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Why Optimism Always Wins Over Pessimism

caution
caution

In 1965, Commander James Stockdale was flying over enemy territory when he was forced to eject from his plane. Stockdale was captured, tortured and held as a prisoner of war for seven years before his escape. How he dealt with his situation draws an inescapable conclusion regarding what it takes to survive in life when the odds are against us.

After gaining his freedom, he was interviewed for a book in 2001. At some point during the discussion, his interviewer paused and changed the topic of conversation. “How,” he wanted to know, “did you survive all of those years of capture and torture?”

Commander Stockdale simply said, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end.” The interviewer was impressed, and thanked him for his candor. As he started to being the interview again, he hesitated for a moment. “What about your prison mates? Those that didn’t end up coping well and had a hard time returning back to their normal lives. Why didn’t they ‘survive’”?

Commander Stockdale never even missed a beat, and replied, “Oh, that’s easy; they were the optimists.”

The interviewer was exasperated. “You just said that you knew that you would get out. That sounds like optimism to me.” Stockdale simply shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. Those of us that survived, and survived well, knew that we would get out sometime.”

He continued to elaborate. “We also had little to no control over our lives in those seven years. But we were going to be damned if we let them control the grains of sand that we placed perfectly aligned around the walls of our cell. We also were required to clean the barracks, but we weren’t allowed to talk with each other. So we choreographed dance moves with each other using the brooms.”

“And finally, since we were in solitary confinement, we used Morse Code to talk with each other. This was difficult, since the enemy knew Morse Code. So we spent six months practicing a new form of Morse Code in order to communicate with each other.”

“The ones who didn’t survive were incredulous and couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They said, ‘You’re playing around with the sand in your cell like it makes some sort of difference? Dancing with brooms? Practicing a new type of Morse Code in order to chit-chat with each other about your day? Are you nuts? This is a terrible situation! It’s a disaster! We need to get out!’”

Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset: he accepted the reality of his situation. First, he used optimism in the right way: He believed that, “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.” AND at the same time… he was brutally honest about his situation: “You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Impulsive Problem-Solving

self sabotage
A few months back, I had an unexpected late-night scare. It was about 3:18 AM, and I was fast asleep. My wife woke me abruptly, concern in her voice. She had done this to me about an hour earlier to ask if I’d given the dog her medicine, so I was already mildly disturbed. But I didn’t expect what she said next: “THERE’S SOMEONE ON THE ROOF!” Now, I’m not one for idle speculation. Especially at three in the morning. But I know my role as husband and spouse. I diligently got out of bed and joined her in the kitchen, to listen for a noise I was already convinced was probably just the wind. After 60 seconds, still nothing. I started off back to bed… until I HEARD IT. Footsteps from above. Slow, deliberate, and not all at once. Alarmed, I ran across the hall and grabbed my flashlight. I grabbed a jacket to brace against the rainstorm and dashed out the door to see what was going on. It was pitch black and the rain was starting to pound on the pavement. The nearby motion lights didn’t help much, but I could hear tearing noises against the roof and the sound of metal scraping. After a few LONG minutes, I could slowly make out the identity of our midnight invader:
raccoon
The real winner of David and the wiffle bat..
I was livid. I did NOT need this right now. But since I could see what looked like torn insulation scattered across the roof, I felt certain that this couldn’t wait until morning. The rain kept pouring and our intruder showed no signs of being in a hurry to leave. This HAD to be dealt with. Now, in afterthought, this had all the elements of self-sabotage:
  • It was dark and 3:00 AM at night
  • It was pouring down rain
  • I wasn’t thinking straight
Naturally, I did what any impulsive, illogical person would do in these circumstances: Me, in a jacket and soaked in the rain, climbing the roof to chase off a raccoon, armed only with a flashlight and a wiffle bat. My wife tried to persuade me to wait until morning, but I wasn’t having any of it. I grabbed what turned out to be the wrong ladder and climbed up to the roof. What ensued over the next few minutes is unclear even to the best of my recollection. It involved a lot of running on a wet roof, gesturing wildly with a wiffle bat, and making loud, threatening noises. When we lead with our emotions, our bodies are often are overwhelmed with chemicals that put us into crisis mode: Adrenaline. Cortisol. Norepinephrine. One of the side-effects of these chemicals is that we start thinking fuzzy. Unfortunately, when our thinking is fuzzy, we don’t REALIZE that our thinking is fuzzy. It’s a catch-22, and it sets us up for impulsive choices. Which is exactly where I ended up. Our friend the raccoon weighed his options more thoughtfully than I, likely calculating the odds of survival against a human armed with a wiffle bat versus the odds of my slipping off the roof. He promptly scattered to a nearby tree to observe the likely logical outcome while I surveyed the damage, which turned out to be a beehive. Pulled out from under one of the metal vents on our roof and scattered in pieces. My mind began to clear. The roof looked intact, and I couldn’t find any more damage. I headed back to the end of the roof, and… Little did I realize that not only had I chosen the wrong (short) ladder, in my haste to get up on the roof I had knocked the ladder away. It was cold and wet. And the rain showed no signs of letting up. Ultimately, my wife was able to find the right ladder and I was able to live to tell another day, despite my best intentions. Self sabotage is like that.

