fear to avoid living my own life.”

Really?

Still?

Isn’t this scheme getting a little old? I could at least change it up a bit if I insist on self-destructing.

It’s almost comical to write.

What about you? Are you making up monsters to keep from living your life?

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WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – As much as I’m comfortable (in a not-so-healthy way) keeping company with Max and his monsters, it’s time to grow up (even more), let go of people and fear (even more), and live my life (even more).

Being Tested or Testing (a post about self-destruction)

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“There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow.”  Dorothea Brande (Photo from iStock)

“There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow.”
Dorothea Brande (Image from iStock)

Last Monday, I felt like I was being tested.

Not quite like Job from the Bible, mind you, but his trials did come to mind that evening around 11:59. Yes, I was being dramatic.

Working on my blog, the perfect photo wouldn’t load, which, after many tries, caused the words not to load. I’ve had trouble before with images, but never content.

Frustrated doesn’t come close to describing how I felt, especially since I recently committed to post every Monday – an agreement that lasted a whole three weeks between God, my blog, and me.

There was another emotion too. I had a pang of guilt that I might be testing.

Sometimes I set up myself, you know, to test whether I’ll do what I say I’m going to do – test to see if I can trust myself. Oh, if I tell you I’ll clean your house on Wednesday, I’ll be there even if I have to crawl through the front door and scrub in between eating saltines. I don’t, however, afford myself that same trustworthiness. I let myself down at every turn.

It crossed my mind when I couldn’t get anything loaded last week that maybe, just maybe, I unintentionally (but at some level, on purpose) did something to keep the post from going live.

In other words, I think I was set up – by me.

I don’t know how I did it, but I have a suspicion as to why.

I’m self-destructive.

I think we all are from time to time.

Self-destruction looks like failing to reach our goals, overeating, chaotic relationships, wrecks, job loss, poor health. Not always our fault, but we would do ourselves a favor to look hard and review our responsibility before we accuse our circumstances.

Personally, I like to blame Eve and the apple, but blame won’t carry on my blog.  

When have you let yourself down, then tried to blame something or someone else? What do you need to take responsibility for in order to move on with your life?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, help us trust ourselves one action at a time.