You see through shadows and fog. So much obscured. It’s a murky reality where confusion reigns—crisis after crisis, unending drama, boundless pain. You bury the fear that would deplete your strength. It’s become harder to function, wearisome to hope. You sink into despair. Light peeks in at the top of the hole, but every move toward it overwhelms.
You thought the cavalry would have arrived by now, ride up on rugged horses, but there is no cavalry.
You think you can’t do this. You want to die.
Think about it.
If you can’t do this anymore, all the stuff you don’t want to do, you can’t do the other stuff either—the beautiful, incredible, and amazing stuff. Those things that make you smile, laugh, ooh, and ahh—all the blessed wonders that fill your heart with joy will be gone along with the pain.
People say the best thing you can do when you’re feeling hopeless and powerless is to take the focus off you and help others. Bring smiles to people’s faces with a random act of kindness. It works!
But if you’re feeling too weak right now, not quite ready to save yourself, hang in there. We’re human, and we don’t always have to be strong. The world feels cruel and cold right now, and the suffering around us hurts. The suffering of the world is too much, yes. We’re all so vulnerable, but you’re not alone. We’re here with you.
We call upon the earth’s angels to construct the symbolic pyramid that surrounds, protects, and guides you. We send you the healing white light of unconditional love. And you’ll be surprised at what a difference a day makes.
If you’re not too defeated, maybe that sink or swim moment has arrived. Perhaps this is where you surrender. So, get up and take the fierce warrior stance. You’ll know when the time is right. You’re going down the rabbit hole to dig in and dig out, regain your clarity and calm, and restore your peace and joy.
And then the long dark night comes.
You approach it as what you’ve become, the persona that provided the armor you wore, the persona you constructed to protect you in the darkest of times. It was a godsend that’s slowly become a fire-breathing monster, diabolical and dangerous. It’s time to kill it before it kills you.
But it’s turbulent in this period of darkness. You feel disoriented and bewildered. There is so much to grieve.
You may be broken now, and things look rather bleak. I know. You may not believe me when I say you can heal because your heart is breaking in a way it never has. It’s like every broken heart you’ve ever had has come together to magnify the brokenness.
It seems everything has fallen apart, but then it will all come together again, I promise you, the way it was supposed to be. Deep down, we have the answers. When we are ready, we’ll align our will with the will of our highest power of love and of light. I’m here with you.
So many memories come to mind—the child you were, the adult you’ve become—so much anguish for what happened all those years ago.
You never wanted to let anyone down; I get that. You feel everything so intensely; I get that, too. Just don’t tell me you don’t deserve better. You do. Don’t tell me you’re a failure. You’re not. We learn from every mistake. That’s not failing; it’s growing. You are a beautiful, empathetic being of love and light. And don’t say hope will damn you; it won’t always, I promise.
It’s okay to acknowledge regrets and feel every wound that keeps hurting and the sadness of the torment that has yet to subside. Yes, it’s agony. You cry harder than you ever thought you could. Every version of you that’s existed cries with you. Especially that child in you who’s waited so long for your comfort. That small child who was thrilled by the universe in every waking moment—he’s still there! He wants you to fight for him. You care so much about everyone. Care about yourself, too! You help everyone, my dear; help him. The child is fragile and wailing. It’s the ghost that’s haunted you for many years, but she doesn’t unnerve you now. Your sobs are hers, as are your tears. This child is releasing your pain. Hug that child.
Every version of who you’ve been will need that comfort and compassion. Don’t be afraid to wrap all of those former “yous” in a blanket of love and show them they are worthy of that! They were just trying to survive. YOU were just trying to survive. After years of taking hit after hit and getting back up, maybe you learned how to compartmentalize, stay calm, and protect your energy, as I did.
It’s hard to fight the urge to share words of wisdom, some of which you may not be ready for, but I can plant a seed. I’m here and don’t you apologize—not to me. It’s not too much for me ever. I’ll never regret a moment with you. Just breathe. Take deep breaths as often as you need. You have to trust a little. Let me help you. Let me hug you. I got you, my friend, and you’re going to be alright. I love you so much!
And when the light of day shines on you after this long night, you are a warrior and a conqueror, too, who will conquer one thing after another in life.
You slay your demons so that the fierce dragon you desperately needed can transform into the beautiful paladin that champions your survival. And here you are now, a weightless dragonfly with mesmerizing beauty!
They say home is where you wake up and try again. Well, you’re home now.
Let’s put this massive collection of egos in a fishbowl and see what happens.
That’s the gist of it.
We never before had so much access to one another’s thoughts and opinions, which can be unsettling if not altogether frightening. If we ever entertained the notion that telepathy would be a great superpower, we now realize it would be a fate worse than death.
Is Mark Zuckerberg putting profits before people, creating a deep divide among users, and manipulating our emotions? The fear, rage, stress, drama, frustration, etc., we put out there are undoubtedly good for engagement and subsequent profits. But, at least part of the blame for the insanity has to go to some of the users, right? “People” tend to mess up everything.
Relationships that had seemed unconditional are not really. Many want you to validate their core beliefs, never challenging or opposing them.
It’s similar to working in a corporate office where someone or another spreads misinformation about a situation, and it goes “office” viral. The initial gossip spreader and everyone who passes it on has no idea what they’re talking about, nor do they care. I hated working in corporate offices for that reason, yet that’s what we have here on Facebook. Often, too, when Facebook flags someone’s posts for providing false information, the poster doesn’t remove it. People insist on believing what isn’t true because it’s what they prefer to believe. The truth doesn’t matter.