Enabling Others: Encouraging Dysfunctional Behaviors

sad dog

We usually “mean well” and want to be “helpful.” In fact, in many ways this helps us to work and solve problems together. However, there are times that the ways in which we help other people may actually cause more problems that we solve. This can happen even if we do it out of genuine love and concern. Understanding this concept is critical to our ability to develop healthy lives, friendships and families.

Enabling codependent behaviors actually cause more problems than they solve. We end up feeling like a helpless victim to the other person. Further, the other person never struggles on their own, which is critical to their developing into a mature independent person.

The Enabling Concept

Enabling is a concept that was first coined in the treatment of drug and alcohol addicts. It came from the idea that the non-abusing person may be “unconsciously enabling” the addict to continue their dysfunctional behaviors.

Enablers are also “co-dependents” who are just as dependent (addicted) on “helping others” as is the addict dependent on their chemicals/behaviors. A co-dependent is someone who does all the work, suffers all the consequences, finds that the other person does not grow, while the co-dependent ends up feeling exhausted, fatigued, overwhelmed and confused.

Those who enable others are the ones who are addicted to “enabling” the negative behaviors of others, even without ever knowing it consciously. It is as if they are treating the other person as a child who needs to be watched, guided, supervised, and as inadequate in some manner.

The problems becomes more obvious when the addict “stops their abusive behaviors” and the enabler/co-dependent finds themselves “going through withdrawal symptoms.” For this reason, the person who is addicted to enabling will do anything to “enable” the other person to resume their behaviors again. This is often done in unconscious ways, such as making certain comments, doing certain behaviors or having certain emotional responses.

The problem is that future behaviors are based on past behaviors. This is a fancy way of saying, “What you see is what you get”. If you think you are really going to be able to change them, you are not looking at the historical reality of the problem and the person with the problems.

The problem for enablers is that their “magical thoughts” get in the way: Hoping that with time and effort, the person will change. This is because there is also a panic when one feels out of control over anything, over others, over situations, or over life, that then drives the person to try whatever they can to control in an effort to reduce their internal tensions and insecurities.

This avoidance of reality is not dissimilar to substance abuse. Those struggling with drug or alcohol use are not going to change unless THEY do the work. Further, after years of drinking the brain has been physically changed and they no long can inhibit their behaviors: The frontal lobes of the brain can no longer focus and inhibit their functioning.

Enabling Actually Says More About Who You Are

Enablers have come from families where they “learned” their behaviors from their parents. They feel insecure and vulnerable when they are not in control of the situation and have little tolerance for uncertainty and “waiting” for anything to happen.

Enablers feel that they “have to have control thing to make things happen” or they feel filled with anxiety and tension. Enablers are actually insecure but will never admit it. They gain their self-esteem by helping others and doing everything for others.

The enabler “looks like the saint” as if to have everyone feel sorry for them and what they have to put up with. This allows the enabler to feel good about themselves and how hard they have tried, rather than face the truth about their own behavior.

Enabling is Really About Control

Enablers feel “good” when they are in control and directing the situation. They actually “need” the other person to remain dysfunctional – even though they will complain about this happening while verbalizing their anger at the person for being dysfunctional. Enablers complain that they “need to have the other person taking control of their lives” while subconsciously hoping that this will never happen.

