Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MEET A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST!


Is it good to be a perfectionist? How does one become a perfectionist? In order to answer these questions, we should look to someone who is quite familiar with this condition through personal experience our case study, Priscilla.

Is it good to be a perfectionist? Priscilla would give a resounding “No!” answer to this question. Based upon her own life-experience she would tell you quite emphatically that pursuing perfection is futile, painful and extremely dysfunctional.

How does one become a perfectionist? This reply requires a bit more reflection and effort to answer than the first. In Priscilla’s case, she has come to realize that what “set her up” to foolishly strive for perfection was the deep wound in her heart of having always felt like a victim from a very early age and into adulthood.

Why did she feel like a victim? Because she had spent ALL of her formative childhood years, as well as ALL of her adolescent/teen-age years, in a state of “learned powerlessness”. If one feels powerless in any given situation, one feels victimized by the circumstances of that particular situation. Furthermore, if one has always felt powerless, than this person develops a “victim mentality”.

This victim mentality caused Priscilla to feel weak, pitiful, and pathetic. These feelings turned into voices in her soul (False Identity) that continually reminded her of her inferior condition. Even though Priscilla had long ago internalized all the lies as her personal truth, she still had a little spunkiness. A slight spark of her god-given gifts had not been completely snuffed out. Consequently, she came to believe that the only way she could overcome her pathetic state was by trying to be perfect in any and all areas that had earned her any form of favorable notice.

For instance, Priscilla’s dad had always told her that she must look pretty and keep a clean house. Is it any surprise that she became determined to “perfect’ these two areas of her life. Most of Priscilla’s adult life was spent on looking as good as she could and keeping an immaculate house. She gave no thought to character, integrity, or wisdom because these things were never discussed, modeled or even mentioned in any way in her family-of-origin environment.

Since all of Priscilla’s passion and energy was spent on perfecting these two areas of her personhood, is it any wonder that she felt victimized when these pursuits brought her NONE of the favorable attention she fervently sought after? Her dad often told her what she must do. However, Priscilla can’t remember a single occasion when he complimented her appearance or the cleanliness of her home.

Allow me to share one snap-shot memory that portrays this point. While Priscilla was going through a particularly rough period of her adult life, she had lost an unhealthy amount of weight. During this time she saw her dad at least once a week. He would say, “You’re too skinny. You need to put on weight.”

Once her circumstances improved, she began to eat normally. Unfortunately, she rapidly put on too much weight due to the fact that her metabolism had slowed way down during the time she wasn’t eating properly. During one of their regular weekly visits her dad said, “You put on too much weight. You need to go on a diet and take off some of that bulk.”

At this point, Priscilla was finally learning to put down some boundaries in her life so she “spoke up” for herself. She looked at her dad and said, “Before, all I heard from you was how bad I looked being so skinny. Now I’m too fat. Why didn’t you say anything at all when I was transitioning from being too skinny to being too fat? What? Did I miss seeing you on that one day when I must have been right in the middle? Wasn’t there some point in this big pendulum swing when you actually thought I looked good?” Her dad was shocked and couldn’t utter a word. His silence was a welcomed relief.

Priscilla has no memory of ever receiving a compliment for anything about her personhood from any member of her family-of-origin only criticism. Yet she continued to work harder in those areas where she stupidly hoped to reach perfection in order to win someone’s approval. When acceptance never materialized, two devastating components occurred in her psyche.

First, the smoldering anger continued to mount due to the unmitigated “unfairness” of her situation. However, expressions of anger were totally outlawed for the children in her childhood home. It had to be repressed at all costs. The only way she could hide this seething anger was to deny its’ validity and then turn it inward on her personhood.

Second, the repressed anger turned inward fueled self-condemnation, which eventually turned into self-hatred. As the voices of her false-identity relentlessly mocked and taunted her psyche, she slowly began to despise everything about herself.

In an attempt to conclude this post, allow me to switch gears by giving you a good- news/bad-news scenario. The good news is “behavior is learned”. The bad news is “behavior is learned”. I don’t think we can “unlearn” anything. However, we can learn good and even better behavior in order to dilute the power of the bad behavior we learned and adopted as children.

Priscilla continues to struggle every day with the bad behavior she learned as a child, like feeling victimized and condemning herself in her soul. That’s the bad news. But the good news is she will never give up the “good fight” to learn to love her good qualities and to nurture those qualities within herself.

