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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Get Me Outta Here

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Get Me Outta Here

"If you always do what you always did, then you'll always get what you always got."

and "Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result."

G-d bless 12 step. Repeater of many a good phrase for helping folks to live well and sober and without personal attack. I think we can expand our version of sober to include lots of things. Beyond using alcohol, drugs, food, money, shopping, and people. Yes people. I think that we can use people to hurt ourselves.

Sometimes we get mixed up with relationships that seem like they are good and whole, trustworthy and reliable. We use our best judgement, or sometimes, we don't, but we don't think too deeply about getting involved because it appeals to us in some emotional way. Sometimes the people are related to us, so we don't think we have many choices. And then when things go south we can spend hour upon hour "why-ing" it. Why did this not work? Why does s/he not see things the way I do? Why don't they just..... You fill in the blank. And then when the relationship falls apart and we feel broken in some indescribable way, we travel through the stages of grief and loss, and all the analysis that often goes along with trying to heal our hurts. We can look at our side of things. What did we do that contributed the problem. When were we selfish, out of control or frightened. When did we act in ways that hit the wrong note, or made the wrong impression. Did we handle our problems with the relationship in a way that could bring healing or a way that led to further strife?

In my office I hear about relationship woes everyday. Friendships, romances, roommates, business partners, bosses, parents, children. Therapists. Yes, you are likely to have some mixed feelings about your therapist at once point or another. The trick being to tell her! And see what happens next. In fact, some of the best work that happens in therapy can result from you telling your therapist the problems you are having with the therapy. Say it all! Most therapists will welcome the opportunity to hear your every thought.

Unfortunately, not all relationships work this way. And nowadays with many techie options for communication out there, I hear more and more about snafus that may have turned out better if not for the mode of communication. Not that I don't like texting, (okay, I don't), but I don't recommend it as a way of telling your best friend that you don't like the way she talks to your boyfriend. Same with email. I have seen more than a few relationships get thrown off balance because of a misconstrued, poorly timed email.

But even with good old fashioned talking, things sometimes don't work out the way we would like. And we can try and try, and to no avail. A good friend of mine who is still in her early 20's lives at home with her parents. For many reasons, concious and un, they all seem to be tied tightly to this arrangement. They have all kinds of ideas about why it has to be. Money, helping each other, proximity to job, friends. The problem: the constant fighting. Over everything from clothing to food to how the lights are adjusted. So what do they do? The mom thinks that if she (the mom) just continues to act loving (the way she thinks is loving) and keeps telling the kid her opinion on all matters, that things will eventually get better. She has no idea why this continues to yield a battle each and every day.

The kid (not such a kid) keeps thinking that if she tells her parents all the things that are wrong with them that they will hear this and change. She is waiting for the day that they realize the errors of their ways and say how sorry they are.

Another woman I know opened up a very cute stationary store with a neighbor down the block. After a year, the business became fairly successful, but due to fact that the two owners continuously fought over what to order, when to be open and how to advertise, the woman left the business to the neighbor, giving up all she had worked for. In her mind, she thought she was helping her neighbor and being a good friend. She took a long hard look at how she may have contributed to the problem and apologized to her neighbor for all the things she did that may have hurt the relationship. The neighbor accepted her apology and then closed the door. Somehow, the woman wants her neighbor to come forth and apologize too. And to fix the friendship.

So far this has not happened. She continues to try to figure out ways to get her ex-friend to return the kindness. And my young woman friend continues to try to get her parents to look at their defects. Of course there are a million examples. So what's on my mind in particular about this? Amongst all the nuances of all human relationships. I think its this:

We can continue to do whatever it is we are doing that is not working. Or we can stop. We can decide that we need a new approach. And more often than not, that requires some help, a good ear, and the listing of new ideas. And on the list of those new ideas, we may have to put somewhere towards the top: let go.

My friend may need to move out, or give up her pointing out her parents flaws. She may want to excuse herself from the tangle. The woman I know, may have to move on to put that wish for an apology in a box and start some new projects for herself.

Letting go is, of course, not simple, and not the only option. And letting go can take many forms. Letting go does not mean that you forget your pain, or give up on what you want or believe. But here, just for starters, I am thinking that it means not hurting yourself with it. Not letting it get in the way of your emotional health and progress in life. Not doing the same old same old and thinking that something is going to change, and having this be a barrier to your growth, healing and prosperity. There is a timing element of course. Sometimes we are just not ready yet to give up our efforts.

But then again staying in the battle, approaching from different fronts, living with "if only s/he would" than I could recover/feel better/move on ect. seems to be just another way to hurt ourselves sometimes. We can decide to turn toward loving options and get out of the fight. It is possible to live with emotional pain, frustration and disappointment and still prosper. We don't have to use it to keep ourselves down.

Okay, one more 12 step saying. Because it's always good in a pinch, and then some: The ever handy Serenity Prayer "Gd grant me the serenity to accept the things (read: and people) I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."


Lisa said...

Great post. These all sound like adult to adult situations, involving the responsibility to anaylze ones actions and realize you should have/could have done something different. But how does this work when you are identifying situations that were child to adult? The expectation can't be to have the person analyze what they did as a child and think about what they could have done differently, right?

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'd like to post another quote I heard somewhere (can't remember where).

"When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change."

Cool, huh?

As for the texting and email, you are right. The problems that evolve from that are in part timing as you said. When we choose to talk with someone about something, we control that timing factor to some degree. In text or email, we have no control over when the person reads our message. We can't time it out for when they are in a receptive mood, etc. But the biggest factor I have seen in my experience with on line support forums is that in text there is too much of the communication process that is left out and often times things get misinterpreted. We communicate with our words, inflection, facial expression, and the feedback we receive both verbally and nonverbally from the person we are talking to. All that is left out in text. A very skilled writer can often portray emotion in their writing, but for the most part, people read things through their own eyes and often their own insecurities. Some sentences can mean 2 or 3 different things just by virute of which word you stress when you read it. There's just too much room for error and misinterpretation to rely on text for important issues. As a teacher, for this reason, if a parent asks me a strictly informational question via email, I will respond by email, but if they want more personal, objective information on how their child is doing, I will not respond by email. I will call them instead, because even if I email back, "Your child is doing find.", that could be read as a kiss off, or as if I'm not really getting their concern, as if I'm blowing it off, or sweeping it under the rug. It just depends on the person reading and the state of mind they are in at the time.
Secret Shadows

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Lisa Marie,

sure, it's a totally different discussion when it comes to kids!


Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

yes secretshadows,

quite cool! Bring on the good quotes!

Right with on the email too!


The Real Gal said...

Thank you for sharing. Blessings.