Enabling Makes Us Feel Security

Being an enabler allows one to feel “safe and secure” in life because it “gives them a mission.” When the enabler is feeling out of control, they experience a sense of overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

Enablers feel good when they “know” what to expect each day. It makes them feel “wanted and needed” and fills some internal, probably unresolved, need or issue.

It becomes the only way that they can feel happy and “fulfilled” – that is, when they are needed. It is an “addictive over-involvement” that “fills a never-ending need” inside the person and goes on and on without stopping.

It is a “stuck identity” where one keeps repeating the same behaviors and “knows that they are right.” It is a “recreation of what the person feels NEEDS to happen to make things right” even when others protest against it.

Enabling is a Secret Way to Avoid Intimacy

Enabling is actually a way of “distancing” oneself from intimate relationships and interactions with others. This is because the enabler “functions in the family as the competent and critical parent” who has to remind the “less functional one” how to “behave.” Enabling creates a “safe distance” so that the issues of intimacy can be controlled and kept at a “safe distance.”

The enabler can then “pretend” that they are giving and giving and giving. However, what they are really doing is distancing themselves from the other person who “really needs their parental help and understanding.”

Becoming a parent figure is empowering because there are two people – one who is the powerful parent and the other is in the childish, helpless, or incompetent role. Such an interaction only creates “generational distance” in a relationship because it is not a realistic relationship between two equals who are working together.

Becoming “the Saint enabler” allows one to “die for the cause” because it “sets them apart” from others – they are different, distant from others, and above others in a “safe” way. The reality is that the “victim” is so good at playing the “incompetent role” that it sets them apart from others in such a way that they “need the help of parental enabling figures.” It is a “mutual dance between two dysfunctional partners.”

Enabling is a Lack of Boundaries

There is a lack of appropriate boundaries, lines, and limits in how an enabler relates to the other person. There is an “over-involvement” in the needs and issues of others. Yet, limits and boundaries are important for healthy functioning. They need to be flexible yet consistent if they are to help the person grow.

Enabling is really just “spoiling” the other person to the point that they “get away with stuff” because they are “only children for such a short period of time.” Always making excuses for them rather than helping them face reality and life the way it is and to participate well in the daily life and reality of existence and family.

Enabling is a clever way of saying “yes, but.” There is no stepping back and looking at all the issues in the situation and how the person realistically needs to be more responsible for themselves.

An addiction is a “compulsion and drive” to do an activity, and to maintain the “sameness,” of the situation, even in the midst of knowing that what one is doing is “not right,” and causing more troubles in the long run. However, the person is addicted to quick solutions, quick emotions, panic dramatic responses, and “stuck in denial of the reality of their lives.”

Cures for the Enabling Mindset

Enablers can help in finding the cure to problems by not being overly helpful, providing extra money, bailing others out of problems, and allowing others to suffer their own consequences to problems no matter how hard it may be on you.

The 12 Step programs clearly state that there should be no food, clothing, shelter, or money unless the addict (non-functioner) is in treatment, rehab and ongoing after-care. If those conditions are not met, the addict gets nothing – no help, no way, no exceptions.

Enablers have to know how “dependent, helpless ones,” such as addicts, lie, manipulate, beg and steal. It is important in dealing with such “non-functioners” to know that any approach requires authority and control, strict discipline and sometimes force. Democratic permissiveness is not allowed if the person is not able to be consistently responsible for their proper functioning.

Enablers have to let go of their “need to save” others by “making excuses” as to “why it happened,” or “why one must help this time,” and so on. It requires a sufficient amount of strength and effort if we are to see the other person’s life as worthy.

Being permissive means we see the other person’s life as expendable and lacking human responsibility to themselves. We can “move toward positive constructive behaviors” and “withdraw from negative destructive behaviors.” When we make excuses for others we are “allowing” them to avoid responsibility for their own lives which leads them on a course of self-destruction.

