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Showing posts with label denial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label denial. Show all posts

Monday, January 20, 2020

Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin

According to, the Five Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.   The idea is that you first deny the reality of that which grieves you; you are angry about what seems unfair or not right; you 'bargain' with your higher power that you'll do better if only you wake up and this horrible nightmare is over; you fall into a depression when you realize that no matter how much you wish it weren't so, there is nothing you can do to change that which grieves you and of course you accept that which you and move forward.

What I've learned along the way is the practice of 'medicine' is as much of an art as it is a science.  I believe this to be the case with psychology as well.  I believe that some models of human behavior, interactions and thought are better than others, that there is no one-sized, fits all model.  Each model has its flaws and exceptions as well as its accuracy and strengths, but I digress.  I believe the "Five Stages of Grief" model has a lot of value to it.  However, I believe the progression of grief doesn't always follow that model and frankly sometimes people never quite reach the acceptance stage.   From what I've seen some people never make it through the depression stage.  It's like they deny the loss, are angry about it, try to bargain the loss away, and hit the sadness or depression stage and struggle to handle it.

I called this post, "Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin", because essentially, the griever is at a point in which he or she should be working through the sadness, but for whatever reason, is struggling to.  What should manifest itself as Sadness or Depression instead comes out in Anger.  The sadness exists, but the griever is not processing or allowing it to fully express itself.  In my own life, this circumstance manifest itself with my brother's suicide, written in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother,

Due to the circumstances and timing in which he was found, the family was never allowed to see him after he was found.  As I worked through his belongings in his apartment that in the week that followed, a part of me expected him to walk in and gripe about what were we doing with his belongings.  It was surreal and was obviously the denial stage.  Gradually, it gave away to anger.  I knew he was struggling and did what I could to help him, but I felt the family overall had let him down.  He would 'disappear' from time to time and it seemed as if few in the family did anything more than to ask about him (from my perspective).  Had dealt with the same type of sexual abuse that I did as a kid and the struggles that come from growing up in a dysfunctional family which was unnecessarily poor and led by an alcoholic dad.  He struggled to find acceptance and had cried out for help in his teens with an overdoes on Tylenol.  From my perspective, he was largely abandoned and left to his own devices by the family.   I was angry and humiliated that as a family that we let him down.  I was angry at God I'm sure.  I was angry at myself.   I knew he was struggling and I dropped away for a little bit.  I didn't care that I was dealing with my own failing marriage, depression and unemployment.  I told myself I knew better and let him down.

In some ways, I'd wake up for a bit and just hope that this was just a bad dream and he'd show up and hoped there was a way that that could happen.  But, at my age, the 'bargain' stage didn't last too long as I am a realist.  At this point, having gotten over the shock, having worked through some anger and realized that bargaining was fruitless, I was was struggling with the sadness/depression.  Why should I have to deal with this?  Why should I have to feel this bad?   Why was I the one who was the last one in the family to attempt to be there for him?   I bounced back and forth between sadness and anger.  Eventually, I worked through the sadness and came to accept the reality of never seeing him again, but it wasn't a clean, linear five step progression.

As with the story above, I have come to realize in my life, a phenomenon.  I have seen in the life of others, especially, but not limited to kids and younger people that same phenomenon: Sadness hiding behind Anger.  That is Anger being Sadness's spokesperson, instead of Sadness speaking for itself.

  • The sadness hurts. Why should I have to feel this hurt or loss?  
  • The sadness leads to unexpected/uncontrolled expression sobbing or crying.  Why should we have to deal with something that makes us feel 'weak' or 'unsafe'?
    • It can make us feel vulnerable or 'weak'.   Anger tells us we should be able to better deal.
    • It can feel humiliating.  Crying, while healthy, is best done in a safe place.  If not done in a safe place, it can lead to humiliation.  Anger hates humiliation.
  • The sadness seems never-ending.  Why won't this stage ever end?  Why can't I just move on?  Anger hates an unresolved endless repeat of the same painful story.

Anyway, from what I see, Anger serves two purposes, not necessarily healthy, but nonetheless two purposes.

