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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The insane voice, installment 3: Deep thoughts by Rich Shepard

My favorite 'deep thoughts' of all time.

1.  When someone owns up to a mistake to me, I tell them that the mistake doesn't make them a bad person.   Instead, I note the fact that they are a bad person and being such makes them one.

2.  Stay out of trouble, but if you don't, don't get caught.

  • Or at least give me the video of it.   (Ben Welsh)
3.  Cats are self-propelled feline units propped up by four sticks.  Dogs are self-propelled canine units propped up by four sticks. Humans are self-propelled Homo-sapien units propped up by two large sticks and a butt of varying size.  :D

4.  When in an argument with a loved one or enemy, just accept ahead of time that you are a bad person.  Often just letting them know that you realize that you are a bad person and that you are okay with it destroys their momentum.   This works especially well with kids.

5.  You know the famous jingle, "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?".  That's too easy and boring a question.  The real question is what would be too over the top to do for a Klondike Bar? The following list is a sample list and far from all-inclusive list of things that would be way too over the top to do for a Klondike Bar.
  • Homicide
  • Robbing a bank.
  • Setting off fireworks in front of the police station.

6.  When the creepy voiced narrator from "Forensic Files" tried to tell his kids and grand-kids bedtime stories, did they get upset and have a problem sleeping?

7.  If God hadn't wanted us to chase away nature (birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc.) he would have given them wings to fly off and legs to run off with.

8.  There is a bring you daughter or son to work day, why isn't there a bring your pet to work day?

9. If denying a homosexual couple a gay marriage is considered discriminatory, would denying a straight couple a gay marriage be discriminatory also?   Should a homosexual couple be allowed the option of a straight marriage as well or do they only get to choose a gay marriage?

10.  No matter how angry you are at someone homicide is not the answer.  Besides, you'd be depriving yourself of the opportunity to keep on "get back at them".  :-)

11. Do people in black and white movies dream in black and white or color?

12. Does the lady who professed a deep, almost disturbing love for her Craftmatic Adjustable Bed, still love her bed or have they sought an annulment? 

13. What if our lives where just part of a someone's super detailed and complex dream?

Observations on shame: Shame and codependence

In my previous entry on shame, Observations on shame: "The Shame Cycle", I touched upon a destructive force called shame and how it keeps us in a negative rut or cycle.  In this entry, I will again talk about shame, but I will focus on a particular effect of shame in our lives.

We look at this cartoon and we laugh a little bit about how absurd it is.   The kid in this cartoon blows a small mistake--dropping lunchbox on the way to school--out of proportion.  Instead of just accepting that he made a minor flub, he takes on the role of the black sheep of the family over it.  In other words, he makes it about his role in the family.  His own personal shame is causing him to view the situation improperly.   In AA, this would be considered or referred to as a form of "stinking thinking". In other words, he is viewing the situation through the lens of his role in the family due to his own unspecified personal shame.  The irony is that his counselor, Dr. Baer, probably picked up his lunch and is laughing about this small incident has thrown him into a crisis of codependence.

The panel above in black in white we see as absurd codependence based on shame.  However, when we go through our everyday lives without truly having processed our history, are we that much different than the little boy who 'disgraced his family' by losing his lunchbox?  I contend that many of us, if confronted with in black and white with our own words and behaviors would see codependent behavior fueled by shame.

So what exactly is connection between shame and codependency?  I will first digress and differentiate between shame and guilt.  From the May 30, 2013 Psychology Today online article "The Difference Between Guilt and Shame" comes the following:

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
For the sake of discussion, I will refer to shame and guilt interchangeable as each can be equally disabling.   Anyway, the connection.

Shame --> Damaged Self-Esteem or  Doubt --> Strong Need for Confirmation and Approval  --> Doing What it Takes to Get or Retain that Approval = Codependence which manifests itself in basing some or part of our actions and behaviors on fulfilling that need.