How to Stop Being an Enabler

  1. The most important change that you have to make is to learn to “tolerate uncertainty” while allowing yourself to feel the anxiety connected to “not knowing” or being able to control what others are doing, or not doing, in life. You are turning control over to the other person who should have been learning self-control at the age of two years old on!
  2. You have to learn to “trust others” to figure things out for themselves even though they may make decisions that are not in your best interests. They have to learn from their own mistakes and “try over and over again” until they figure it out for themselves.
  3. You have to focus on developing yourself, understanding your fears and vulnerabilities, while working on making improvements that benefit your life, and family, in positive ways. Stop focusing on others – that is your addiction – you are addicted to helping and rescuing.
  4. Focus on “taking your time” and “pacing yourself” rather than feeling that “you have to do it all yourself because you are the only one who can do it “right.”
  5. You have to tolerate “how others will change over time.” You will have to feel this period of “uncertainty” for a long time knowing that “life and learning is a journey” that can only be handled to each traveler.
  6. Remember that you “felt more comfortable” with the “old negative dysfunctional behaviors” because it allowed you to “be in control” and to “make all the decisions.”
  7. Realize that you are on a “new journey” in life toward new behaviors, ways of relating, and ways of handling life and others as you let go of enabling behaviors.
  8. You have to realize that life is difficult, uncertain, and confusing. However, it is through our struggles that we each develop and grow into “full human beings.”
  9. It is critical to know that being an “enabler” means that you are also “an addict” who has become “addicted to helping and enabling others.” You will always have to monitor your responses because they can happen so automatically for any type of addict.
  10. It is important that you celebrate life, change, and the chance for everyone to grow to a new level even when it is happening under difficult circumstances and times.
  11. Learn to “just be” rather than have “the need to be needed.” Remember, there is something “seductive about dependency.” However, this is not action oriented on your part, it is diagnostic to tell you about the other person’s needs and inadequacies. When you feel a panic, it is only an awareness that you are growing by “not doing” for others and allowing them to “save themselves and to be responsible for their own lives,” and the other person is not being responsible, the helper will become exhausted and overwhelmed.
  12. Finally, remember that “the goal of all behaviors is to involve you.” The question to ask yourself is, do you want to be involved positively or negatively? Constructively or destructively? Only by withdrawing from negative destructive behaviors will you ultimately find a better path forward in relating to others.

Additional Resources

the enabler
codependent no more
setting boundaries adult children

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If you want to change, you have to commit yourself to a personal changing plan. If you find things that get in your way (“blocks”), you have to do anything to understand why the blocks keep happening. However, you must look inside of yourself, not others, to find the answer. The following “laws of change” are designed to help you slowly grow out of codependent thinking patterns. They will allow you to enjoy life and “start living in the real world.”

Personal Responsibility

Stop looking to others for help, blaming them for problems, and look to yourself to personally “make it happen.” Ask, “What am I going to do about it?” Maturity is “Staying Power” even in the face of problems and having to do things that you don’t want to do. It’s important to stop looking at what other people need to do. You can only do this by letting go of blame and focusing on yourself.

Meaning

The search for meaning is not to “find the answer.” It is living life again, now, day-by-day, struggling with the disappointments and problems of growth. Follow your passions in life and know that it takes time and planning. Life may have changed it’s course for your, but it is still a journey that you need to be excited to exploring.

The search for meaning is not an end in itself but a “way to start living again.” We struggle to survive so that we may continue to the search. In that way the search transforms living into something more than an exercise in endurance, or a “waiting game” for the “right solutions, answer, feeling, identity, direction, etc.”

Relationships

You must establish a “balance” between personal and professional relationships. You must nurture both in appropriate balanced ways. You have to make yourself physically, psychologically, emotionally, and productively attractive to others or they will not want to be around you. If you complain too much, others will lose faith in you. You must become kinder, let go of your anger, your need to control, and to “look good and right.”

Remember, everybody loves a winner and everybody avoids a loser. This means learning to delay gratification and wanting things your way instantly. Other people owe you nothing. Your behaviors will determine what you get from others.

Beliefs

You need to examine your beliefs to determine if you have “twisted” thinking so that you can correct it. Remember: “I do not see the world the way it is, I see the world the way I am.” Attitude is everything. Remember that when you are so emotional and intense in your feelings and beliefs, you are just “pushing your beliefs and ways” on others. You are not listening to, and understanding, others.

Having Goals

Success and satisfaction in your life equals your ability to set and achieve goals. You have to be specific. Develop a five year plan and work your plan. Set dates for achievement. Write out your plan and review it on a regular basis. Share it with others who can help to share your excitement and desire to grow and achieve.