  • Anger can serve as seemingly less draining than working through the sadness.  
    • Anger doesn't require the level of introspection and processing of sadness.  It is a raw unfiltered emotion.  Let's face it, if you don't feel like you should have to deal with sadness, anger seems to be a good option.
  • Anger can serve as a way to block the sadness (at least for a time).   
    • In a way, it can be seen as the emotional version of cutting.  My understanding is that the raw physical sensation of cutting serves as a distraction for emotional pain of sadness.  If you are focused on the acute physical sensation of cutting* and all it involves, for a time, the emotional hurt is overridden.  Anger can be raw and intense, and in a similar way to cutting it can overwhelm sadness the emotional hurt of sadness.

I think most people have seen instances, either portrayed in the movies or somewhere in their own lives or those around them an angry person who is lovingly embraced and proceeds to break down and cry.  While I wouldn't categorically endorse that technique in dealing with angry people, it does emphasize a point: that sadness is often underlying anger.  

I guess my takeaway is this: Before you write off someone who has anger issues at least consider that there may be more than just meets the eye.  It isn't always just some jerk who decides that hating is an acceptable way of life.  It isn't always necessarily some psychopath who has predatory anger.  Sometimes, an 'angry' person is simply a person who is trying to avoid dealing with sadness.  So, instead of placing their Sadness in the Sadness Bin, they feel more comfortable placing it in the Anger Bin.  So, before you condemn an angry person, consider that there may be a sad person inside who just needs some understanding.**

Just my thoughts,

* I understand there are other reasons behind cutting as the Mayo Clinic details.  I've known people who cut, but I never began to understand why they cut themselves UNTIL one day when I chewed a fingernail too far down on the nail bed.  I'd done this before where it caused an uncomfortable, acute pain.  But, I had found that pressing down on that fingernail until it turned white for a while would lessen or block the pain in the nail bed.  I believe my higher power gave me an insight that day.  What I was doing was substituting one pain for another less intense pain.  In other words, I was blocking pain with pain.  I realized that day that people often cut for the same reason.  They are blocking an (emotional) pain with a less intense physical one.  I realize now that perhaps anger is just another form of pain displacement.

**But don't be so foolish as to try to hug and angry person with a knife or to ignore the symptoms of 'psychotic anger'.   Personal safety comes first.  ;-)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Rolling Stops: Skirting Along the Edge of Disaster

A counselor years ago told me that healthy people view bad choices or decisions as stop signs and take heed of them.   From what I understand, have heard and seen, a full-blown addict will either not see the stop sign, deny the stop sign exists or just resign themselves to the fact the 'brakes are shot' and not make a serious attempt to stop. 

That is to say, they
  • Will not see the choice or decision they are making as bad (delusional)
    • I'm stopping in for one drink to celebrate with friends.
    • They cannot see them that one drink leads to another and before you know it, you are being carried out drunk.
  • Will minimize the impact of the choices or decision they make (denial) 
    • No one will know if I lie/steal/cheat.
    • The problem is even if no one else knows--which often is no accurate anyway--such behavior changes who you are.
  • Will know the stop sign is there and say well there's nothing I can do anyway (resignation). 
    • What does it matter if I gamble my last bit of money, I'm screwed anyway.
    • They cannot see that even in a bad situation that looks hopeless, that you can make it worse.
    • This is fatalistic.

Like many people, I've done what law enforcement would consider a rolling stop.  After one particular time, it occurred to me, some people do actually see the rhetorical stop sign and heed it (mostly).   They know there is a stop sign and they know proceeding without hesitating or making an attempt to checking if it is safe to go into the intersection is bad.   They know it is a disaster waiting to happen.  So, they stop short of just running the stop sign and look out for oncoming traffic before finishing their pause.  In reality they are tempting fate.  That is to say, they catch the danger most of the time and are able to stop their momentum and do a complete stop if necessary.  However, it just takes one time of rolling at stop and misjudging traffic to get hit by another car they've missed after a quick glance.  To me this describes a person with some addictive or at-risk tendencies.  Like a recovering alcoholic who drives by a bar he used to frequent when he has an a good alternative route or a recovering gambler who carries too much cash on him as he passes by the casino, they are just asking for trouble.   They may be able to resist feeding their addiction, for a day, a week, a month or a year or more, but eventually they are a putting themselves in a dangerous position of relapsing.   Yes, they may be able to get away with their 'rolling stop' for a long while, but eventually they risk getting 'hit' by their addiction. 

As always my posts are a reflection of my experiences, the experiences of those surrounding me or my observations about the world that surrounds me and it they aren't meant to be considered scientific research or indisputable fact.  However, I am always hopeful that through my words, others will find comfort, relate-ability or just a different or new perspective.