Part of the problem is how addictive Facebook is. I am a person who can get addicted to water, cough drops, you name it. (I know what to stay away from.) Here, we get addicted to the dopamine effect—that little blast of euphoria from getting likes on our posts. Addiction, however, does often distort things, and it often impairs our judgment.
People don’t realize there’s no absolute privacy when you voluntarily publish stuff on the internet. They’re not aware of what rights they surrender when they create a Facebook page. They think they can get around the privacy issue by posting disclaimers. Disclaimers do not override Terms of Service, but, having created networks in the past, I realize most people do not read the Terms of Service. Some don’t even know there are terms.
Then, of course, there are the trolls. People stress themselves out arguing with trolls and then complain that said trolls are threatening their family or that they have three brain tumors and this and that, yet these trolls won’t leave them alone.
Don’t talk to trolls, FFS! Please don’t sit there answering them all day! They will never feel sorry for you. You may as well tell them your house is burning down as you tweet, or you’re tweeting them from the ICU. That would be hilarious to them. The more misery they cause, the happier they’ll be. These are not people you can reason with or convince. If they can’t get a rise out of you, it’s not fun for them, so, yes, don’t feed them. That is all.
Troll lecture aside, we fight mostly over politics here, taking our anger and frustration out on people with opposing views. Personally, I always hope, more than anything, that some post or another will help someone see the light. Don’t we all? Of course, that doesn’t usually work. In the meantime, we’re questioning and attacking one another’s integrity. Sure, you only wear the shoe if it fits, but many are determined to squoosh those shoes onto your feet any which way they can.What’s worse is, we’re not changing people’s ideas. Instead, we have them digging in their heels and becoming more vindictive.
What I know is, I don’t want to participate in this kind of thing any longer. I want my contribution to the world to be love, strength, compassion, empathy, and whatever wisdom I can muster.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal recently said, “The damage to self-interest and self-worth inflicted by Facebook today will haunt a generation.”
Over the years, I’ve dealt with people who were in the throes of agony because they can’t help comparing themselves and their lives to what they see posted on Facebook or Instagram.
There’s a syndrome out there—people having a sense that there isn’t enough to go around, and it extends to everything. You get attention; you take from my supply. You succeed; that means I can’t. Now, you’re getting more dopamine effect than me, damn it!
The adverse reactions may often be about envy, sometimes jealousy, but other factors come into play. People-pleasing is one. Preoccupation with it is born out of trauma and persists with societal pressure.
For example, I had the affliction of body dysmorphic disorder for most of my life. Despite the incredible progress I’ve made, there are lingering components.
I’ve often hesitated to post photos because almost every picture I see of myself is hideous to me. Many people feel the same, I’m sure. We may put up an image of us we’re happy with, and then the next day, we see it again and think, ugh, that’s awful. Why did I even post that?
It’s funny because my son once told me, don’t do that fake smile people do when they’re posing for pictures. Usually, when they do that, they look like serial killers. (We were laughing about this and not entirely serious because even he understands my sensitivity about photos.) So, I had to add, try not to look like a serial killer to my picture-taking goals. 🤣
Every now and then when I found a photo that I thought was good, I got pushback or shaming—someone or another saying it was fake, narcissistic, etc. Over the years, I’d heard it all. So, I’ve gotten confused over the whole picture deal.
And my insecurity seems to be a contest I have with myself because:
I have zero interest in dating.
By this point in my life, I know I am enough—more than enough and worthy.
I don’t get jealous of people. There’s so much joy I feel in appreciating how beautiful others are, and I’m not just talking about hair and lips or a body type. Beauty encompasses everything about a person and radiates from within.
I live the life I created for myself, so I’m happy to see others enjoy themselves.
For me, it’s the people-pleasing thing. I don’t want to disappoint people. It’s an old obsession that seems to be taking longer to go away than any of my other obsessions. I say that because it’s a good reminder that most everyone has their issues and insecurities and their reasons for feeling uncomfortable.
I once thought I didn’t like people in general, but I realize now that I love people; I just don’t know how to deal with them. That’s my issue. Sometimes, along the roads we take in life, that message gets reinforced and stuck in our heads because of what people we care about say to us with or without realizing, or what we see happen when we reach out.
Being against anyone isn’t my thing. Wanting the best for everyone is very much my thing. At the same time, it’s essential to know the difference between being genuinely kind and caring and pleasing people to ward off someone’s hostility, ridicule, or indifference. When I wake up every day, my goal is to be a better person, and I think if we focus on that, the other stuff won’t matter so much.
But if Facebook is making you feel like you’re not enough, remember that your time is precious. So is your energy and your peace. Don’t let anyone have you questioning your worth! There’s a reason we don’t fit in with certain people, and it usually means there are other people out there who are better suited for us. I know it’s hard, but lots of people love and appreciate you. Don’t forget that.
We hear a lot these days about your “happy place” and “living your best life.”
Your best life may be nonstop traveling or vacationing in a tropical paradise. Many are content going through the years with their extended, continually growing family, enjoying all the milestones and get-togethers. For some, it’s tending to their garden or going on a cruise, maybe taking photographs of nature. It may simply be achieving your professional goals, especially a long, fulfilling career helping others.