If you remember nothing else from this post, please remember this one point: Behavior is learned. If you don’t like your present behavior patterns, you can teach yourself new ones. It won’t be easy. It won’t be pain-free. But, with persistence and passion, you can become the person you really want to be!

HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

REFLECTIVE QUESTION:

After spending time in deep and private reflection, can you begin to identity aspects of your behavior patterns that really aren't natural to you?  Are you willing to confront the source of these learned-behavior patterns?  Are you willing to "own the issue" in order that you may take the necessary steps to affect change in that area?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MEET AN ANGRY WOMAN!

A casual observer would probably look at this picture and ask, “What could be wrong with any one of these ladies? They’re all dressed up and looking good. It appears they’re going to some gala event where they’re sure to impress and have a great evening. Right?”

While I can’t speak for all of these women, I can for one of them the brunette on the right. That’s Priscilla. Sure, she’s managed to look good on the outside. But inside? Trust me that’s a totally different picture.

A close examination of this woman’s dysfunctional psyche would reveal the following:

  • She’s stuck in a debilitating state of “learned powerlessness”.
  • She’s filled with a long-repressed rage that is so intense she can’t allow herself to acknowledge its’ presence.
  • Her crippling “false identity” (all the lies she had long ago internalized as truth about herself) has caused Priscilla to actually loathe herself to a dangerous degree.
The about to be revealed, essentially-important third step of seeking healing from one’s childhood wounding is to give one’s self permission to “grieve” over all of his/her losses.  As is the case with most adults who were raised in a dysfunctional family-of-origin environment, Priscilla had never been afforded the opportunity to simply “be a child”. Her parents constant fighting, their emotional neglect of the children, the sexual molestation at five years old All this “adult” drama prevented Priscilla from experiencing a normal childhood, which in itself is a great loss. The entire time she was growing up physically she had been forced to deal with ”adult issues” emotionally.

Once one becomes enlightened regarding specific areas of deep wounding to his/her psyche and begins to seek healing of these wounds, the next step in the process is to allow one’s self to “grieve“.

How does one grieve over emotional losses? The first step is to “own the issue". You can’t alter something that doesn’t belong to you. However, if you own it, you can change it. You can do anything you’d like with whatever belongs to you. Thus, the need to first “own it” is abundantly essential.

The second rung on the ladder of this unique grieving process will probably catch you completely off-guard. Childhood wounding creates intense anger. As a powerless child, one can’t control the environment in which he/she has been placed. However, all the “wrong” that occurs in that “out of control” situation will naturally create a great deal of anger. The longer this anger is repressed, the more likely it will slowly become deep-seated rage.

When an individual begins to process his/her festering wounds from childhood, an angry cloud begins to follow the individual around for a while. You will more than likely develop a hair-trigger temper that will frighten you, as well as those closest to you. At this point, it’s very important to realize that this is “old” anger. It must come up before it can flow out.

This picture humorously, yet clearly depicts Priscilla’s angry demeanor as she progressed through this step. Her rage was so intense that it truly frightened her. At the same time, she seemed to instinctively realize that she had to simply “let it rip!” She could not allow herself to try to repress it any longer. Consequently, she isolated herself as much as possible during that rather lengthy phase of the process.

Once her anger subsided, she began a long season of intermittent, uncontrollable crying. This third rung is also absolutely crucial to the overall grieving process. Her biggest loss was never being allowed to experience the typical care-free pleasures of childhood. Consequently, her soul desperately needed to thoroughly grieve this loss no matter how long the crying spells persisted.

Remember the little sad girl from our previous post whose eyes silently pleaded for validation? Whatever we take time and care to grieve, we validate at the same time. When we disown our woundedness by denying its’ existence, we have effectively invalidated the pain associated with these psychological wounds. On the other hand allowing ourselves to fully acknowledge these wounds also allows us to validate the silent, inner pain these wounds have inflicted upon our souls. Once our pain finally receives the vital validation, our worth as a person becomes validated at the same time. Therefore, this season of grieving cannot be over-emphasized.

If you remember nothing else about this post, remember this one point. When we invalidate our pain through our denial of its’ existence, we invalidate our personhood. However, if we take the time and effort to properly process our inner pain, we validate ourselves at the same time. This is why it’s so important that one understand this premise and apply it to one’s self.