Thanks for reading and remember: it is better to follow the 'rules' and always practice doing a full stop, so when it is time that it is absolutely necessary to do a full stop you will be so practiced at it, that you will be likely to make the wisest choice under pressure.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Boxing others into our expectations

I'm not sure if I wrote on this previously.  If I have, please forgive me.  But, a number of years ago, I was upset and even angry with a family member.  I expected this person to empathize with me or take my side as it related to the end of a relationship.  In other words, "be family" as I saw it.   As often is the case, in hindsight, my side of the (relationship) story was just that--my side.  In other words, I wasn't completely in the right, but wasn't completely in the wrong either.  In any case, at the time I didn't need a pious lecture from family, but instead a supportive ear.  That is to say, I wasn't in the best place at the time.   I could have used the support (or at least lack of explicit criticism).  Just a weak "I hear you" would have been sufficient.  However, the family member was too obtuse to what I needed or was still too sore at a bad interaction that we'd had previously to "be family".

I believe when we are open to it, time and life experience can give us a better perspective on people and relationships.  The situation I described above is an example of that.  I realized that I had expectations of "how family should be" and realized that I was boxing the family member into that expectation.   In other words, expecting the family member to show a side to personality which had never evidenced itself or been implied.   In short, based on previous interactions with the member,  I had an unrealistic expectation for what I saw to be 'support'.  In a way, it didn't matter if it was fair or not for the family member to have not provided 'support'.  What mattered was my expectations.  My expectations were inconsistent with the personality of the family member.

Instead of getting angry and 'punishing' the family member for not meeting my (unrealistic) expectations, I came to understand that I needed to get my expectations more in line with reality.  Once I accepted the nature of the person, I could decide how to proceed with them without being let down, disappointed, upset or angered.  My expectations were getting in the way of how the relationship could or should be.  Anyway, after consideration, I decided to exercise caution when engaging that family member.  In other words, put myself out there or open up to that person to the extent that would be safe given the limitations of our relationship.  This allowed me to continue the relationship free of anger or resentment.  Now perhaps I was disappointed in realizing the limitations of the relationship, but I was also happy to realize serenity to in the matter.

Essentially, I stopped trying to box the family member into my expectations, but chose instead to let the relationship flow naturally.

I call the concept: "Boxing others into our expectations." because the way I see it, when we have expectations of people that don't match the reality of our interaction, there is a tendency to want to fit the person into a box called "Expectations".  This can take two forms:

  • Manipulation
    • This is where we try to force, cajole, bribe, pressure or otherwise squeeze another person into meeting our expectations.
    • Figuratively we are trying to squeeze another person into our box.  
      • We may find a way to force them into our expectations box with enough pressure, but if it is an unnatural fit, the expectations box will not contain them.
        • The relationship will be forced and may be a fraud.
        • The relationship in all likelihood will not withstand too many bumps and when a big enough bump is hit, the relationship will explode out of the box.  When it does explode out of the box it will not be pretty either.
      • The person may not fit into our expectations box.
        • In the process of trying to force them into it we will damage the relationship with them (sometimes permanently).
        • When they we can't put them in our expectations box, we will be subject to disappointment, resentment, anger and possibly despair.
  • Delusion/Denial
    • This is where an objective look at situation would reflect that the other party is NOT meeting our expectations of our relationship.
    • Instead of accepting that the other isn't meeting our expectations, we imagine that they are meeting our expectations.  That is to say, we see our relationship to another as fitting into the expectations box, when in reality it is at best just partially in the box.
      • We see our expectations being met when they aren't or we deny that they aren't being met, when they aren't.
      • An example is when we see someone as a friend because we believe "we have so much in common".  In reality, they might be more of an acquaintance or a 'friend of a friend'.  Due to circumstances we may tend to run into this person a lot and they may be openly 'polite' to or even spend time around us for the sake of the group or circumstance.  However, when outside the group, the person may badmouth us.  We may choose to 'believe' they are our friend if we don't have many friends or if we have a tendency to want to seek approval.
      • One risk here is the other person may use the situation to take advantage of us.  For example, if they see us longing for a friendship where one doesn't exist, they may take advantage of us financially or otherwise in return for declaring to be our friend.
      • Another risk is of humiliation.  We may ultimately find ourselves humiliated by the one taking advantage of us or among others who are observing the one-sided relationship.

