Sometimes our thinking can get in the way of progress. We complicate things beyond recognition and become immobilized. The concept of ‘doing the next right thing’ is a way of removing the thinking clutter from our minds and focussing solely on the next step that will move you forward towards your desired goal.
One thing to look at when thinking about unremitting problems is what is the secondary gain from staying stuck? Just as an alcoholic who gets sober suddenly finds themselves with a whole lot of time on their hands, so do others who make significant changes in their life. What would you be doing if you didn’t have your situation? Do you know?
Looking at this a little more concretely, we can look at alcoholism. With the elimination of alcoholic drinking, an individual will then have a whole lot of time, and probably extra money, on their hands. There is no more time spent hungover, recovering from the night before; and no more time spent ruminating about the all too vague semi- recollections of what was done while drinking; no more time spent regretting or in remorse, apologizing, for something done while ‘tight’. An important part of the recovery process is finding healthy ways to fill that void, otherwise, there is a greater risk of relapse.
When other types of changes are made, the same thing happens : you are left with a whole lot of time that you don’t know what to do with. There are life-cycle changes that are (more or less) out of your direct control, such as all the children growing up and leaving the house; or the death of someone you have been caregiving for years. You are then suddenly faced with what are you now going to do with yourself.
There are some problems, though, that are more under our direct control – possibly more than we see right now. Sometimes, on some semi-conscious or unconscious level, we keep our problem in play. We become an actor in the play of our life, new people come into the picture, but they are all signing up for a repeat performance of our same script; we think we are starting new relationships, but we quickly find ourselves repeating the same old tired lines. Always getting into the same type of relationship; the sense of feeling betrayed or hurt in the same manner, by different people. It’s not so much that we find exactly the same type of person, but that we have the same types of reactions/fears/expectations. What is the secondary gain in repeating this same type of scenario? What are you missing, or avoiding, by not changing or moving on?
Thanksgiving is long gone right now, but it’s a good a time as any to discuss this ‘syndrome’. Basically, Thanksgiving Syndrome is the idea that no matter how enlightened you’ve become or you feel, you have this tendency to revert back to your former self when back with family. If you can relate to this, you’ve probably resolved to not let Uncle Harry irritate you as he usually does or your cousin Lucy to get under your skin. You play out in your mind the booby traps that you usually fall into every reunion and imagine how this time, you will not fall in. Some people focus on how the family members should not behave in their usual ways. Others focus on how they will ‘rise above’ others’ behaviors. Yet time after time, you come out of this get-together beaten down, relapsed back to old behavior, and really depressed. Somehow, you end up being the one that acts like the ass with others looking at you with this apparently perturbed look that you are still doing the same old thing…
Family dynamics. Our family members press our buttons because they installed them. Even if you ‘ve had surgery to excise them, there still is that darned scar – so sensitive to the touch.
One thing to keep in mind, is that although you may have spent a lot of time in self-reflection, with self-help books; in therapy, your family most likely has not. The issue is not that your family members have particular quirks, behaviors, or personality flaws that are enraging. The real issue is how it affects you, and why it affects you.
Lack of acceptance is one cornerstone on issues that keep repeating. Acceptance of things as they are – good and bad – is a very important part helping to step out of the dynamic that occurs between family members and you.
One tool to address this is to practice the art of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is essentially focusing on what is happening to you right at the moment it is happening without judgement or criticism. More on that in another post.