A helpful hint one can utilize in grieving childhood losses is to allow yourself to experience some of the things that had been denied to you as a child. For instance, Priscilla always wanted to take dancing lessons and perform in recitals as some of her school friends had done. This “frivolous” desire had never been realized. Consequently, as a thirty-something-year-old woman she allowed herself to experience the fulfillment of her childhood desire. She took ballet, tap, and jazz dancing lessons for several years. Of course, she started dancing much too late to become a good dancer, but she did perform in two dance recitals before she gave up her dancing ambitions. What really mattered most was that she gave herself permission to do something purely frivolous that she had always wanted to do. She validated a childish desire!

In closing, let’s quickly summarize this three-part vitally important step of the overall healing process Grieving One’s Losses.

First, allow yourself to own your issues. Once you’ve taken ownership, they’re yours to do with as you please.

Second, get in touch with all the long-denied and/or well-disguised anger from your childhood. Allow enough time as required for all of it to come to the surface, Be willing to endure a season of learning to recognize old anger. Let it out!

Third, allow yourself the necessary latitude to cry as long and as hard as you must in order to overcome all the experiences of loss from your childhood experience.

HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

Reflective Question:

Have you ever considered what you really look like on the inside?  If I could see into your soul, what would I find?  Sadness?  Rage?  Self-condemnation?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MEET A DYSFUNCTIONAL WOMAN!


This young woman has been extremely battered and bruised by the way she’s lived her life. She has hurt herself, as well as many others she deeply cared about, with the unresolved issues from her childhood. She really wasn’t even aware that she carried these emotional wounds along with her as she moved through her adult years. Without her conscious awareness, these wounds continued to fester and worsen. That old cliché Time Heals All Wounds is a lie! The more time passes without addressing your issues, the worse they become not better.

In our last post we introduced some psychological terms and/or principles such as:

FORMATIVE YEARS - Period of childhood from birth to 7 years old. These are the years when the child’s soul is the most pliable and impressionable.

SELF-CONCEPT - Depending upon the care-givers’ interaction with the child, as well as the involvement with any other children, the child begins to form a picture of himself/herself in the soul. The child begins to identity with the picture, thus creating the self-concept.

FALSE-IDENTITY - This condition occurs when the child has been taught to identify with a picture that is not accurate that is based upon the false imprints embedded in the child’s soul. It is too complex to explain in a simple sentence or two. Also, it is extremely difficult to correct once it’s devastating influence has permeated the person’s injured psyche.

COMFORT-ZONE - This is how the individual’s psyche has been programmed to navigate through adult life. One will become quite uncomfortable whenever he/she violates the way their psyche has been programmed to perform in his/her world.

In this issue of our mini-series, we’ll focus more closely on the false-identity and how it negatively influences the way your psyche has been programmed to become your unique comfort-zone.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional home which is any home that does not function in the best interests of each individual child you can be sure of this: You have been dressed in a false-identity. Your self-concept has been negatively skewed.

The false-identity is the master programmer of the comfort-zone. A good word-picture would be the comfort-zone is like a sailing vessel. It’s going to take you wherever you go in life. The false-identity is the diabolical pilot who charts the course of your ship. Unfortunately, when a false-identity is at the helm of your vessel, you’re going to sail into an ocean full of heartache. At some point you’ll find yourself bogged down in more failure than you ever could have imagined.

How does the false-identity run your ship amuck? By using the snap-shot memories and subsequent voices in your wounded soul to steer your vessel into shallow waters where it is sure to get stuck. Using Priscilla, here’s a quick example of how a snap-shot memory gets used by the false-identity to create a very “uncomfortable” comfort-zone.

Whenever Priscilla and her older sister were having a bit of childish fun, they would laugh and cut up together. This would inevitably create a little noise. Daddy didn’t like being disturbed by the children making noise. He would bow up in anger, go to where the girls were having fun, and blow up at his kids. After a few formative years of enduring Daddy’s fierce anger, Priscilla experientially interpreted this scenario to mean “having fun is bad”. As an adult, she became very uncomfortable whenever she found herself having fun because she was out of her comfort-zone. In order to be able to feel like herself again she would have to stop the frivolous experience.