So how do we avoid boxing others into our expectations.
  • We make an honest assessment of others.  That is of their personality, of their strengths, of their shortcomings.  We don't to build others into something that they aren't or something that they aren't capable of.
  • We make an honest assessment of ourselves.  That is of our wants, desires and biases.  We don't want any of these getting in the way of assessing our relationship with another. 
  • We realize that our relationship with others is not fully in our control.  While we have some control over what we say, think or do (our side of the street), we ultimately don't have control over what others say, think or do (their side of the street).

So what is the takeaway:
  • It is reasonable to know what you want in a relationship with another.
  • It is reasonable to know your bottom line in a relationship with another.
    • What is healthy for you.
    • What you are willing to 'accept' in return for your participation.
  • Just because you want certain 'benefits' in that relationship, doesn't mean that they will be present.
    • The other party may not know be capable of meeting that 'expectation'.
      • Something in their background makes them deficient--for example, they can't relate to your struggling financially as they never have.
      • They have never learned how to be a 'good friend', 'good parent' or 'good sibling' as they never had a good model/circumstance to learn that.
    • The other party may not be willing to meet that 'expectation'.
      • They may have made a perfectly reasonable assessment and determined that the cost of meeting the expectation is too high.
      • They may be too selfish and be one who looks to take from relationships without giving in return.
  • Be honest about what they can give and what you can give.  Just like you would or should only take what you are comfortable with losing when gambling, it may be wise to have a similar strategy with regard to relationships.
    • Do not try to expect something of another that they can't or won't give.
    • Be willing to give what you are comfortable giving in a relationship with little or no expectations in return.
    • Be willing to give what you are honestly capable of giving with little or no expectation in return.

These are just a few of the principles I've learned and while they may not work for everyone, they work for me.  So, take note of them and use them (or not) as you find beneficial.  The way I see it:

2 Corinthians 9:7English Standard Version (ESV)

 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If that philosophy or way of life is good enough for my higher power, it is good enough for me in how I handle all my affairs, including relationships.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pushing through fear: Freedom of letting go

Whether it is interviewing for a dream job, competing for the big prize or in the big race/event, starting out in new city, getting the courage to ask out someone who intrigues you or any other such circumstance, each has at least one aspect in common.   Typically each of these involves some degree of uncertainty or fear.  Each involves stepping outside our comfort zone.   Each involves risking 'failure' or allowing vulnerability of a sort and the shame or discomfort that comes along with it.  We could freeze up, we could fail or perform miserably, we fall on our face, we could face an uncomfortable or awkward rejection, etc.  In short, we could feel a portion or a full measure of shame, discomfort or humiliation when we try.  Just like there are people who seem to enjoy or thrive on pain, I suppose there are people who ride the humiliation train back to the station to 'feel alive'.  However, most people I know don't enjoy those feelings.

