I Know Who My REAL Friends Are

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I know who my real friends are because…they are there for me when I’m down, not just when THEY are down. They are there when I need an ear, shoulder/help, not just when THEY need them. They are the first to say, “yes” when I need help, even if I don’t ask because they know that I do it for them. They are there to share the good things that happen too, not just call me or come to my door when something is going wrong and they need something. They fill me in on what they’ve told me and have been worried about, no matter how it goes because they KNOW that I am concerned for them and, they don’t forget about filling me in or letting me know what happened along the way or, when the storm has passed and they’ve moved on because they know that I will let them know the outcome of my situations too. They call me just to see how I’m doing, not because they have a problem or expect me to do something because it’s “expected” from me. They are as concerned about me as I am about them. They aren’t playing a game, texting someone else or cut me off to take a better phone call or do something else they want to do while I’m pouring out my heart to them because they know that I’m all ears when THEY are pouring out theirs. Most of all, they WANT to be around me and make the effort to do so as I do with them. I know who my true friends are. They do too.

Happiness Part III: Can Our Thoughts Create Un-Happiness?

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As adults, we’ve become trained as well as training ourselves, into believing that we are responsible for all that happens in our lives and if we are parents, in our children’s or even spouse’s lives.  That means that we often place the burdens of making everyone happy and taking everyone’s happiness, well-being and other needs onto our own shoulders.

We’ve also learned that “bad things” can happen and often do.  We listen to the news every night which is geared towards only the catastrophic, death, war, politics and we are seeing loved ones, friends and others we cared about, dying.  We have lost that innocence that we possessed as children where the world is magical and besides a scraped knee or a fight with a friend (which usually lasts a whole day or two before playing again with one another), we don’t know that the world can be a hard, cold and harsh place.

If you have been reading my series on being happy, in Part II, I talked briefly about children, our childhoods and generally, most of us were fairly happy.  We found wonder and magic in practically everything that we did.  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule in families that were dysfunctional and children were fearful of every day and what it would bring.  On the whole though, as children, most children are happier than adults for some fairly simple reasons, the least of which is that our brains haven’t been trained or formed enough yet to see that life and this world can be a harsh place to be.

I’m not a neuroscientist nor, do I understand the mechanics of the human psyche or brain.  What I do know is that the way that we think is what affects our moods.  We cannot have an emotion, without having a thought.

Let’s take the example of a husband and wife coming home from work.  Both have put in full days so, they agree that making dinner shouldn’t be left up to one or the other but, should be done together.  There’s equal responsibility happening in this case and dinner is put onto the table.  The husband sits down, looking at what he sees and feels is a delicious looking meal to be eaten with his wife.  His feelings are those of joy and happiness.  The wife, on the other hand, sees the same dinner table, same food yet her feelings are anything but happy or joyful.  As a matter of fact, she has a knot in the pit of her stomach.

They are both facing the same table, same home, same meal, both did the work and both will clean up afterwards.  There’s seemingly no difference, is there?  However, there’s a difference in their feelings.  Why?  What is it that makes two people, facing the exact same situation and circumstances, same responsibilities, feel so differently?  And, no…it’s not because men are from Mars.

The difference is their thoughts.

Husband is thinking thoughts like:

  • “Look at my wife.  I’m so lucky to be able to share this dinner with her tonight.”
  • “Aren’t we lucky to have that slow cooker?  That pork roast looks so delicious.”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to stretch out on the couch and watch the ball game.  I’ve been looking forward to that all day.”
  • “This smells so good and I’m really hungry tonight.  I can’t wait to dive into this dinner.”

Wife is thinking these thoughts:

  • “I should have made just a salad.  Look at the calories in this dinner and the potatoes are carbs galore.  I’ve ruined an entire day’s worth of eating healthy.  There goes my diet.”
  • “I really should put away that slow cooker.  It’s too easy to throw in a roast and add quick side dishes.  I’m getting lazy now with cooking. I’ve been lazy with everything lately.  I’m really a bad person and wife! What is wrong with me?”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to have to get onto that treadmill and work out to burn off some of these calories.  Oh, wait, I can’t.  I told Clara that I’d call her to work out the plans for our bridge get together next week.  Why did I think I should play bridge?”
  • “Now, I’ve lost my appetite.”