Ten years ago, when both of my parents were ill at the same time, I had panic attacks—even in my chiropractor’s tranquil office while listening to her soothing music. She was a gentle soul with an ethereal beauty about her, and she told me, “Don’t think about it. Just go to your happy place. Visualize it. Focus on it.”
For a lot of people, that happy place is a sun-filled or moonlit beach. Some find immediate comfort thinking about God or Jesus or prayers while surrounded by nature. I pictured a magical place with flowers, trees, birds, and a glistening lake. Taking out a rowboat was a nice thought, too.
Of course, we can have many happy places. I picture people—ones who make me smile and laugh a lot. Then there’s reading books, watching dancers, hearing people sing or play music. I love all of that.
Now, what about that timeworn phrase “happily ever after?” Is it what fairytales have dictated, something we’ve held onto since we were children? There’s a bit of societal pressure, whether it’s your dream or not, but I think most people do genuinely want to find their ideal partner and live a comfortable life with a house, pets, and children.
As I see it, the problem is what others expect of us and what we expect of ourselves. I’ve encountered many people who automatically assume everyone wants what they have. Have you met anyone like that? At best, they feel sad for you. At worse, someone thinks you want to take what they have away from them. Sure, that happens in some instances, but, more often, we’re not reading each other or reading the room, as they say.
I learned, long ago, that I don’t want what most people want, plain and simple and don’t necessarily like what most people like. I never felt the need to run out and get the latest thing because everyone else had it. I got it when and if I needed it. I’ll say, too, another of my happiest places is writing. Any artist might understand that, but a great many others may think that’s just pathetic!
What’s evident to me is, people often envy a life they don’t even want. They may see themselves as failures. It often happens that they didn’t succeed in creating that life because they never really wanted it in the first place. If so, they might have tried harder to get it. They think they should have gotten it, and that maybe something’s wrong with them. Or course, they worry, too, about what others may think.
Well, I agree with those who say, “You do you.” The truth is, it is 100% okay for people to want everyday, traditional things or to want something else entirely. That’s hard for a lot of people, I know. They want to fit in. Me? I only want to fit where I belong—where I’m welcome, accepted, and embraced as who I am.
Fantasy often bests reality. Sentimentality can provide us with an illusion of innocence in a safe and familiar world. That’s fine, and it’s not hard to understand why people, in their everyday lives, cling to illusions and delusions that comfort and protect.
That said, most of us would say we are honest. We believe that we are. The trouble is, we can’t be honest with others until we are honest with ourselves. And we can’t be honest with ourselves until we know what is true—until we confront it, accept it, and deal with it however we must.
So, why would we not know?
Many of us grow up indoctrinated with a built-in belief system. The beliefs we hold may lead to harsh judgments—to the point of shunning, oppressing, and hating others. There is often an unwillingness to understand people who are different. And these core ideologies can simultaneously result in self-loathing and a feeling of being unworthy or never quite good enough. It’s the inferiority complex turned inside out—a desperate need to feel superior.
Along the lines of needing to be perceived a certain way, I’ve seen debates on how honest to be with children and whether they have a right to hit us with their perception of the truth if it isn’t favorable to us. The ancient rule that you respect all adults no matter what.
I believe children have the right to call out parents on their behavior, and that parents should address their concerns about any relative, family friend, or person in authority. If we care about people (and sometimes even if we don’t) but especially when we care about people, we need to listen to them when they tell us how we’ve hurt them even in the smallest of ways. We can’t be accountable while in denial, can’t grow and evolve, can’t set the example for the children who look to us for guidance.
Pretending we are perfect doesn’t serve anyone. It’s painful to acknowledge when we caused pain where we wanted only to love and protect, but we must. There are many hard lessons in life, just as there are other ways the truth may elude us.
A fair amount of clarity is essential in sorting out what is biased and what is factual. Specific characteristics and predicaments diminish that clarity. Here are a few:
Addiction/obsession (clouds perception, impairs judgment) – For example, I have found that people in recovery continue to gain clarity as they remain sober and clean.
A self-centered existence (usually correlates with substance abuse including alcohol and certain personality disorders)
Lack of self-care (sleep, healthy lifestyle, etc.)
Our agenda (of which we may or may not be aware)
Misinformation (I think being an avid reader of books, especially those that introduce you to different cultures and perspectives helps tremendously.)
Taking ourselves too seriously (also may correlate with substance abuse and certain personality disorders)
CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH?
Some of us fearlessly plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing. Others deliberately avoid it or scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. They don’t want to uncover the truth because they have an inner sense that it won’t serve them well. Indeed, at the moment, it won’t, but it definitely will in the long run.
Ten years ago, I’d assume people could handle whatever I could. It never seemed to sink in that they were as vulnerable and fragile as I was once. My idea of being characteristically direct may have been someone else’s idea of being attacked.
At times, we feel an urgent need to resolve things, and, if we’re not patient, we can end up doing more damage than we intended . The goal is not to “hurt” people, and like any conflict, resolution can happen only when both sides are mentally prepared and open to that— willing to go where it leads. There must be a mutual willingness to get to the truth. When you come from a place of caring and love, you see that they are human and vulnerable, and you approach them that way. Besides, even with the vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and insight we acquire, we are all still vulnerable to one degree or another.