I will follow-up this blog with another one called, "It's true: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." as I realized there really is a certain freedom when you hit rock bottom.  But, for the moment, I will focus on when we still have something to lose and how to deal with the fear.  I've learned over the years multiple strategies in dealing with it, some better than others.
  • Self-talk
    • Tell yourself that more often than not, the worse case scenario is just that.  That is to say, highly unlikely to happen.
      • When I tandem sky-dived, I told myself that the instructor wanted to go back home that day too.  That is to say, I wasn't the first anxious person to sky-dive and that he knew what he was doing and was going to do his best to minimize any risk I could pose.
      • I have a bit of fear of drowning. When I snorkeled for the first time in the open water away from the boat, I was nervous.  However, I realized it wasn't as if I struggled too much that the crew would just let me drown.  
    • Talking through and eliminating the unrealistic.
      • When I lose something around the house or in my car, I remind myself that it didn't just fly out the window when I was driving.  In other words, it's not gone forever, but just lost.
      • That even if you think an interview goes poorly, interviewers normally don't ridicule you to your face, take you out back and shoot you or call your current boss and tell him to fire you for being an unmitigated interview disaster. 
    • Tell yourself that people don't die of humiliation and that a lot of time the humiliation you feel is emanating from you than being projected at you. 
  • Studying (or preparing)
    • The more you prepare for a big step, big move or a big competition, the less you leave up to chance.  That is the less uncertainty you have.
      • If you do your research about a company and the role or position you are interviewing for, you go in less likely to get surprised during the interview.
      • If you research the different aspects of a city that you are moving to, you have an better idea what to expect when you actually get there.
      • If you study what is important to the object of your interest and focus on developing a rapport with her, you can better acclimate her to you.  That is to say subconsciously she could picture herself with you.
    • The more you realistic your preparation, the more you can you see yourself with a positive outcome.
      • For example, when racing, I did both speed training and distance training.  Short interval speed training allowed myself to acclimate (and picture) running faster than usual.  Distance training made me confident that I could readily run the race distance.
      • Traveling to and around and staying in a new city before the big move, can help you to picture the daily routine around of it--where to shop, what roads to take, etc.
  • Self-denial
    • This is where in your mind, you minimize the actual risk.
    • Sometimes, if we accepted what the actual risk was, it would keep us from doing what we need to.  Self-deception can move us to a point in which we engage in 'fearful' behavior by pretending there is no reason to be concerned.
    • Ignorance may not be bliss, but in the right circumstance it can be freeing.  If you don't realize the risk until the fact, then you haven't given yourself a chance to worry about it.
  • Slight 'recklessness'
    • Sometimes there is a definitive fear or risk no matter how much you have prepared, tried to reason your way out of the fear or deny the risk.  You just have to make a decision to step out and jump off the diving board, hoping that there is water below.
    • Sometimes you have to jump out of that plane with a parachute, imaging that the chute WILL open just like it always has done without fail, time and time previously.
  • Straitjacket
    • Sometimes boxing yourself into a necessary choice is a painful but effective way of dealing.
    • If the choices that you leave yourself are worse, then you leave yourself 'no choice' but to take the chance.
    • When I sky-dived, I let everyone that mattered to me know that I was going to.  I took someone with me who had done it before and was likely to hold my feet to the fire and think less of me if I chickened.  I drove to a location a few hours out, thereby making a return trip back home too humiliating if I had 'chickened out'.  In short, the cost in shame, humiliation and money was too much for me to stomach.  So, I took the 'easy' way out and did the jump.

I guess my takeaway from this blog post is that sometimes you just have to find a way to push through the fear.  Sometimes you can talk yourself through it, sometimes you can fool your way through it, sometimes prepare your way through it, sometimes you can just decide to do it anyway and some times you can 'shame' yourself through it.  But, ultimately in life sometimes we just have to find a way to push past the fear and let go.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Low-hanging fruit: A starting point or a block?

In honor of the upcoming new year and the tradition of setting goals and resolutions, I decided to blog on a concept has been rolling around in my mind for a while.  I think it is appropriate to determine what the purpose of low-hanging fruit we are going after in this context.  Here goes: defines low-hanging fruit as:

  • a course of action that can be undertaken quickly and easily as part of a wider range of changes or solutions to a problem.
I've heard/seen this phrase used in multiple context.  One winter I heard Cardinals management talking about there off-season efforts to build a winning team for the next year.   The phrase "low-hanging fruit" was used to describe their initial efforts.   For impatient fans it appeared that management was rewarding their loyalty by going after the inexpensive, easy to sign, and apparently
mediocre talent at the expense of trading for/signing the greater impact, harder to get players.  It appeared as if the front office was letting possible free agents/trades go by under their nose, while they picked up questionable help.