Two people with extremes in thinking.  That’s the only difference between the shared experience with one feeling joy and happiness and the other, feeling like they’re having a panic attack.

Happiness is a complex emotion and involves many different mechanisms.  Women cannot think like men necessarily as women have hormones and all sorts of brain wirings (again, I’m not a neurologist or scientist) that men don’t.  Women can be thinking 20 thoughts at once while men are really only focusing on the task at hand for the most part.  That’s not to say that men don’t worry or can’t become obsessive over things too but, it’s to say that the thinking patterns in men and women are different therefore, what a man finds as happiness, a woman may not.  A lot of that will have to do with a difference in thinking patterns and thoughts.  We also can’t include people who have a true mental/emotional disorder or brain chemical imbalance in this but, by and large, most who can’t find happiness, are searching for it when much like The Wizard of Oz, the answer was right there all along, under their noses.  Their thinking patterns.

Change a thought and you change the emotion.

It’s this concept that makes a difference.  Children are generally happier because they don’t know enough to be worried, fretful, concerned, upset etc., at least not for long.  An adult has been trained to see the bad first and the good second.  A child will see almost every moment as an opportunity to find something to make them happy while an adult will usually find something in every moment to be concerned about.  That’s trained into us as we grow and our brains mature.  It’s also part of our experiences but, on the whole, adults tend to be far less happy than children because they’ve trained their thinking patterns into those of worry, fear, upset, self-belittling, catastrophes, blocking out most of the positives in life.  Life and other people teach us to think that way as we grow.  Teachers, bosses, peers, co-workers, media and so much more.  Even Facebook can make us feel like we’re losers because everyone else’s lives seem charmed when looking at their personal walls by comparison.  It’s not them who do it to us.  It’s us.  We know that no one’s lives are as perfect, joyful or seemingly wonderful as what is portrayed on Facebook yet, we still take it at face value on a subconscious basis.  Equally, or more one-dimensional, is the news where it’s filled with disasters, death, wars and creates things to fear.

More than anything, we learn as we grow to become “responsible” and we long since have given up on things that used to make us happy.  We can’t find the time any longer for such trivial things.

We have “too much to do and take care of,” we reason within ourselves. “There’s no time for laying back in the grass, relaxing, watching the clouds and I’d break bones if I rolled down a hill now.  Did I put sunscreen on?  I don’t want skin cancer!”

If you doubt what is being said here, take the time for the next day or two to make a list of the thoughts that run through your mind.  Don’t edit them.  Just write them out.  I’m going to be doing the same thing and, we’ll regather to see if we can see patterns, ok?

In the meanwhile, stay tuned for Part IV on being happy.  It’s coming.

 

Is Your Child Involved In An Enmeshed Relationship With Someone?

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Our children can be our worst haters and abusers especially, when they have chosen to become involved in what one could term as an “enmeshed relationship” with a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse.  Even adult children can turn into seeming monsters who can make us out to be The Devils Incarnate, out to ruin their lives while in one of these types of relationships.

My own daughter, now a fully grown woman, has been involved in a relationship with an issue riddled man, living with him for nearly 7 years.  As parents, my husband and I, both tried to get her to see the fact that this man was most definitely carrying a lot of “emotional baggage” and begged her to wait before making a move in with him.  Of course, both of us as parents, were turned inside out and made into demons in her mind.  Let’s just say that she didn’t have that opinion of us before he entered her life and she had a lot of help in doing so but, must have wanted that end for some reason or another.  The question we set out to figure out was the “why” behind it all.

We watched our daughter go from a loving, giving, thoughtful person who prided herself on her accomplishments in life to someone we didn’t recognize anymore.  She stopped taking care in her appearance, became preachy, holier than thou, appeared sullen, negative, took up weed smoking, lost all of her substantial savings, moved into a tiny, over priced, broken down apartment, racking up debt on her credit card, putting on weight, sleeping every other night on a mattress on the floor or a spring bare couch, dropping all of her friends and becoming a recluse who watched downloaded television programs or documentaries that The Jerk had spent his entire day working on instead of focusing on working.  This once vital, beautiful and ambitious young woman had now become a version of the lazy, un-driven, un-ambitious, debt riddled, pothead she was living with who had no friends of his own and had literally been thrown out by his own parents on several occasions, no longer welcome in their home because he “caused too much trouble for the family and wouldn’t change.”