THE PRICE OF DENIAL
In January of 2002, Psychology Today published an article by Bill Sullivan, Ph.D., about the devastating consequences lying has on our brain. “Dishonesty puts the brain in a state of heightened alert, and this stress increases with the magnitude of the lie,” he wrote. (It doesn’t apply to sociopaths lacking empathy, but most of us care about our trustworthiness and integrity.) “Symptoms of anxiety arise because lying activates the limbic system in the brain,” he explained. “When people are being honest, this area of the brain shows minimal activity. But when telling a lie, it lights up like a fireworks display. An honest brain is relaxed, while a dishonest brain is frantic.”
Denial has a price, as well, and it’s often quite steep. We see its cost while it continues to happen all around us. Don’t for a moment underestimate its power to destroy lives, institutions, countries, and ultimately civilizations.
While in denial:
We don’t know why we want what we want or need what we need.
We don’t know what our vulnerabilities are.
We hurt people or put them in harm’s way.
We obsess over certain people and things, oblivious to why or the fact that it isn’t normal.
We’re unable to see our part in anything.
We don’t see ourselves or others with clarity, so we mischaracterize our behavior and theirs.
We take dangerous risks and put ourselves or keep ourselves in situations that have serious consequences.
We lie to ourselves and others.
With highly unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment and devastation.
We can’t take the right action because we make decisions without the correct information.
We lack empathy.
We have a constant need to do damage control.
We don’t learn from our mistakes, and so we miss life lessons that can empower us.
Being honest is not about unnecessary disclosure. It’s about separating fact from fiction, opinion, and popular belief—notions that cause egos out of bounds, discrimination, exclusion, judgment, and condemnation. We pull the curtain on delusion and denial to let the light in. We choose clarity over confusion. It leads to more empathy, less vulnerability, and decisions based on expanded horizons and a more substantial knowledge base as we surpass our self-imposed limitations and embrace a wider world.
YEAH, THE TRUTH DOES SET YOU FREE
We can wear masks for a lifetime, not knowing who we are or what is real. Or we can begin to peel off one layer of untruth at a time, just as if we were peeling an onion or discarding a myriad of veils.
In the process of uncovering and accepting the truth, the shame that drove us to compete and control begins to dissipate. We learn to love with our whole hearts—not just others but ourselves. We know we are vulnerable. We understand how vulnerable we are, so we walk away from people whose goal is to exploit our vulnerabilities. And we keep getting better at it. That’s good because before we understood, it was easy to lead us, fool us, and enslave us.
Blessed with clearer vision, we can routinely examine our motives and expectations. We won’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
Those of us searching for the truth are tired of being terrified of it. Denial has ceased to be our sole comfort and our only way to survive. The payoff in protecting our hearts, our image, and our secrets is no longer worth it. We came to fully accept that we are all struggling humans, equal in importance.
We continue striving to become more and more authentic. We continue to replace false with real. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better, and it’s important to share what we learn. We are all teachers on this earth, just as we are all students. Sometimes people don’t mean to teach us anything, but they do. Learning doesn’t make you inferior any more than teaching makes you superior.
I love that we continually evolve, and we know better than we did in the past. We are worthy of the truth. We deserve that much.
One day at a time? I used to wonder why people with thirty years of sobriety or more would say “recovery” was one day at a time. For a newbie, yes. I got that. But those of us with more than five years? I’d say, “Well, I’m committed to my recovery. I’m grounded, and I’m not going back, I promise you.”
So, I have twenty-four consecutive years of “abstaining.”
I often forget exactly how long it’s been because it truly is one day at a time.
A Disease of the Attitudes
It’s never been so much about the physical compulsion for me. I never had a hangover, let alone a blackout. I didn’t do rehab or detox or spend time in jail.
Addiction, however, is a disease of mind, body, and spirit. I came across that explanation on Hazeldon.org, the other day, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
Before his death in 2016, educator/counselor/motivational speaker John Bradshaw authored many books on what he believed to be the root of all addictions—codependency. Codependency, in his view, was toxic shame. I’d also heard it referred to as the “Disease of the Attitudes.” It is trauma induced, but there is also a lot of learned behavior, as many people grow up in dysfunctional families.
The disease has many manifestations. In short, something or someone has control over us to the extent that it clouds our perception and impairs our judgment, making life on life’s terms unmanageable.
Under these circumstances, we begin to exhibit narcissistic behavior, something that is common in our society to varying degrees, and more common, it seems, in addicts/alcoholics. 12-steps programs seek to correct that very behavior, along with the self-centeredness and self-obsession. It is not to be confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although there are people in recovery who have that affliction. More so, addicts are people who have been abused by narcissists, including those with NPD. How narcissistic we become likely depends on the amount of time we’ve spent putting up with our narcissistic abusers. We catch their “fleas,” so to speak.
Sadly, we emerge with feelings of unworthiness. Down deep, we feel inferior, so we tell ourselves whatever we need to say to ourselves to maintain the delusion that we’re not only worthy, we’re better. We don’t even realize we think we are better, and yet we communicate that to others. We act as if we are unique and more important than everyone else, and we’re oblivious to all of it because we take ourselves way more seriously than we should.
We don’t know who we are, so we choose a mask, and we wear it. Denial can be such a comfort.
On a subconscious level, we are fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect all of our “secrets.” We may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat. There is a constant need for damage control.
We use people. They help provide the attention, admiration, and validation we need, and they help support and promote our altered perceptions of what’s real.
We become con artists who can convince anyone of anything, turn things on and off as needed, and find a million different ways to seduce people. We learn that sex is not the only way to do that.
Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and so unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we feel what others are feeling. Our agendas keep us busy, along with trying to control everything, including how we are perceived by others. Maintaining the delusions and denial is nothing short of exhausting.
And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses. We get tangled in a web of lies we’ve created.
So, when we finally arrive at that place of surrender, we are broken. We’re needy and vulnerable. We crave attention from others. It’s a drug, and whenever someone complies, it’s a temporary fix. It doesn’t work because, like any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you truly fear. Hence, we need fix after fix.
Why There is More Danger Than We Realize
As an addicted person, we have, at least, some awareness of the danger we pose to ourselves. We may, at some point, realize the harm we cause others. We take risks we would not ordinarily take. However, there are some more insidious pitfalls that we never see coming.
Our “needs” will lead us to toxic codependent relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us will instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, except they are true narcissists who will apply what they’ve learned to get what they want. Their desperation is so great, they can’t see past it, and neither can we.
These are predators who will love bomb the shit out of you and play to all your vulnerabilities by telling you precisely what you want to hear. They’ll idealize you, place you on a pedestal, and you’ll let them do it because what they offer is what you want. And the moment you’re not doing what they want you to do, they’ll begin to devalue you. It can be a frenemy, a lover, a co-worker, a family member, or even another person in recovery. When they can no longer control you, they’ll insult you in passive-aggressive ways, threaten to abandon you or lash out with cruel vindictiveness you’ve never seen the likes of throughout your wretched existence.
So, why is this important to mention?
It is unfortunately common. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve lived it and I’ve blogged about it, It’s also madness. It will leave you traumatized and shocked, feeling emotionally raped. For the most fragile people, it’s caused mental breakdowns, even suicide. It’s hard to explain how this sort of bondage messes with your head, but all rational thinking goes right out the window.
The good news is, once you become aware of what’s going on inside of you, your needs will begin to change. You’ll get better and better at spotting the red flags, and your boundaries can protect you.
You Can Do It
It may take a bit of perilous soul-searching and coming face-to-face with the terrifying darkness lurking within, but we can fix this. Real narcissistic abusers (NPDs), however, cannot.
At the same time, not everyone is ready to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths about ourselves and endure the grueling process of healing. We deliberately avoid it, or we scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until we feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. Some people, sadly, will never be ready.
As for the rest of us, damn the lies! We got sick and tired of the drama and the feeling of dread whenever the phone rang. We were ready to love with our whole hearts, leaving the agendas behind. Hey, it’s not as easy as living in denial, but we knew we had to get better, that we had to do better. We can only be honest with others if we’re honest with ourselves. For that reason, we have to know what’s real, and, over time, we’ll peel off layer after layer of untruth. We want to make life decisions as informed individuals with ever-increasing clarity.
Sooner, rather than later, we come to learn how to stop taking ourselves so seriously, which I’ve discussed at length in another blog. I talk about embracing your vulnerability, but, the truth is, we have to know what those vulnerabilities are, so we can protect ourselves when itreally is necessary. When we fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to desperation will begin to dissipate.
I’ve come to notice that most people don’t like it when I say we are equal in importance and that no one is superior to anyone else. For sure, it’s not a popular thing to go babbling on about, but I do it because it’s part of a huge problem in this world — the less who contribute to it, the better.
We’ll get rid of that all or nothing mentality, too—winner takes all. We must have flexibility and balance in our lives.
In this process of recovery, we come to understand the importance of examining our motives and expectations in every situation. We may find they are not reasonable or realistic, and that we can’t trust our egos. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
We’ll be able to put ourselves in someone else’s place and take care with our words. For example, I’m always wary of leading anyone in the wrong direction, so I’m very direct. Sometimes because we’re kind to people, they think a romance is possible. In the past, that wouldn’t have bothered me because, hell, I had another fan to add to my collection. It fed my ego. Today, I am sincere in not wanting to hurt anyone. I’ve become interested in people for who they are and not for how they validate me.
I’ve also found that the maturity and wisdom we gain in “doing the work” allows us to resolve conflicts like adults because we are open, and we genuinely care about others. I don’t mean engaging with those that have no concern or regard for us and who will only do us harm. Nope, we’ll be avoiding people like that. In the past, it was too easy to lead us, to fool us, to enslave us, and that’s just not happening anymore. It’s essential to continue strengthening our boundaries and to pay attention! Know how to differentiate between genuine compliments and someone who is love bombing you because they have a fast-lane agenda. Shut down the love bombing. It’s a trap. We must hold on to our serenity and our peace. Newsflash: Love bombing doesn’t only happen in romance.
Anyway, we won’t be wasting time and energy on damage control. Instead, we’ll be acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, not making excuses.
Of course, we don’t always have it down to the point where we’re invincible. It’s a constant effort that gets more automatic with time, but we never stop being vulnerable. We have to be patient with ourselves and our healing process and also with the healing journeys of others. (That’s a lot harder than it sounds. 😉 )
So, what’s in the way of our surrender?
I’ve often heard, “But I can’t go to those 12-step meetings. I’m not comfortable.” Another deterrent for some is what they’ve referred to as “the God thing.” Someone in recovery suggested they are egotistical if they don’t subscribe to the most popular concept of God. Others seemed to invalidate a person’s sobriety and solid footing, claiming he or she was on the wrong path.