Giving and Receiving

You must plant before you can harvest in many different areas of your life. You will not receive until you have put yourself into your life project and “worked it.” However, you have to first get your own life in order and focused before you can really help others or you are just keeping yourself scattered and getting off track from the real goal. You identity is not based on how much you can do for others. It is showing through your life how you have gotten yourself together. It is a quiet giving and receiving with a focus on the goal of growth.

Persistence

All plans take time, much more than we ever expect. There will be many ups and downs as you “play your plan.” You have to have persistence and patience. Nothing ever works out when we want it to. Don’t quit, ever! Persistence is more important than your talents or opportunities.

Letting Go of the Past

Let go of old hurts, losses, problems, unresolved issues, obsessions, etc., so you can focus on today and “living life” in the Present Moment. These may be real but they can become excuses for getting stuck and blocked from moving your life forward.

Nobody Will Save You

Others have to let go of being codependent in helping you, making it easy, or feeling sorry for you. You have to struggle, suffer, and handle it yourself. No one promised you a rose garden! You won’t grow unless you work your plan, not rushing it. You have to change you. Waiting to change until you are sure others have changed first, dooms you to failure. Honor yourself and avoid failure statements of “yes, but.”

Respecting Others

The ability to accept diversity of opinion and feelings. Understand how your behaviors affects others. Know that there is more than one correct answer. Allow others to find their own solutions, learn from errors, and develop their own path and solutions. You do not have to control, direct and tell them what you know is right for their life.

Taking Responsibility

The ability to accept responsibility for one’s own actions and deeds, without blame, defensiveness, defending one’s own position, or finding fault with others.

Being Resourceful

The ability to develop skills to meet needs in life. Knowing when to ask for help; knowing when to offer help. Knowing when to reach out to others for help, and that not keeping secrets is critical to growth and change.

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This is a critical concept for Adult Children to understand in order to be able to challenge and change their own unhelpful coping patterns, addictions, and/or behaviors. Knowing about codependency helps one to “break the chain” of transmitting dysfunctional family dynamics from one generation to the next.

Helping others is fine. However, if we try to do too much, and overprotect and save them, we end up taking away growth, risking, and independence from others. They then start to act and react like little children. This doesn’t help them recover and grow on their own–figuring out for themselves. It enable them to remain helpless and “the same” no matter how much you complain and point out the reality of things.

The overly-helpful person defines their identity by feeling the need to do things for others, even when it is not in our best interests, or when the other person has said no to our helpful requests. The codependent person will repeat the request, do it anyways, or say “are you sure?” It is as if they are stuck in a loop without a solution, doomed to repeat trying to help the other person in order to save them, get them to “get it”, and so on.

Codependency as an Addiction

The Too Good helper is addicted to the activities of doing for others. They are hooked on worrying, helping, answering, knowing, handling problems, solving feelings, and always knowing what is right for others because they are looking for acceptance and reassurance. It Is a drug that tells the person that they are “okay.” However, they are always needing to be reassured and become addicted to the “drug of needing to do for others” in order to feel whole.

The Too Good helper can be a nice, submissive, overly helpful one, or the dominant, controlling, directing, talking too much, directing, managing, strong mothering one who knows best about what is needed for the other person. They violate other people’s psychological and personal boundaries, feeling their emotions, knowing what is best, taking on the other person’s problems, etc.

Their whole identity and self-esteem is based on helping to the point that they become burned out, exhausted, give away too much of themselves, saying and doing nice things all the time and worry that other’s feelings may be hurt if they don’t get involved. It is a feeling that the only way I can be worthwhile, or liked, is to be in charge and handling everything.

The Too Good Helper believes that there is some kind of Power in hope. There is a belief of I can make it happen and this magical belief has the power to convert the lost ones. The opposite actually happens. You make them weak, resistive, and helpless. He/She who has the “problem” (the one who needs your help) actually controls the relationship. They may look helpless but they are actually very powerful!

Codependency as an Enabling Behavior

  • When a crisis happens everyone in the system tries to help.
  • Sometimes for all the right reasons we do all the wrong things by being “too helpful and trying to hard to solve it all for the other person.”
  • We may find that we cannot stop giving the sufferer reassurance and comfort beyond what would be expected under normal circumstances.
  • We may over-check, keep checking, asking, talking, which only increases the sufferers anxiety and sense of dependency and loss of independence as an adult.
  • Family members may lie and fabricate stories to protect the person and themselves.