We spent close to a year without her wanting to speak to us.

“We’re enmeshed,” she screamed out one night after having tried to throw a bowl of salad from our dinner table across the room while visiting us for dinner then, picking up a chair to hit me with while I stopped her and having stopped her again in mid-swing as she attempted to strike me for the first time ever in her life and ushering her to our front door where I  told her that violence would not be tolerated by us in any way. At that very moment, I realize that this person was most definitely not the daughter I had loved and raised.  There was not even a physical resemblance of her remaining visible in any way or sense of the word and, that was the most frightening part of all of this.  We had not only lost her physically but, we had lost our daughter as a person.

For over a year, I sought out counselling for myself.  Had we, as parents, done something wrong?  Were we bad parents?  What was this term “enmeshed” and was I doing it to her?  I had no clue but, I certainly was more than willing to figure it out and if we were at fault, I was determined to find a way to rectify the matter with her any way necessary and even him, if that was warranted.

A year’s worth of therapy, research and journalling, looking back at her childhood and being kicked by her through nasty, ill-tempered emails that cut me to the core during a period of grieving where I was already on the ground after the sudden and accidental death of my brother at the young age of 53 years, I realized that it wasn’t us as parents who were to blame for this entire fiasco and shambles of a parent-child relationship that was left behind.  Nor, was her anger, bitterness or sudden lack of caring about herself or others.  This was totally the work of a master manipulator and sick person…the man she was living with.  She was ‘enmeshed’ with him and with his chronic use of pot as well as heaven knows what other substance he possibly used.  We knew that she was also now heavily into it all as well.

For those who don’t know what the term “enmeshment” means, the short-hand version is similar to the idea of people who become entangled in one another’s lives so greatly that they forget where they begin and the other person(s) end.  While there are many different types of enmeshments and every family possesses some form of it to one degree or another, the definition, for my purposes, is an exaggerated form of dependency on someone else for your own enjoyment of life or to fit an unmet need on one end while other(s) feel guilty if they don’t meet those needs.  In a simplified version, it’s some what a form of “co-dependency”.

“Keep your friends close.  Keep your enemies even closer.”  

It’s uncertain who came up with the phrase above but, my husband and I decided that in spite of our own hurt and anger, we were best to keep this messed up man and our daughter in our sight even though we had never said that he wasn’t welcome and had been allowing him around, just not his weed or whatever he and she had gotten into.  With a lot of tongue biting and swallowing blood, we simply did our best to tolerate the dirt bag being around us when needed/required and saw her on non-occasions on her own when she’d grace us with her presence.

Over the next 3 or 4 years, we had them for dinners and occasions, taking them out and paying the bills for it all, even buying her new clothing for work, new coats and boots, giving her money for what she needed, personally but, refusing to pay off their debts when asked to co-sign for a loan for them both or, provide them with money for first and last month’s rent on a year’s lease on another apartment when our daughter temporarily gave him an ultimatum to shape up or she’d ship out.  We smiled, gritted our teeth and put up with comments from him that we would never accommodate from anyone else for the most part.  We even bought him gifts for birthdays and Christmases so that our daughter couldn’t say we were treating him poorly and yet again, allow him to convince her to walk out on us.  We were keeping her close and him…closer.

Over the next 4 years, things went from bad to worse.  The jerk came to dinners with our families, dressed like he’d rolled out of bed, thrown on the first thing he’d stepped on, hair uncombed, unshaven, brown teeth and wreaking of weed and B.O..  We are far from wealthy but, in spite of the fact that we struggled financially, we bought him clothing as gifts with which he could wear to be presentable had he wanted to and, despite it all fitting him with his declaration that he liked it all, he refused to wear anything except his old, faded, stained, overly small, psychedelic rock t-shirts, dirty blue jeans which didn’t button or zipper properly due to his large weight gain over the past few years to even semi-formal restaurants with us and family.  To us, that showed a total lack of respect for not only us but, the family and more importantly, our daughter.  Yet, we still kept on permitting him to be with us until every last one of our family and friends had been so completely insulted by him verbally and they refused to have anything further to do with him.  Some wondered if we’d lost our minds and perhaps, we had.

