I’VE BEEN DOING THE OPPOSITE!
why isn’t it working?
PREVIOUS: Choosing Negative Opposites
POST: ‘Why are you stuck?”
“REVERSING our Behavior IMPROVES our Life” cont.
B. UNHEALTHY Opposites
• From the very beginning of our lives we’ve have been trying to figure out how to survive, fix our family & how to get our needs met – mostly with corrupted info (GI-GO = computer / Army lingo for “garbage in – garbage out”). ACoAs are very smart, creative & determined – even tho we don’t realize or own it. As kids all of that talent went into a valiant effort to save our parents & siblings – maybe even our friends. Now we find other dysfunctional people to ‘rescue’ – desperate to make them well enough to be there for us!
Exp: The 4 yrs old trying to help her drunk father up the stairs that he’s passed out on, the teenager hopelessly trying to convince her mother to go to Al-anon or leave dad, OR as adults – trying to keep a heavily addicted lover /spouse from killing themselves – with no success
• As unrecovered adults we stumble around without mental or emotional clarity – in spite of our high intelligence, because of the convoluted & warped info we were fed in childhood. The ACoA Laundry List says: “We guess at what normal is”, so we obsessively watch normals to figure out what to do (how do they talk, how do they eat sushi, what makes them happy, how do they make friends?…). Even so, we can only copy them but so far because we’re still using our old childhood / family templates as the foundation for new actions. It doesn’t work. But this is to be expected – it’s how every brain is programmed from birth. So we always end up in the same old place, defeated & hopeless, thinking that it’s: a) somehow all our fault, & that b) the universe is against us! Either way, it hurts!
Exp: Afraid to be in social situation because we don’t know how to make small talk, convinced we’ll be boring & look stupid
• And how do we use all our native cleverness & determination for ourselves? Take a few minutes to study this chart & see what we do!
There are many convoluted ways UNhealth can manifest itself. From that mess we choose a set of patterns that most suits our specific personality & our background. We keep trying them in complex variations & with lots of different people. When these patterns don’t get us what we need or want, we unconsciously pick thru the mental rolodex of the distorted options that were forced on us, looking for an opposite way to handle things, hoping it will solve our problems. And we Do try obvious reversals, BUT all our action-choices are taken from the ‘disease’ end of the spectrum. From a. to b. & back again!
Exp: “I always say the wrong thing, so now I’m not going to talk at all! OR
// My last 3 girlfriends were nightmares, so I’ll never trust another woman….”
• Recovery is about moving from being unhealthy (#1) to gradually becoming healthier (>>>#2), from doing self-harming things to becoming more self-caring. All wounded people start out on the far Left side of this chart, taking mostly unhealthy actions. Unfortunately it’s where many ACoAs stay – altho we don’t have to.
There’s a saying in AA: “Alcoholics dig themselves into a rut, & then they decorate it”! — instead of getting themselves out. Since many of us were raised by alcoholics we learned to do the same & find it very hard to reverse. (Also if our parents were other kinds of narcissists & depressives, no matter what their drug-of-choice was – booze, food, money, exercise, relationships, workaholism, rage, religion….)
• Naturally, if we don’t know what Healthy Opposites are we can’t work towards them. So we settle for Unhealthy Opposites without even realizing what we’re doing. Because they don’t work either, we go back to our original coping style, caught in a vicious cycle between the extremes of the Left end, never making it over to the RIGHT side!
Some Negative Opposites (a –> b –> a….)
• Feeling hurt
Too Little: backing down, suffering in silence (& rage), being a victim…
Too Much: rude, hostile, attacking, insulting, giving the cold shoulder….
• Disappointing “relationships”
Too Much: clinging, chasing, verbally attacking, demanding….
Too Little: isolating, depressed, not saying how we feel or what we need, ignoring our needs, waiting to be taken care of…
• Work Stress
Too Much: trying to please the boss, doing everything immediately, staying late, worrying about getting fired…
Too Little: being late, going on strike, not finishing projects, making lots of mistakes, taking too much time off….
• In the Home:
Too Little: being lazy, sloppy, careless, dirty
Too Much: compulsively cleaning, obsessively putting things in ‘order’, not wanting anything moved….
• from clinging to bad relationships, family, jobs… to isolating ourselves to the point of emotional starvation
• from not being able to get out of bed, totally goofing off, not using our talents …. to running around like a headless chicken, taking on too many projects, becoming a workaholic
• from being so poor that we end up living with drunks & crazies, to overspending every cent we have as a way to sooth ourselves
• from physically being undernourished to stuffing oneself, especially on unhealthy food & drink
• from promiscuity to sexual / sensual deprivation
• from living in daydreams to being hard-nosed & controlling – and back again….
NEXT: Healthy Opposites//