In my own personal life and from what I've seen in others, going after low-hanging fruit can serve one of two purposes:
  • It can be a way to ramp up, to gear up, to get in the spirit of or to build momentum towards accomplishing a larger goal or a circumstance.
    • When working on a large project at work, sometimes working on the most difficult part of the it can cause discouragement.  Working on and/or solving a smaller part of the puzzle can give momentum or ideas on how to proceed on the larger piece(s).  
    • When cleaning around the house, cleaning out one room at a time or even one portion of one room at a time can make the job seem less intractable.
    • When processing a major loss (such as a death), it can simply to difficult to decompress the whole loss at once.  Sometimes, it helps just to deal with the aspects of it immediately in front of you rather than get paralyzed dealing with the whole ramifications of the loss.
  • It can be a way to avoid dealing with the larger goal or circumstance.
    • Denial - If you are focused on some aspect of the goal or circumstance, then you can pretend to yourself that you are dealing with the problem.  After all, "you are making progress" or so you tell yourself.
      • Paying on time.  Having a 12 month interest free loan and making the minimum payment for the first 10 months, telling yourself that you are going to pay it off in full before the end of the year.  Sure you are making some progress, but you still have most of the bill to pay off.
      • Working on the perfect eulogy, when you haven't picked the mortuary or burial location.  Words are helpful in facing a death, but they don't create the same finality in your mind as discussing where to hold a funeral or bury the body of your loved one.
    • Avoidance - Picking a route to a goal that doesn't fit or explanation that doesn't make sense.  In other words, creating a diversion or to give the appearance of facing what you need to.
      • In dieting this might take the shape of switching to diet soda while not changing your larger eating habits.  Making the small switch will not by itself lead to the larger goal.
      • In counseling, an example might take the shape of griping about a new friend when you have been dealing with the pain/guilt of a close relative for a long time.  While problems with your friendship probably are causing you some consternation, it really isn't addressing the deeper hurt you are facing.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether you are addressing a goal or issue one step at a team, easing into it or you are just throwing out obstacles to dealing with what you need to.  Sometimes, this takes reflection.  Sometimes this takes a close friend to determine.   Sometimes, the difference is so subtle that it can take a trained professional to spot.  Either way, it is best to figure out early on.

Just some thoughts for the day.  Hope this helps someone.


(Originally written 12/31/15, but still hold true today)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Finding peace in the eye of the storm vs. shelter from it.

I recently had a dream about my late father.  In it, I was dealing with the insanity that characterized his last two plus years of his life.  He had gone from walking at the park, to having some trouble walking, to having a lot of trouble walking, to have a walking followed by falling at times.  At first, it was every blue moon, then it became a fairly regular occurrence.  He was living by himself and I helped him as much as my situation allowed, but it got to be ridiculous.  At some point, medical professionals started to note this progression and said that he needed to be in at least assisted living.  Eventually, they all said he needs constant care (or at least to have someone readily available 24/7) to help him.   Over time the level of necessary help became more acute all the time.  (originally posted 9/3/15)

Anyway, on a number of occasions, he went to the hospital after having a fall.   I would meet him there stay with him and then returned him home with me having to leave eventually.  This went on for a while until I realized how absurd the pattern was and it was hammered into my by medical staff.  Yet, my dad kept insisting on going home after each ER visit.  I eventually walked away and let the system take over.  I told the social worker I can't be part of this insanity.  They are under pressure by the insurance company to not let a patient overstay their hospital need.   So, instead of someone being there to take him home, a social worker convinced him to go to a nursing home at that time.  He accepted that initially, but he kept wanting to go home.  That was not going to happen as I could not in good conscience let him be at his house alone for any long stretch of time.   I was in a rut where I stopped seeing him for a while and limited contact with him as he was pressing to "go back home".  I needed to walk away for my mental health rather than let him attempt to bully me into allowing him in an unsafe situation.  Eventually, I got the strength to reconnect, but it was a constant battle.  He'd be fine and then say, "I want to go home" out of nowhere.  As his son and POA, I could not in good conscience facilitate that.  I made it known to family and friends that I wasn't going allow him into an unsafe/unsupervised environment and that I did not want to do them to either.

Anyway, the upshot is this: I was in the storm (of a dad refusing to face reality and being mean or pushy about it at times) and I eventually found the eye of the storm--a safe place.  But, in order to get to that place I had to set aside my feelings of sadness that I would never have the chance to see eye to eye with him.  I had to set aside the fact that it wasn't the happiest point in our relationship.  I had to set aside the feelings of going against what he 'wanted' and had to make choices/push back with what he needed.

Eventually, he got too sick to 'fight'.  The storm ebbed as he got closer to the end and he passed away on May 1st, 2015.  This ended that storm.  The battle had ended for him, but the battle of fighting a delusional parent as he got less able to take care of himself had ended too.

I did what I needed to as a responsible son at the time, but it hurt.  I have finally had a chance to exhale and feel the sadness of losing my dad way before he physically passed.  I finally had  a chance to process the battle with a sick parent who wasn't facing reality.  I did what I needed to cope and now have a chance like after a storm "to assess the damage".  This is healthy I think.


I've come to some realizations about life's rough storms.