The final blow came between Thanksgiving of this year and our daughter’s birthday where he had been thrown out of his own parent’s home for the final time because he became abusive with them when they refused to allow him to smoke weed at their home and our daughter, who had backed him up, was ejected with him.  The writing was on the wall then.  It became an “I’m not with my family so, I’m going to see to it that you’re not going to see yours either” type of campaign.  He pulled out a hash/weed wax vaporizer after dinner and was stopped by my husband whereupon, our daughter decided to back “his right to smoke up” then, proceeded to hurl insults at us and my brother to the point where my brother nearly hit him.  That was it.  It was done.  We’d all put up with more than enough from not only the jerk but, our daughter as well.  They left.

 

Since then, I’ve heard nothing from our daughter except for some nasty messages and texts where she has blamed us for everything that’s gone wrong in her life.  If she could have blamed the kitchen sink, she would have.  That’s how bad it had become.  She was now an “abuser” and I put a stop to every method of her being able to be in contact with me except by phone.  Since she was telling us that we were the source of her total discontent with her life, we decided that it was time to set her free totally. She’d have no other source other than the jerk she is with to blame eventually and given enough time and rope with which to hang himself.  At least, one can only hope.  Reality and honest given, neither my husband nor, myself can take anymore.  She’s become a bully, backed by a bully and we cannot take anymore without our own sanity and health going down the tubes.  As an adult, we don’t owe it to her to lose either of those precious things anymore.

We have no doubt that there is still a lot of fuel and mileage that this jerk will get in siding and coaching what our daughter thinks and does.  There’s no doubt that he pulls her strings and she is allowing him to hold onto them and do the dancing.  Her words do not sound like hers but rather, versions of his thinking.  It’s sounding and seeming almost as though he’s either written these messages for her or, she’s become so “enmeshed” with him that she no longer can find herself.

The main point behind the idea of enmeshment is that there are no personal boundaries and therefore, there is a loss of self.   If they can’t find their own boundaries, they will set their lines with you, according to the other person’s call instead.

Is your child in an enmeshed relationship?

“Those in an enmeshed relationship come to depend the other enmeshed person for their identity. They become so lost that they lose, or fail to develop, their sense of self.

An enmeshed person depends on the person their enmeshed with for their self-worth.”

Does your child, even adult child, appear to have left their personality by the way-side for the most part and has taken on their “other half’s” personality, habits, hobbies, manner of speaking and mannerisms to some real extent or another?

Do you not really recognize who your child is and can see that they are putting up with things or circumstances that you know they wouldn’t normally permit or want in their lives?

Are they becoming increasingly isolated from their old or own friends and making the other person’s friends and family theirs, instead?

Has your once happy child, decided that their entire childhood was nothing but, a farce or was bad for them?

Is your child seemingly finding more ways to match their childhood with that of their partner’s even though it’s incorrect to you and others who watched your child during those years?

Have they been finding ways to protect their relationship, even if it means distancing themselves from those who have loved them most throughout their lives or up until this person entered their lives?

Are you finding yourself being pushed aside in favour of the spouses/partner’s/girlfriend/boyfriend’s family?

Is your contact with your child more limited and only under certain terms or conditions?

Does your child allow their partner to speak up for them mostly or when they do speak for themselves, are you finding it sounding more like the other person than your child?

There are plenty more examples to give you hints but, if you’re noticing some or all of the above, you may be dealing with a child who has become enmeshed with their partner/boyfriend/girlfriend.  While you may not be able to get your child out of it, certainly suggesting professional therapy in some form or another for both your child or yourself is certainly a good step forward.  If nothing else, it’s up to you to set your own boundaries with your child.  You don’t need to allow them to abuse you or treat you wrongly.  Remember…this is their issue, not yours and at a certain point, it’s up to them to figure out the consequences and remove themselves from the situation.  You can only encourage them to set boundaries for themselves while setting your own.