Let’s talk about the religious part first. Those who have other perceptions of God are fully aware that greatness surrounds and exceeds us all. We are in awe. Aside from that, I personally believe all the good around us and within us is God, and that God can also be conceived as “Good Orderly Direction.”
As so eloquently stated by Louisa Peck in her blog, A Spiritual Evolution, “Good Orderly Direction is more than the antithesis of fuck it; it’s the antithesis of ego. It is a form of caring, of knowing that your choices matter and seeking those that will feel right in the long run.”
Regardless of where that “good orderly direction” comes from, it keeps you on the right path. It’s there if you want it to be, and it’s where I direct my infinite gratitude. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to impress the masses. Let them do what works for them. You do you.
As for the social anxiety. I have it, too. We don’t like it when we’re not comfortable. That’s why we’ve turned to other methods of coping with reality—using drugs, alcohol, and other things to the point where we know something’s not right with us. It’s good to push through; yes, we won’t ever get comfortable by avoiding the problem. But if you can’t do it, you can still get with the program or benefit from its wisdom.
You can read the literature, work the steps, and learn a better design for living, and you can do it in the way that is best for you. What we don’t want moving forward are obstacles to our healing. Nothing and no one should prevent us from taking back our lives and restoring our sanity.
Recovery is an ongoing, permanent pursuit requiring a day-by-day commitment to better choices, requiring continuous reminders of, that’s not the way we do things anymore. We are never beyond reproach or incapable of making mistakes or bad judgments and reverting to old patterns. You can be physically sober for decades and still be an ass.
The learning, growing, and healing never ends. I love that we know better than we did in the past.
What I believe is; we should be consistently evolving. And every person we know has something to teach us whether they have no time in recovery or fifty years.
Appreciating who and where you are while also understanding who and what you’ve been is a good thing. We deserve the truth, don’t you think? And we’re worthy of it. We don’t have to be who others taught us to be when we came into this world. The people we looked to for guidance did what they could with the best of intentions and whatever awareness they had. It simply wasn’t enough.
People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.
We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.
In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.
At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.
Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.
As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.
We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?
What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.
A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.
We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.
One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.
I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Yes, I’ve heard that, too, but I agree only in part. We still have to be accountable for our behavior, and it doesn’t help to stubbornly insist we are fine—and that whatever we do is okay regardless of how many people say otherwise.
It doesn’t mean we have to believe every negative thing anyone says about us. It’s more about the willingness to consider what others have to say, whether we like what they’re saying or not. It’s about our responsibility to learn, grow, and evolve.
Everything comes back to balance for me, but when you’re able to set aside ego and keep an open mind, discernment about what to take personally and what to blow off becomes easier.
You can surely tell if something is malicious or plain stupid.
For example, and speaking as an author now, we put our work out there before a world that seems divided on just about everything. Everyone has opinions, not all of them based on reality or given by someone who has a reasonable frame of reference. Someone may read about a tragic event and say it isn’t an accurate portrayal. You can write something that did happen or describe someone that was very real, and someone might see it as a misrepresentation because that’s not what they’ve experienced. People also have personal biases and triggers. And, yes, sometimes the reason they don’t like something has more to do with them than you. I have seen fellow writers get two-star book reviews for reasons that had nothing to do with the book. Some trolls will say negative things merely because they can.
But most of our antagonists or legitimate critics in life, personally and professionally, are people with their own agendas who may or may not have a vested interest in us. And sometimes, they are right on the money.
Unfortunately, however, some people fear criticism so much that they’re not able to live their dreams or find true happiness, They may put a toe in the water but never dive in.
What I have to say may help. It’s worked for me.
Change Your Relationship with Criticism
Years ago, I grappled with panic attacks and debilitating pain. I read somewhere that I could change my relationship with pain by changing my perspective on it.
That helped tremendously, and I soon realized you could do that with just about anything.
Criticism, like pain, isn’t comfortable. It feels horrible, and we don’t like feeling horrible, so we tell ourselves we can’t handle it.
Take yourself out of fear mode and the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. Acknowledge that you’re not comfortable. Tell yourself you can handle it, then decide how you will do that. You want to find the solution, control whatever it is you can control, and let go of whatever you can’t. Stress only makes things worse.
You’re not alone. What’s happening to you is happening to others, maybe even at the same moment. So many people have been through it. You are no different from any of them and no less capable of handling it. Maybe it seems so much worse because it is happening to you.
Take Yourself Off the Pedestal
On a professional level, people could tell us a thousand times about all the famous people who’d been rejected over and over before the world realized how amazing they were. Many will say, “Well that won’t be me. Oh, but, what am I going to do if it is? How can I control that?”
You can’t, and it’s not easy to get past all that righteous indignation you feel. Someone is criticizing or rejecting you or your behavior or your work, and you instinctively want to defend yourself. You become angry. You feel sad or ashamed. It hurts.
Understand first, that you are not the exception to every rule.
In recovery circles, we laughingly refer to ourselves as “just another Bozo on the bus.” It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s a way of humbling yourself, and taking yourself off the pedestal. I like to think of myself as just another writer, another voice in the choir, and mostly just another person trying to learn and figure things out. That’s an accurate description. We are babies in this astounding old universe, and it’s okay to accept that we’re all vulnerable—not only to the force of nature and random happenings but to each other.
When we respect that, we don’t see people as enemies and haters. We see them as people struggling to survive, like we are.