Codependence as High Tolerance for Inappropriate Behaviors

Because there is a chronic exposure to an atmosphere that can be illogical, rigid, and highly stressful, those around the sufferer may begin to assume that the illogical is logical and that the inappropriate is appropriate. Family members can develop a tolerance for inappropriate behaviors rather than comment on, and point them out. Perceptions of family members can become distorted and confused and the non-functioning person comes to “expect others to do things for them” as they assume an increasingly passive stance.

Codependency as Preoccupation

Many of the family member’s thoughts can start to exclusively center around the person with the problem. Family members become obsessed with trying to think of new ways to help, find solutions, cures, or handling even everyday problems for the sufferer’s problems. There is a progressive focusing of attention on the sufferer along with an equal neglect of the feelings, wants, and needs of oneself and family members. The Co-dependent becomes “addictively obsessed” with the other person who needs the co-dependent enabler to help them function in life. The Problem is that the other person comes to rely on you to “make them” function–and yet they never understand how much you do for them.

The Mistruth of Codependency

Codependency is a difficult thing. It influences our point of view and affects our feelings of how others react. As full-fledged “adult children”, we often are confused and dismayed by the behaviors of other people. Here are eight of the more common myths that we, as codependent individuals, tend to believe.

  1. We believe that people will do what they say.  The reality is that most people are caught up in their own lives and reality, and words often do not reflect their intent.
  2. We believe that other people think and feel like we do.  As a result, we feel hurt and misunderstood when they act and react differently than we were expecting.
  3. We believe that other people will follow through with what they promise to do. This often happens because we forget to look past the words of others to what we are observing in their past and present behavior. See the pattern of the relationship as it develops over days, months, and minutes. Watch for the subtle clues and be ready to accept them as facts.
  4. We believe that other people feel the same guilt, anxiety, and concern that we feel in similar situations.  This eager state of being assumes that others have gone through the same types of “growing” experiences that we have had, when in fact many people are just struggling to emotionally survive day-by-day.
  5. We believe that being nice to others will help them make changes, come through, or accept us.  We ignore patterns because in our codependent, overly-helpful ways, we secretly hope that we can “change them” over time or help them to become better people.
  6. We believe that the more we do for others, the more they will do for us. In reality, many times people are not thinking beyond their own line of sight. It’s often nothing personal, but it is an unfortunate reality that we often ignore because it just “feels wrong”.
  7. We believe that people do not have secret motives, desires, or just want their needs met. Don’t get caught up in trying to understand other people from your own needs, desires and wants.
  8. We believe that if we love other people enough, everything else will be OK.  This happens when we get caught up with our own needs to be loved and accepted by others.

Learning to Say No

Remember that good love means saying no. Others will protest your pulling back, but over time they will respect you more. However, this takes time and is a process of growth that helps you focus on YOU. If you don’t take care of you first, you are no good to others. This is not selfish, only realistic and practical.

Co-dependent relating causes dysfunctional relating patterns that are not helpful to others being able to grow and find themselves. Everyone has to hit the wall of learning many times for themselves before they figure it out for themselves. Let others decide, make mistakes, forget things, and learn on their own!

If You Don’t Say What Your Needs Are, You Become Invisible!

Many of us often wonder why our needs are never considered or why they are taken for granted. To fix this, we beg, plead, and try to do more, only to find that the more we do, the less we are noticed. Spouses, partners, and parents alike frequently struggle with this issue. The key to solving this puzzle is to learn a few simple concepts that…

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Enabling Others: Encouraging Dysfunctional Behaviors

We usually “mean well” and want to be “helpful.” In fact, in many ways this helps us to work and solve problems together. However, there are times that the ways in which we help other people may actually cause more problems that we solve. This can happen even if we do it out of genuine love and concern. Understanding this concept is critical to our ability…

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Freedom from Being an Adult Child of a Dysfunctional Family

It is hard for Adult Children to ask for professional help and therapy, even though this is the very thing that will help to free them from the “prison” of the past before they pass on their problems to the next generation. It is important to start to be aware of these potential traits so that one can start to “observe” themselves. The more one becomes…

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Wait, I’m not Crazy?! Adults Who Grew Up in Dysfunctional Families

If you grew up in an unhealthy or dysfunctional family, it has drastically and permanently altered the course of your life. It is absolutely vital to understand how, specifically, this affects you so that you can stand a chance to change patterns of unhealthy choices and behaviors that plague you and your adult life. The bottom line is that it’s important to realize that you are…

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Why Do People Who Come From Dysfunctional Families Have More Interpersonal Problems?