At least, that’s been my experience thus far from my little corner of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Can Become An Addiction Or An Escape

Helping others is a noble cause and more often than not, people need and want help to some extent or another but, when it becomes a habit within oneself it’s no longer about helping but, rather an outward expression of how one is feeling about themselves internally.

There’s a pay-off for chronic helpers in many ways but, there are two main reasons why people can get caught up in a vicious help cycle and it can become an addiction.  For some people, helping is like needing a “fix”.

Help Addictions can become an escape method.

Help Addictions can become an escape method.

 First, chronic helping can help us divert our attention away from dealing with something within either ourselves or our lives.  In other words, instead of working on what ails us and our own lives, we have the excuse, “I never get around to taking care of that because I am so busy helping (fill in the blanks here).  It can become an escape or an excuse or both and, that stops us from having to deal with our own issues.

Secondly, it can become a method by which we try to feel loved, wanted and, or needed by others.  If we are helping others, they will like us, thank us and want us around them type thinking.

In either case above, the chronic helper is not quite as healthy or altruistic as one might believe.  Even on a subconscious level, possibly totally unbeknownst to us, there’s something in it for those of us who do it.

It took a long time for me to get the idea that helping others is no guarantee of being loved, liked or wanted nor, is it truly an escape from having to fix what is going wrong within ourselves or our own lives.

I endured a lot of hurt, rejection and internal feelings of inadequacy, driving me even more towards more helping…until I realized that the source of my pain was actually coming from my chronic feeling the need to help.  I wasn’t feeling good anymore about it but rather, it was bringing me more pain.

Why?  That was the question I had to ask myself and I went in search of answers with a shocking set of revelations.

Helping Too Much Can Cause Rejection From Others 

Contrary to popular belief, what is called “Karma” doesn’t exactly work the way that one would think or hope that it should.  Doing good doesn’t alway bring good into your life.

Helping others can actually drive people away from you.  Here are several different reasons how and why.

  • People like what you DO for them, not necessarily, you.
  • The people that you help on a regular basis will eventually get used to you doing for them and therefore, come to see your help as your “job”. At that point, your help is no longer truly appreciated but, they become complacent and expect that type of behaviour from you.
  • Those you have helped often enough, will eventually show a vulnerability within  themselves to you and the last person that they want around them are those who know their weaknesses. They will seek out others who aren’t aware of them being weak in any way especially, during the good times in their lives.
  • Chronic helping can lead others to see you as a doormat.  When you are readily and frequently ready to help them, people can come to feel that you have no life of your own so, they no longer respect your time, energy or effort.  In effect, it’s like they’re doing you a favour by giving you something to do with your days, time and energy.
  • Being available and giving to them on a regular basis, without return expectation or as a constant set of favours, gives the impression that you have no boundaries.  If you have none, why should they respect you.  People like and respect people who like and respect themselves.
  • Your help can be resented because the person tends to feel constantly indebted even if only on a subconscious level and without you having indicated that you expected anything in return.  No one likes feeling continually indebted to someone else.

Ways To Deal With The Need To Chronic Help

  • Ask yourself what you are getting out of helping others.  You’re getting something out of doing this. Is it that “feel good feeling”?  If so, you might need to break that feeling down a bit further.
  • Helping others makes us all feel good but, doing it on a regular or chronic basis, may be becoming a a “drug” of sorts to numb or squash what ails you and your life.
  • Ask yourself what it is that is going on within yourself or your life that gives you the longing for this “drug”.  Is it approval, love, companionship, being needed, wanted, or even wanting people to feel indebted to you to in order to keep their loyalty.
  • Are you avoiding fixing issues within your own life and using helping others as an excuse as to why you can’t get to repairing what is wrong?
  • Could you be feeling guilty that someone else is in trouble of some kind and you’re soothing your own feelings of guilt for being ok in your own life in some way?
  • Are you too empathetic and over-identifying with other people?
  • Once you’ve weeded through the possible causes that keep you hooked on being a Chronic Helper, you can take action towards halting your need for over-helping.

Breaking The Cycle And Why You Should

The “warm and fuzzys” that we all feel when we get “thank you’s” from others is a great feeling.  We all love to feel good about ourselves, appreciated, needed and wanted.  It’s part of human nature and helping others is a good thing but, only when done in moderation and for the right reasons.  When we do it to garner love, attention, affection, being needed, wanted, liked or to avoid facing our own demons/quelling them, we are putting ourselves into a position to be used, abused, hurt and rejected.  Here are some points to help.

