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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers

My 12 Step pals like to say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think that we can apply that to people. Going to back to the same relationship or person over and over again thinking that this time it will be different, or that this time you won't (or s/he won't) make those same mistakes again is pretty much like going back down into a dry well for water. You know there was not any there the last time, but maybe, just maybe, since it rained, there is some hope for a cool drink. And you seem to remember how good it tasted when you got that sip once upon a time. And how pretty the well looks from the top.

I think that sometimes we try so very hard to get our needs met by someone who just can't meet them. Either they don't want to, don't know how to, or are not the right choice for a variety of reasons.

Or our needs are not meet-able. Not by that person alone. And not by the process of wishful thinking, cajoling, various types of manipulation, tears, threats or gifts. And we have to do the difficult task of taking a look at our side of the street and seeing what it is we need to do differently.

And sometimes the well is just dry because the well is dry. Not because we are undeserving, or unlikeable, or undesirable. Just because. But that means that we have to protect ourselves by not going back into situations that we sort of know really don't yield good emotional health and wellness for us.

A friend of mine continues, for the last twenty years, to pursue some serious TLC from her mother. Whenever she is upset about anything, she calls up her mom and tells her tale of woe. Only to be told what she has done wrong and how she never knows how to handle herself. This leaves my friend in a bit of a state each and every time she does this. Somehow, somewhere in my friend's mind is the image of a soft loving woman with wide arms who smells like honey and cinnamon, and who will hold her and tell her how wonderful and smart she is, and how she can overcome any adversity. And who then dispenses sage advice that saves the day. Where this wonder-mama came from she does not know. It is not the women on the other end of the phone. But time and time again she dials with hope and hangs up with despair.

I once asked her why she does this. She says because sometimes her mom says really nice things to her. And sends her sappy birthday cards. So she keeps thinking that there is some cool water in that well.

Really its just chocolate covered jalapeno peppers. Underneath the goo is the gook. Why she does this? Maybe it's familiar. Maybe somehow she gets something from getting hurt or disappointed. I know that sounds quaky, but think about it. We sometimes need the feeling, or it's a familiar role we play. Or makes us feel a certain way that we think we need to feel. We don't sign up for this. It's part of our unconscious function, I think. But still and all we do sometimes subject ourselves to disappointment and pain.

Sometimes, we just have to walk away from certain people and certain relationships. After a fair amount of trying, or enough insanity, we have to just call it a day. But, okay, my friend is not going to get rid of her mother. (Though some people do have to minimize contact). But she can stop going back for more of the same. How? Well, I think it comes down to acceptance. And to not taking things too personally sometimes. And to trying to figure out the difference between fantasy and reality. And between wishes and possibilities.
It is our job to stop behaviors and relationships that end up hurting us. Stop walking into dangerous neighborhoods if you know you might get mugged. I am an eternal optimist. I think that most relationships can be worked out if we are willing to accept what we can't have and focus on what we do have. And take care of our needs in safe places where we are likely to get more of what we need. And to know that there is nothing wrong with needing what we need, but we may have to tolerate a little living without getting sometimes. Going over and over again to the same source for something we never get, is our problem, not theirs. And we can do better for ourselves when we realize it.

And then we can open new doors and find new wells

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