Have you ever felt that… …other people don’t understand you?…other people “have it out” for you?…you have to “protect yourself” from others?…others are just not as accepting of you?…you have to defend yourself from other people? The answers to these and many other questions are critical to your having a long-term happy life.  Understanding a few issues might be of some help. The challenge for you will be…

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How Dysfunctional Families Cause “Thinking Errors”

Dysfunctional families promote very specific “thinking errors” that cause others difficulty in adapting to change and finding new ideas and directions. These errors in thinking cause a number of problems. Denial: Prevents us from dealing with what is going in any situation. “We just have a little problem; nothing major to worry about. It’s not that bad!” This stops the discussion. Confusion: Prevents us from taking…

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How Do I Recover From My Past?

Growing up with any type of neglect or abuse can warp our reality and affect our future in catastrophic ways. We’re left with some really unhealthy rules or patterns of how to live our lives, which actually cause us more problems than they solve. To escape this unending torture, we have to learn some new critical rules for living:

  1. Quit trying so hard to be perfect! You don’t have anything to prove. You are loveable just for who you are.
  2. Quit punishing yourself for your “sins.” You are not bad. The abuse you suffered had nothing to do with you.
  3. Relax and let people be there. Be vulnerable and trust again. You may not have been able to trust in the past, but those situations took away from you what we all need: Trust.
  4. Quit trying to figure out all the answers! Trying to figure out others and their motives is not helpful. You will never figure it out. It has to do with their problems.
  5. Quit trying to fight by pretending you know everything, or have know everything.
  6. Quit working at it so hard! You don’t need to do it perfectly to prove your worth.
  7. Things happened in your life that shouldn’t have happened. It has nothing to do with you and it is not your fault. It is the fault of “the others.” The truth of it all is that any abuse you suffered was due to adults who did not do their job (or role) correctly. It’s as simple as that.
  8. You grew up too fast and took on too many responsibilities. As a result you have not learned how to have fun or to just relax comfortably. You did not get the affection that all children deserve and parents are obligated to provide. Unfortunately “the others” have chosen poorly because of their selfish nature.
  9. You deserve to be loved appropriately – you are lovable! Anything else you tell yourself is a LIE. The “adults” in your life did not teach you this, but lack of being taught does not mean that you don’t deserve to be loved.
  10. No matter what, everything has changed and you are different and better. You are no longer that vulnerable child. You are an adult who can now think and analyze things better. No matter what happens down the road, you have better adult resources to handle them.
  11. You have to give yourself permission to enjoy your life, family, partner, children, friends, and so forth… now.
  12. You do not need pain and suffering anymore in your life!
  13. Even though you cannot forget what happened, you do not need to let it run your life anymore in the present.
  14. You can feel feelings without having to have the pain and drama of emotions. You don’t always have to put yourself down and look at the negative point of view in order to feel safe.
  15. The past happened. This will not change. However, you can let go of the past, the anger, and decide that you can enjoy the moment, the present, and the future. Grieve the past, but don’t hang on to it – you are too important regardless of what you heard or were taught.
  16. Learn how to challenge the negative statements that you tell yourself. They are the result of “faulty parenting”. In reality, these statements are simply just not true.
  17. Enjoy living in the moment, in the “now”. Give yourself permission to feel good.
  18. There does not have to be a reason for what happened to you.
  19. You do not have to keep whatever happened secret. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean that the other adults who “failed you” will acknowledge anything. You just have to refuse to let it be hidden away and ruin (and run) your life. Others don’t have to admit to anything for you to be ok again, as long as you openly acknowledge what happened to yourself and to another human being.
  20. Let go of your embarrassment. You are not flawed. Regain your control, trust, and “freedom-of-choice” again in your life! Focus on the positives and the future. You deserve to be happy, but only you can change this – no one else can do it for you.