Examples of shame/guilt leading to codependence:

Example 1:
You go through a divorce and in the process, cause pain for the children.  You feel shame or guilt over a failed marriage and the hurt that is causing your kid(s).  This is especially true if your kid(s) are acting out.  You know from your religious/moral background and upbringing what is acceptable behavior for your children.  Also, you know on some level what boundaries they need.  But your guilt or shame bleed into the situation, leading to lowered esteem or doubt and you begin to question what you 'know' or were taught.  Kids are very intuitive and they can sense this and they start probing for weak spots.   When they find the weak spots, they exploit them, often with questioning of authority and misbehavior.  This doubt on the parent's part and adjustment to settle down the situation.  Hence, the divorcing parent becomes embroiled in codependency with his or her kids.

Example 2:
Someone close to you--mom, dad, brother, friend--dies at an early age or commits suicide.  On some level notice he or she was having problems beforehand, but it didn't necessarily click the magnitude of the problems.  In hindsight, it seems as if warning signs were there.  When we are trying to get by everyday, not everything is clear.  Someone says they are unhappy or aren't feeling good.  But, we know like with cold, the appearance of  'symptoms'--such as tiredness or slightly irritated throat--beforehand doesn't always portend a cold.  Similarly, if the loved one had sent such signals beforehand and pulled through, it is easy to see the sickness or depression as just another bump in the road.  Anyway, guilt over "not being there" the way we THINK we should have can be very disabling.  This can spill over into other areas of our lives.  Well-meaning family can give us 'advice' going forward and being in a weakened state and feeling bad, we may seek their validation or approval and it can be easy to slip into a pattern of orienting our actions to please them, rather than doing what we need to for ourselves.  This is especially true if the family member(s) are opinionated and tend to be controlling.  In other words, they use your shame or guilt against you.

Anyway, the keys to keeping shame or guilt from bleeding into codependence can be found in answering the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself extensively stressing over whether the other party(s) approve your choices/actions.  That is to say, are you more focused on whether a choice or action is the best or most logical choice OR are you focused on defending the choice or action to others?
  • If saw this exact situation playing out with strangers would how would you assess or advise in the situation?  If your assessment or advice is different than that which you'd give yourself, then chances are you are blocked by your own self-doubt.
  • Are you willing to do the unpopular thing, which you 'know' to be the right thing, or does the fear of being 'unloved' tend to get in the way?

Shame can keep us from making or repeating bad choices.  Guilt, when not displaced, can also redirect us to doing the right thing in the future.  In and of itself, neither is necessarily a bad thing.   However, each can be a destructive feeling or force if they bleed into our relationship with others.  While each can give us guardrails in our dealings with others, they shouldn't control or interfere with how we interact with others.  It is important to look beyond them and look to what specific circumstances and dealings with others dictate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Disconnected - Unplugged in relationships and our lives.

Usually a song develops meaning for me with its lyrics.  On a rare occasion, I will connect with a song more profoundly with the accompanying video.

A number of years ago, I saw the video for Nickelback's "Savin' Me".   In the video, a guy is on his cell phone oblivious to the people and traffic around him.  It really gains focus when he guy nearly steps into the path of an oncoming bus.  He was saved from certain death by another man who was attuned to the situation.   The guy who was nearly killed is awaken to the world around him.   In a way, he's both connected and disconnected.  He is able to see how much time everyone has remaining in their life (an invisible countdown timer), so in that way he's strangely connected to the world around him.  On the other hand, he is in a very strange place.  He is disconnected from the hive so to speak.  He's outside the normal flow of life.

I connected with this video in a profound way.  It's funny we live in a world of millions and billions of people.  We are surrounded by people at work, on the road, at play, etc.  Yet on a very deep level, there are just moments in which we feel separate from the world that surrounds us.  There are moments when I feel like its just me and God with others around me just being 'noise'.  An extreme form of this is called depersonalization disorder.  Anyway, it got me to thinking how easy it to get 'disconnected' or detached in relationships and in life.

