ONCE I HAVE ENOUGH INFO –
I can make a better decision
PREVIOUS:What can you do (Part 1)
REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
Because in most of our families every experience carried equal weight – always boring & unavailable or dramatic & dangerous – we never got the chance to learn ‘sane’ ways of accomplishing things, which includes: Having options, nuances & small chunks…. (Part 1), AND —
Prioritizing activities – ask yourself, or the boss, what needs to be done, & in what order: immediately (past due), in the near future (this month), in the next few months, or whenever you can fit it in. Al-anon teaches us to ask: “How important is it?”
• This can be hard for ACoAs to answer —
— if the goal, task, activity… is strictly for ourselves. After all, no good co-dependent is self- motivated. We can move mountains for others but not even a pebble for ourselves
— AND when the I.C. has a lot of anxiety & wants to do something – immediately, the self-destructive way, to douse the fires of old terror.
• Compulsive behavior is always a way to deflect painful emotions we don’t want to feel & don’t know how to deal with OR that we have the tools for, in Recovery, but don’t want to use them! Automatically giving our screaming kid what it wants – especially when unhealthy – retards our growth & can easily interfere with taking care of our present-day practical needs.
EXP: The kid may be screaming: “I want a new jacket! / I want to have sex with —- (unhealthy, abusive, unavailable person)! / I want a cigarette! / I don’t want to work!” etc.
SO – Before you impulsively DO what the kid wants, like rush right out & buy something or call that unavailable person – check in with yourself:
● Will taking this action AND/OR spending this money create problems in taking care of my other needs (protecting my kid from more abandonment & abuse, caring for my health, paying rent, food, meds or other bills?)
● If the answer is YES – then think twice about taking that action. If the impulse is very strong, call someone who can help you deal with the painful EMOTIONS which are behind the anxiety. Do an Al-Anon phone meeting, pray or meditate, go to the gym, read soothing literature, take a walk ….
Once you’ve made a priority list, only do one thing on it – if that’s all the time you have. If that one thing also has to be cut down into chunks, do one & then mark it off. Seeing the tasks ticked off can be satisfying & encourages us to do more the next day / next time. High powered executives only to a few things at the top of their list every day. Of course most of us don’t have a staff to do the little stuff, but REMEMBER – without inner conflict most things take a lot of less time than we think!
One of the many reasons ACoAs have trouble making decisions is that we either don’t know we have any alternative choices or we’re not allowed to make use of any options we’re aware of. We’re stuck following a pre-set course & nothing else is possible – for us!
EXP: It always amazed Bonita that some women could just walk out on a date if they didn’t like how it was going – more than one women in a restaurant has excused herself “to the bathroom” & then snuck out the back. What a concept! In her younger days she never would have thought of that, much less done it.
THE “LAW”: Being trapped as kids in endlessly dire situations without any possible ‘out’ left ACoAs with the Toxic Rule: “If you don’t like it you have to stay”. Controlling parents also taught us: “It’s MY way or the highway” & “Who do you think you are?”. Not only were not allowed to leave bad situations, but we shouldn’t think for ourselves or disobey the ruling demigods – lest we be destroyed!
• That is how the WIC actually experienced our parent(s): as ‘gods’, and disobedience = our death. If that seems extreme, remember the intensity of your terror, as an adult, when you’ve said NO to a parent or mate, or tied something totally our of your comfort zone. Haven’t yet? As long as we still hold these crippling belief we have little or no wiggle room, making it hard to impossible to take actions in a considered & effective way.
EXP: Shona’s father had given her a few of his extra tools to use in her first apartment after college. 20 yrs later she was still struggling to making do with limited & outdated implements for every repair job, no matter how unsuited they were for a particular task!
Eventually Shona realized this was a metaphor for the way she lived the rest of her life, & decided to work on expanding her sense of possibilities – starting at the most practical, undramatic level. Anytime she was out shopping, she’s stop in a hardware store & just LOOK at the huge variety of items – each made for a specific operation! Imagine being able to make life easier by having the right tool!
APPLY this to all areas of life – & start by finding out what’s available. While there are realistic limits to our capacities & to what’s possible in the world we live in, they are NOT nearly as narrow as we believe. In T.E.A. terms, Emotions also have a wide range of expressions, just as there are many ways to Think about something & a variety of ways to DO things.
The latter can certainly apply to small daily choices like what to wear or eat —> all the way to big ones like where to live, which jobs & relationships to pick or stay in…. One teacher drills this statement into his audience month after month: “Don’t be negative, just be open!” – a new rule to live by.
NEXT: What to DO when… (Part 3