  • Sometimes we do what we need to to cope and do not have the vision to see how it affects others and we do not have the vision to see that a given storm is unnecessary.  
    • For example, you are with someone controlling, in your codependency, your finding the eye of the storm is doing whatever it takes to make or keep the other 'happy' or at least off your case.  Instead of seeing you could walk away from the storm, you search for an eye.  In the process you walk or push away from others who are a safe distance from the storm.
    • It is so much easier to see later that you weren't away from the storm, but instead were in the peace of the eye of the storm.   It's so easy when we are trying to escape the debris to see that we could have found a safer place.  It's so easy to second guess.  It's so easy to say what if or maybe I could have made better choices or handled it better.  But, sometimes we just have to accept that perhaps we aren't used to storms.
  • Sometimes we have no choice.  We aren't in a position where we can take shelter from the storm, so what we need to do is find the safest place within the actual storm (the eye).  In other words, there are no great choices, so we have to choose the best of all bad options.
  • After the storm has passed and you've had time to survey the damage you have a choice how to view it.
    • You could play the role of the victim and say poor me and wallow in the storm. (self-pity)
    • You could play the role of the martyr/hero and say no biggie and pretend the storm didn't happen.  (denial)
    • You could play the thoughtful one and say that the storm was dangerous and destructive.  I have to find a way to pick up the mess it left and mourn the damage that was done and get to the place where I need to be.  (realist/healthy).  
If you are old enough, life will throw storms your way.  If we open our minds and hearts to the lessons and God's wisdom, we can learn from storms and prepare better for the next ones.  We can find takeaways from the storm and not be stuck in the damage of the storm (self-pity).

We have our roles, see  Main in Motion.  Storms can actually clarify our roles.  We just have to not let ourselves be caught up in the storm itself and be destroyed.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Denial: The lies we tell ourselves to cope.

A friend of mine inspired this one.  Not by her actions, but rather by her suggestion.

Denial, is the cliche goes, it isn't just a river in Egypt.  Denial can be seen as the following:
  1. A form of self-defense.  We are protecting ourselves from the torment of 'facing reality'.
  2. A necessary evil.  Sometimes, facing all things at once is too much.  If  we make a point to deal with a limited amount now and 'pretend' that that we don't need to deal with the other stuff, it can give us the space to deal with what we need to over time.  Such as unwinding an estate.
  3. A way of avoiding dealing with a problem we have.  Our car makes an odd noise, it just doesn't sound right.  Well, if we avoid it, then we don't have to deal with it, so the thought goes.  Likewise, if we have an addiction of some sort or an illness, by denying it we are fooling ourselves into believing it isn't there and/or doesn't have to be dealt with.
  4. An obstacle to tackling problems BEFORE they get too unmanageable.  Again, health, auto or addiction example.
  5. Lying to ourselves and/or keeping secrets from ourselves.  Denial obviously is a mechanism by which we can be untruthful with others, but ultimately, the one(s) we are untruthful with us more than anyone is ourselves and God.
  6. Relying on our own tools rather than on God.
I don't say denial is all bad.  Sometimes, we just can't cope with everything life throws us at once.  For example, I was grieving over the loss of my mom and to a degree of my brother still.  Also, I was dealing with my own surgery as well as other family issues.  In a way, I didn't have the luxury of totally indulging the extent of my dad's failing health.  So, I would do what I would need to on that score with what I had of emotional/spiritual energy.  I let his caregivers step in an do there jobs and one of us would step in from time to time and make sure they were doing there job.   They have seen it often enough to know the process of failing health/dying.  So, they were better equipped to deal.  Denial saved my energy for a time.   However, the time to stop denying crept up on me and with the help of friends, I faced the inevitability of my dad's passing.

The 'lie' that he was going to live indefinitely was useful as a coping mechanism.  But, eventually, it had to give way.   What I found is that surrounded by Godly friends who reminded me of God's role, I didn't have to live in the denial about it.

I guess one take away I have from this all, a little bit of 'denial' for a time can be a coping mechanism, but if we let it out of control and live in it indefinitely, we are avoiding the healing and adjusting.  In terms of spiritual warfare, to let the enemy win all we have to do is do nothing.  To triumph, we face our pains/hurts/demons/secrets with God's help.

In the 12 step programs, it is often said, we are only as sick as our secrets.  It may be cliche, but it is true.  I don't think that that means we have to answer 'do I look big in this dress', but it does mean being true to God, ourselves and others.