Being yelled at for having fun is one of Priscilla’s most vivid snap-shot memories. After a while, the memory turned into a voice in her head that spoke to her subconscious saying, “Having fun is bad. In order to be good, you can’t have fun.” Consequently, Priscilla never could see herself as a fun person. If by some chance she experienced a little fun, she immediately felt bad because she was out of her comfort-zone, the way in which she had been programmed to navigate through life.

One more quick example of how “lies can become your truth”. Another vivid snap-shot memory took place at the dinner table. Since her older sister, Dotty, always got ALL of their parents’ attention by doing things that upset Daddy, Priscilla tried her best to be good in order to please her dad and perhaps steal a tiny bit of attention for herself. This particular evening Priscilla brought out her straight-A report card, believing Daddy would be well pleased.

However, before he even looked at Priscilla’s “A’s”, he asked to see Dotty’s grades, demanding that she explain why she was hiding them. Mom immediately flew into action to defend Dotty. Soon, Mommy and Daddy were fiercely fighting about Dad’s harsh criticism over the first-born child’s grades. Mom left the table crying. Dotty went to her bedroom to pout. Daddy finished his dinner with an angry look on his face. But nobody paid any attention to Priscilla by bothering to comment on her hard-earned straight “A’s”.

Naturally, Priscilla’s feeling that she wasn’t “worthy” of her parent’s attention had been reinforced yet again. Another lie became her truth. The one who got all the attention even though it was totally negative attention was “worthy”. Priscilla’s lack of any kind of attention eventually turned into the false-identity’s voice, which reminded her continuously that she was “intrinsically worthless”.

We began this post by talking about the battered and bruised, dysfunctional woman who appeared in the picture with red, swollen eyes from crying. Let’s close by examining this final picture. Take a close look at the sad-eyed child. If she could speak, she would tell us what her soul desperately needs by saying, “Please validate me!

This little girl’s childhood served to totally invalidate her as a person. Consequently, she became the woman we saw at the beginning. If you remember nothing else about this post, please remember this: That dysfunctional woman made all the bad choices that deeply hurt her, as well as the people she cared most about, because she desperately needed to be validated! Her quest for validation, coupled with a crippling false-identity, nearly destroyed her life. Yes it’s that serious!

HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

REFLECTIVE QUESTION:

Can you understand now how these snap-shot memories from childhood serve to define you as a person?  Take this opportunity to examine your memories again while asking this question of yourself, "What does this memory say about me?"
 

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MEET AN INAPPROPRIATE TEENAGER!

What makes this attractive young girl inappropriate? Well, she’s just barely a teenager and she’s trying to dress herself in a much older girl’s clothing. The older girl’s outfit will make her look “sexy” at an inappropriate age a mere 13 years old. She’ll be presenting herself with an appearance of sexuality she doesn’t yet understand. And, she’s certainly too emotionally immature to properly process the inevitable consequences that will surely follow this inappropriate behavior.

What happened? How did this sweet young girl arrive at this place? How did she get that way at only 13 years old? That’s the question we’ll address in this segment of our mini-series. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I can approach this question from Priscilla’s perspective.  The perplexing answer lies buried deep within some unresolved childhood issues.

At the tender age of 13, Priscilla had already been “outwardly” dressed in a “false identity”. Under these outer-garments, she was clothed in a wholly bogus “self-concept”. Symbolically speaking, she had been dressed in these ugly garments both outer-wear and under-wear during the “formative years” of her childhood.

We’ve all heard of those crucial formative years the period from birth to approximately 7 years old. As we navigate through this period of physical and emotional growth, we each develop a self-concept. During these vulnerable years, a powerless little child will wholly believe whatever impression is left upon his/her soul. As each one of us will see ourselves through the eyes of those closest to us on a daily basis, the words, actions, and attitudes of those significant people leave a lasting imprint. This imprint becomes the self-concept, which translates into the child’s "personal identity". Without ever realizing the powerful impact of the dynamics at work, we will subconsciously negotiate our lives in such a manner as to remain true to our personal identities.

For instance, if your self-concept genuine or bogus continually whispers to your subconscious mind “you are bad”, then the future circumstances of your life will always find you feeling “bad” about yourself. Whenever your life’s circumstances are such that you could, and should, feel “good” about yourself, you will end up feeling strangely “uncomfortable”. Thus, our individual “comfort-zone” becomes any set of circumstances that cause us to feel we are remaining true to our personal identities.