You are not this person the whole world is watching, and with ridiculous expectations, all the while hoping you will fail or die. I know we meet some nasty people in life that make it seem that way. It’s not surprising that we end up seeing people through such a negative lens. But let’s refuse to believe anyone is that obsessed with us or that petty.
No matter what’s happening, we need to believe that the world is with us, and that the universe supports us.
And with this shift in perspective, there’s little need to be competitive or combative, no need for drama or denial or damage control.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to do than spend my time and energy doing damage control for the sake of my ego. It’s a full-time job, really, with plenty of overtime—controlling how the world sees us and everything that we do. In fact, the business of hiding an inferiority complex behind some shield of superiority is downright exhausting. It becomes impossible to admit you are wrong and say you are sorry. It has you taking credit for all the good in situations and relationships but none of the bad.
Listen to Learn
Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you love to overcome problems and obstacles? I know I do. Understanding that you can do better helps. Wanting to do better can save your life.
Sometimes, we are lazy about fixing stuff. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much work. The reality of life is harsh and can bring unbearable pain. Denial is much more comforting.
I can tell you that, in the past decade, many people have praised me for things I once sucked at, and that’s because somewhere along the line, someone provided me with valuable insight. I was willing to work at it, and so I benefited in the end.
Every critic is a teacher, planting seeds for our improvement and healing.
As far as I can tell, we have to keep listening to learn. On both a personal and professional level, there is always room for improvement. I am obsessed with learning more and more about things that have affected me in my life—things that tripped me up when I had to deal with them in others or myself. I want to learn all I can, not because I’m looking to point fingers but because awareness is everything. I’ve loved those big hallelujah moments where I’ve said, “Hah! So, that’s what’s been going on!” Those were game-changing, life-altering moments. I can’t help feeling grateful for every one of those opportunities.
So, fall in love with the process of learning, growing, evolving, and recovering. It helps us to succeed more and suffer less. And do it with the understanding that this is precisely how it’s supposed to go. Everything is an opportunity for growth, and even shitheads can make valid points. Embrace it. Accept it.
It’s all part of a divine process that is always happening, and we are both a part of and a child of that divinity.
The robin in your tender heart
Hungers for the red berry
That titillates your tongue.
She carols as the snow falls—
And not with the chorus of the dawn
In radiant spring.
What might have been?
Your voice silenced,
The spirit of you
I see glimpses of your fire
From the light that has vanished
From your eyes.
Your wings soar,
Only not to follow
And your heart is that of
You inspire me
To change my perspective
With your unique vision
Of the world.
You shine with your brilliance,
And you don’t know.
Your bursts of laughter
Make me smile.
As always, you are the light
In my darkness;
Your spirit is the fire I feel
In the sun’s warmth.
You were the dawn of my awakening,
And the splendor of my dreams.
And I have cried
For your heart
More than I have ever cried
For my own.
I am torn apart by
The intensity of your pain.
It is profound sadness
When I think I’ve reached you
And then hit another wall…
I fear losing you forever
To your grief,
As I grieve, too,
For the subtleties
You don’t understand.
Avoiding the eyes of others …
Your intense frustration
In trying to get it right,
And thinking you have it all wrong.
You have it right,
I only wish you could know
Of being free.
The tentative smiles,
The looks of uncertainty,
Prompt me to tell you,
You got this.
You’ll be fine.
Whatever the passion,
Let it burn.
It will save you.
Retrieve every shattered fragment
Of your soul.
Bless it with your peace.
Give it mighty and glorious wings,
And let it fly where it leads
Into the twilight of an infinite sky.
And don’t stop singing
Your life’s song.
The song is your vision,
It belongs to you.
You wither and die.
Don’t you, for one moment,
Let anyone crush your beautiful spirit.
Know, too, those who have crushed you
Have been crushed.
Those who pain you have been pained.
Still, you can rise again,
Become completely alive again
And shine on,
Just as you did before all the hurt began.
You are not defective,
My dear one,
Not a burden,
Nor do you struggle alone.
I’m here with you.
I will always be with you.
In every way
Though you don’t see that,
And you never have.
I just love you.
Reality to me is the dusk,
Prevalence in the shadows.
It is cloaking,
In a world of darkness.
It is torment.
It is restraint.
The beauty of the peaceful lull amid the
Trees just before sunrise
Lies in contrast with the hazy tumult of my
I am in awe of every vision.
I bask in the passion of every caress.
Every bit of air I breathe is a godsend.
I could listen with the stillness of the ocean
To the waves amid a blue-violet sky.
I could dance with flair and gaiety to the music
With a glow that illuminates me.
There is no one else I’d rather be—
Unless it were to love you.
You are all that I crave.
We all become conscious, at some point in our lives, of ways we can sabotage our physical well-beings. When it comes to sabotaging our emotional well-beings, and even our financial security and stability, things seem to become more complicated.
Brilliant individuals are sometimes incapable of motivating themselves enough to change their lives or gravitate toward the ideal. They tend to become problem-oriented rather than solution oriented, boxing themselves in with an almost unwillingness to compromise. They may set impossible goals instead of practical ones.
Maybe someone convinced them they didn’t deserve success, or they convinced themselves based on how someone made them feel about their competency or their judgment. Either way, these old tapes keep playing in their heads, telling them they can’t accomplish anything, can’t succeed, can’t win, and there’s not enough to go around. In this predicament, we fear success as much as we fear failure, because they are two sides of the same coin. We keep that coin as a reminder that we don’t trust ourselves with the dreams we cherish or the plans we’ve made.