  1. Once you have identified the reason that you feel the need to chronically help.  STOP and listen to yourself and your inner voice.
  2. People like and respect people who like and respect themselves. We teach others how to treat us.  If you’re not respecting yourself, your time or your energy, they won’t either.  Put up boundaries and conditions for yourself and others.  Stop yourself before you try to help and place a value upon your help for them and yourself.
  3. Limit the amount of time that you’re going to help and what you will do to help.  Remember, their lives are NOT your responsibility (unless you’re a caregiver for a child, infirm or elderly person/pet.  Even then, give yourself time for yourself and respect your own needs too).
  4. If you’re doing it because you want to be liked, loved, appreciated, wanted, needed, are lonely or anything along those lines, this isn’t the way to get any of that for more than a couple of times.  Remember, people start loving what you can do for them, not you, after awhile. You’re working against getting those needs met by attempting to achieve it via chronic helping.
  5. Ask for something in return for your help if it’s more than once or twice. People respect help more when it’s being paid for in some way or another and they’ll respect you for it too.
  6. If you love that warm and fuzzy feeling helping gives you, volunteer!  There are charities all over the world and all sorts of opportunities to help others in organized, time-limited ways where you can get that feeling but be cut off in appropriate and healthy amounts.  Don’t volunteer more than what is being asked for either.
  7. Remember that sometimes, chronic helpers actually push their help on others..even when it’s not wanted.  When someone says, “it’s ok”…trust them.  It’s ok.  They don’t want or need your help.  Save yourself some heartache and possibly nasty feelings from others.  Back off and let them do it themselves.
  8. WAIT to be asked for help then, ask yourself what it will cost you to help them.  If it’s only once in a long while that you’re being asked and it’s not taking away from you, do it but, don’t anticipate everyone’s possible needs and offer it up on a silver platter.
  9. Remember that some people like being in certain predicaments and don’t want to get out of them.  When you recognize that in someone, back off. Let them be where they are.  They are getting something out of being there. Let them have it and figure it out for themselves.
  10. You’re not the only fish in the sea who can help.  Realize that and recognize that everyone has lessons to learn in one way or another.  Some people need to learn how to help themselves and others need to learn how to help others.  Let people learn what they need to learn.  You’re not a deity nor, omnipotent. Everyone needs to learn something, somehow.  Even children need to fall, get burned, hurt, lost etc., to learn what NOT to do and what to do.  Don’t take away their learning curves from them.

The Meddler, The Dupe And The Martyr

Lastly, think to yourself as having been labelled for helping others too much.  A lot of people will look at those who are chronic helpers as either “The Meddler”, “The Dupe” or “The Martyr”.

When people help too much, they often know a lot about the person’s personal life and, when not wanted, it turns you into a meddling position in their minds.  They can see you as someone who wants into their minds and lives especially, if you’re pushing your help onto them.

The Dupe is the one that people often think of as “good ole so-and-so” and often follow that with an “I’ll get her/him to do it!”  That’s when you’ve become nothing more than a doormat for them.  You don’t mean anything to them other than as a vehicle to get their needs met.  They’ll be off with other friends or family for lunch, dinner and shows who have done little, if anything for them while you’re left scratching your head, wondering why.  You’ve been “duped”.

The Martyr is the person who does so much for everyone else that others are reminded (whether you do it or not) that they’ve done a lot for that person or many.  Guilt sets in that they’ve allowed you to do it all for them and suddenly, they’re feeling inferior or as though you’re superior to them.  No one likes to be around people who make them feel that way whether intentionally or through their own inner thoughts and feelings.  You’re out of any of the good times or any lasting, healthy, fun and good relationship with them if you continue on with it.

Learn to love yourself.  Help yourself first.  Put your own oxygen mask on first.  To thine own self be true.  Charity begins at home.  Old but, wise pieces of advice to take. Take care of you first and others will follow suit with you.

I’m not a trained professional of any kind so, this is just how I’m seeing things from my little corner of life through experience and learning.