However, just as a toddler is dressed each day according to the care-giver’s choice for the child, we were dressed in our individual personal identity during those formative years by circumstances completely beyond our control. As a powerless young child, you do not choose your identity. Rather it is “put on you” by the significant people in your life during those critical formative years. Nevertheless, you will unknowingly because it’s done on a subconscious level orchestrate the circumstances of your life to remain “stuck” in a comfort-zone that is far from comfortable and not even of your own choosing!

Are you beginning to get the picture? Let’s put a little flesh on our theory by using Priscilla as an example again. Remember in the previous post we learned that at 5 years old Priscilla’s self-concept was that she was a pathetic weakling, as well as an intrinsically worthless human being. In order to earn her right to continue to live, she had to please her dad by being as feminine as she could manage, always look as pretty as she could, and remain silent about her feelings and desires. Another contributor to her false identity which had been born in those formative years was completely unknown to everyone except Priscilla. At the tender age of 5 years old she had been sexually molested by a distant family member. Feeling almost invisible and quite worthless to her environment her family-of-origin she kept this secret to herself. However, the inappropriate encounter opened her soul to a slight spark of sexuality she could not understand nor control.


Consequently, at 13 years old we find Priscilla unintentionally presenting herself in an inappropriate way to her little world. Being sensual had unwittingly become a part of her false identity.  She certainly did not choose to be sensual.  She really didn't even know what being sensual involved.  Yet it had been "put on her" in much the same way as the other elements of her false identity had been forced upon her budding psyche. Because her self-concept was totally negatively skewed and completely erroneous, she could not feel “right” unless she remained true to this false identity by becoming a person she didn't know and couldn't ever like.

Can you see how weird this stuff is? Why is it called a “comfort-zone” when one is usually miserable while the individual is firmly planted in his/her supposed “comfortable spot”.

I try to keep these posts short because I’ve been told that I must or I’ll lose my readers. Okay I’m trying.  That's why I've decided to break up our discussion of the false identity into several parts.  It is absolutely imperative, dear reader, that you come to a meaningful understanding of the emotional principles at work in the creation of the false identity.  If you're ever going to be able to live a better life, you will necessarily have to embrace these psychological principles that will allow you to open the locked door leading to your subconscious programing.  You must first understand what's controlling you before you can break the ties that keep you bound to personal failure.


Before we dismiss the inappropriate teenager, let's take a brief look at what's going to happen as she progresses through her teenage years.  Instead of being silly, learning to dance, enjoying time giggling with girlfriends, and the like, this young lady was already dating a much older boy and dealing with adult pressures while she was still just a child.  At 12 years old Priscilla had been allowed to begin a dating relationship with an 18 year old boy who had already graduated from high-school.  What were her parents thinking?  The truth is they weren't thinking about their little girl at all.  They were still too caught up in their own unresolved childhood issues to pay much attention to what was happening to their little girl.

The inappropriate spark of sexuality that Priscilla didn't even know had been "put on her" attracted the much older young man.  Her vulnerability flashed off and on like a neon sign even though she was entirely too young to understand it and was totally unequipped to control it.  Unfortunately, not only could young males see the neon light flashing all around her, but so could the other females.  She didn't have many girlfriends.  Due to the subconscious false identity that had been "put on her" in those formative years, she had been doomed to become a lonely, vulnerable little girl, a lonely, inappropriate teenager, and a lonely, messed-up adult woman.

It really doesn't matter how many people are in your life.  If you haven't been emotionally equipped to genuinely connect with these people, you'll always feel lonely regardless of who's sharing your life's experiences with you.  Next time we'll delve more deeply into this complex principle of the false identity that's actually forced on us as children in our formative years.

The really good news is that none of this is hopeless. The negatively skewed self-concept can be set straight. The false identity can become authentic. The comfort-zone can be made pleasurable, as it’s name insinuates. However, it is going to require deliberate, concentrated effort by each wounded individual in order to arrive at that “better place”.

This is the next step in the healing process be willing to confront your false identity. You cannot change what you will not confront. Confrontation is the key that opens the door to a better place.


Hope to see you next week!

REFLECTIVE QUESTION:

Carefully examine your "self-concept" as best you can.  How do you see yourself?  Are you willing to confront the negative aspects of your self-concept?  Are you willing to allow those painful snap-shot memories to surface in your conscious mind in order to carefully re-examine them with adult-level skills?