Anyway, I will address the symptoms, causes, costs and treatment related to being/feeling disconnected (as I see it):

   1.  Symptoms.
    • Shutting down.  I believe when we feel disconnected we tend to shut down.  I don't know if it is a feeling of isolation or vulnerability or both.  Probably both.  But, as a kid, I remember playing with roly polys aka "pill bugs".  When a pill bug feels like it is under attack, it rolls up into a ball.  In a way, that's just what we do when we shut down.  Sometimes we are defending ourselves against a purposeful hurt, but sometimes we are protecting ourselves from the danger of the situation.  In other words, this is the flight response.  Suicide--intentional or deathwish-- I believe is ultimate form of shutting down.  That is to say, preventing ourselves from getting hurt or hurting ever again.  
    • Striking out.   This actually is much like shutting down, except instead of passively "rolling into a ball" like a roly poly, there is a tendency to strike at the perceived threat.  In other words, something is in the way of our shutting down and 'striking out' is meant as a mechanism to remove the person/situation which is in our way.  In other words, this is the fight response.
    • Detachment.   Arguably, "shutting down" and "striking out" are symptoms of disconnecting that one has either some level of control over or at least awareness of.  I believe there are truly cases in which people are traumatized to an extent that their mind temporarily or permanently goes on auto pilot to the degree that they stop being fully aware of reality.  That is to say, they are psychologically detached.

   2. Causes/why we do it.
    • Traumatized.  It can be one or more severe instances like a sudden loss of a loved one or seeing someone die before our eyes.  It can also be chronic, less extreme, yet damaging instances, like abuse or molestation as a child. 
    • Ignored/Marginalized.  In any relationship, when we sense that 'our voice' is being ignored or marginalized, eventually, we stop trying to express ourselves.  In other words, if there is no benefit to trying to 'connect', it is only natural to 'disconnect' or stay disconnected.

   3. Costs.
    • Spiritual.  Our sense of serenity is damaged or non-existent.   Our sense of purpose may be damaged or gone.
    • Psychological. We are one to stress. anxiety, depression, 
    • Physical.  A sense of disconnection, if it is long term can lead to the following physical issues: High blood pressure, digestive problems, and overall compromise of our immune system function.
    • Relational. Feelings or a sense of disconnection in our lives can lead to empty, unfulfilling relationships.  The can also lead to frustration and resentment and ultimately cause us to continue the disconnection cycle.  Relationships die or fail causing us to feel more disconnected which in turn leads to further problems connecting with others.
   4. Treatment/strategies for overcoming.

    • Counseling.  Whether it is a licensed counselor, a minister, a priest or other spiritual advisor, it helps to have someone versed or heavily exposed to what it means to be disconnected, how to help one reconnect and strategies to prevent further disconnection.
    • Deliberateness.  It is so easy when we are feeling disconnected to turn inward, to turn away from others, to shut down, to avoid risking feeling uncomfortable.  But, that's just the time to reach out to others.  Anyone who has seriously participated in recovery/support group of any value realizes this.  I believe that most people find after the fact that they feel better for having gone to church, men's/women's group, 12 step group on days they really don't feel like dealing.
    • Closeness.  In a day and age of social media presence, it is easy to have dozens of 'friends' online, but what is more important than having a 'large circle' is having a smaller better connected circle.  Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, it is important to focus on ourselves and the few people in our lives that enrich us.  That doesn't mean excluding others, nor does that mean just 'taking' from others.  What it means is focusing on a few healthy, close relationship where we can let our hair down and be ourselves.
    • Externalness. It is easy to feel disconnected when we are caught up in our own worries, but when we take time and focus on helping others, it helps us to forget feeling disconnected, like we don't matter, etc.  That doesn't mean we are trying to escape necessary introspection or processing, but rather we take time to get out of our head.

In this world, with so many people, so many problems and so much distance--even in crowded places--it is easy to feel like a cog in the wheel.  But, it is important to remember, no matter how disconnected we feel, ultimately what matters is how we feel in the eyes of our Higher Power (God).  If we see ourselves as meaningful and having purpose in the eyes of our Higher Power, then we have a good foundation, a good start for being connected.

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Award-winning" songs: My take on music

I was listening to a song earlier today and I got an idea for a blog.  I'm a bit sarcastic and at times jaded and with my love of music this blog idea seemed like a natural.

How about listing songs I like or have caught my attention and give dubious awards for them.

So without further ado:

"Award-Winning" Songs

  • Best song glamorizing pot - Tom Petty - You Don't Know How It Feels

  • Song a guy should never be caught dead singing in public (and if so, make sure to follow-up with Metallica immediately for damage control or act like you are drunk and being stupid) - Aqua - Barbie Girl
    • Unfortunately, this list could go on for hours.