We tell ourselves we don’t deserve success any more than we deserve money. Perhaps once we get our hands on the latter, we don’t manage it well. I’ve been there. I can attest to the fact that when you finally realize you do deserve these things, you’ll likely find yourself working your tail off, accomplishing one goal after another. We have to be rid of whatever that little voice is in our head that says we can’t do it, and we’re not good enough, and that all this is impossible. We can, we are, and it’s not.
We get into this pattern of self-pitying victimhood. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that we’ve been a victim of something or someone, or expressing anger about it, and shedding tears. We have a right to our grieving process. But sometimes we get use to the payoff—attention, pity, praise, the temporary ego fix. So instead of becoming solution oriented, we become more and more problem oriented, more and more likely to want an audience of sympathizers. And we get stuck there because solving problems would take that attention away and whatever else we get from being constantly burdened. It’s not that we don’t deserve to be comforted. It’s that we don’t move forward. We don’t get better.
This pattern normally goes hand in hand with excessive worry about people and things. Social media is a perfect example, because it mirrors life. I have seen people in a pattern of deactivating accounts only to resurface in a matter of days. Sometimes it may be that they legitimately need a break, but very often it’s because expectations are not being met. People are not responding to them in a way they could perceive as favorable. They’ve made assumptions about what people think or what someone meant, and after a considerable amount of time wasted on obsessive worrying, they take a drastic action to disengage. When they come back, it’s because they need to try it all again. They have too much riding on acceptance. It’s all self-defeating because we create unrealistic expectations, and we tend to assume wrong. Comparing and assuming tends to cause more mental anguish than is warranted or bearable. All we can do is be who we are, our ever-improving version of that.
Many stress about their looks, their bodies. Perfect is boring, and there is beauty beyond someone else’s chosen ideal. Beauty does, indeed, come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and people will have all sorts of opinions on what looks good. In fact, I realized at one point, that I never cared if someone didn’t like the hair color I chose. I knew how I wanted to look. I would never consult anyone about it, not even my significant other. So if we are trying to satisfy ourselves rather than appeal to every single person on the planet,we should set the standards for ourselvesnot appease clothing designers, the model industry, or the men who rate women on AskMen.com. Because when we’re finally okay with how we look, imperfections and all, we exude the confidence we need to get oh just about anything. And if that’s not enough, we get to focus more on being the best human we can be. When we finally love who we are, we learn to respect ourselves and treat ourselves better.
While it’s normal to want attention and approval, it’s the excessive, almost desperate need for it that can destroy us if we let it. People take unnecessary risks for the fix without realizing. They may trust the wrong people, throw caution to the wind, make excuses for bad behavior, cling to people who have repeatedly demonstrated the harm they’re capable of inflicting upon others. We don’t even realize that the payoff is attention we craved, validation we needed, admiration we couldn’t resist. Because it comes at just the right time, and creates such a bondage that we continue to crave it from a dangerous source.
Sometimes it’s less extreme. We try to be generous with people regarding our time, our attention, our praise, but we do this with relationships we don’t honestly want to nurture because we want to be nice. I find that when people want to be nice or perceived as nice, they immediately have expectations and create obligations. Then, on top of the resentment about doing something they don’t want to do, and the expectations or obligation that likely won’t be met, they go from ‘nice’ person to fire-breathing dragon in a matter of seconds. So what happens next is far from what they initially intended. People get hurt.
Well, it’s okay not to want to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to feel emotionally exhausted and want to have only genuine relationships. It’s okay to walk away when you’re not feeling it, not trusting it. It’s okay to save that overflowing generosity of spirit for those who matter to you. You can still do nice things for others along the way if you want. Quite simply, it doesn’t have to be like wearing a thorny crown while carrying a cross over your back.
I’ll say this. The more I become aware of how people think (thanks to social media), I tend not to want to meet any more people or reconnect with people from the past. I’m happy to avoid everyone outside my window… even while loving to hear them all out there—the comforting humdrum. Isolating can be a peaceful, healing thing, but it can also be another way of self-sabotaging if we don’t check it. I’ll admit, I have to push myself to get out there and deal with the world as it is, on its terms. Whether I like it or not, it’s necessary. I’ve had to accept that I’m not always going to be comfortable, and I’m not always going to be safe.
I still believe, though, we have to take our time getting to know people, especially when we are very empathetic. Because while we can recognize serious issues people have, our compassion for what they’re dealing with can override any need to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, we have to because these people can hurt you and will do so again and again. We need to pay attention. We need to be careful. We have to stop tolerating disrespect under the guise of being noble and humble. That only creates a perception of some superior self that is false. Yeah, we want to be the nice guy, but if we are real with others, we become something better than ‘nice’. We are kind.
I’ve come to believe that one of the best things we can do in life is heal the vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to all this self-sabotage. Once we find the courage to seek answers, then acknowledge, accept, feel, cry and release anger, we heal, we learn, and then we grow and evolve. It’s an ongoing thing that just keeps getting better. We deserve that.
Of course, life would be so much easier if we could make a habit of staying in the moment and being fully present in that moment. We wouldn’t be worrying about what happened yesterday or an hour ago, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have to remind myself constantly, but it works particularly well in moments of crisis and panic. A wise friend taught me to stay in the solution. Think about what you can do at that moment, not what you can’t do. Control what you can. Amazing how that helps.
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe