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.
Overgeneralization is a type of cognitive distortion where an individual generalizes a negative view based on one, or limited, experience. In this song, Billy Joel is singing to someone who has ‘over generalized’ – she has been hurt in and is unwilling to love again.
Does life stop after one is hurt or betrayed? Are there some things that are just too devastating that one simply just does not recover?
We look to people to inspire us, like the guy that cut off his hand in order to live while mountain climbing; or Elizabeth Smart who was held hostage for over 18 years; the triathlon guy who does triathlons with his son, who has cerebral palsy, in tow.
We look to these people and wonder whether we’d be able to face the challenge they faced. Meanwhile, we all face our own particular challenges that we see as ‘different’. Symbolically, are you willing to cut away an important part of you in order to survive? Are you willing to go to any lengths to accomplish something, even if it is harder for you than it is for most? Are you able to face down other people’s possible criticism or judgment? It is safer to fantasize about what would we do if we were mountain climbing and our hand got stuck under a rock; than it is to think about cutting away the dead end job or the unfulfilling relationship. We face similar questions in each situation – what will happen then? What if I don’t succeed? What if I regret my decision?
Overgeneralization can be a distortion that leads us to remain stuck. It gives us the illusion of safety by avoiding taking any risks. Can we instead, learn from our errors, from the things that go wrong? Surely we can; we must, in fact, learn – even when or especially when the solution is more painful, at least in the short run, than the problem itself.
For more information on the above references:
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?
The therapist only knows what you tell them. Sure, if the therapist has experience, they could probably surmise some things that you may not have spoken about yet, and hopefully, ask you directly to see if certain things are true for you. The more you work therapy, the more it will work for you. The amount of help a therapist can provide is directly proportional to how much work you are willing to do. This is important to realize because at times, therapists are seen as having some form of magical qualities that will make you ‘better’. This is not so. YOU make yourself better by working at making the changes that you want to, and need to, make. Therapy is useful when you need extra guidance, support or insight into how to make changes and/or address whatever blocks your path.
If you are contemplating going into therapy for the first time, chances are you are not in a good place in your life; and chances are that you are worried you are entering into psychotherapy hell – will you actually be helping yourself by spending all this money to talk about your past? Will the therapist diagnose you as crazier than you had thought you were? Or worse yet, maybe the therapist will laugh and think you’re silly. Will they understand – and will you be able to explain?
All these are possibly valid questions related to the fears you are having, and ultimately it is up to you to enter and/or leave a psychotherapy relationship. There is a financial commitment, a commitment to yourself. If you have tried self-help books; talking to friends; late night postings on related-to-your-problem sites to no avail, maybe you need to try therapy. The biggest difference is the fact that you will have a live human being in front of you; you will be having a conversation – in real time.
Therapy is not like surgery, however. The therapist will not pick apart your brain and take the bad, diseased part out. If only…
This is a core fear about therapy – about finding out there is something inherently wrong with you – some ‘diseased part’. Actually, there is no ‘diseased part’. The aspects of yourself that give you the most trouble are probably strengths taken out of context; coping skills and other behaviors that no longer work for you; survival skills that are no longer necessary; knee-jerk reactions from past events that you just can’t erase.
Therapy could also be about finding out what is right with you and how to use your strengths more effectively. Who knows, you could even become happier with yourself just as you are.
I see this song as sung by the singer’s inner child to the singer. In Pink’s Family Portrait, the child is her as they are dressed in the same clothes and even have the same beauty marks on their faces. It’s not until she acknowledges this inner child that she gets to a better place.
Pink – Family Portrait
So much has been written about inner child work. The main premise of inner child work centers on the idea that there is an aspect of the adult that remains a child and holds the emotional memories of events and experiences as well as reactions. This inner child needs to be given a voice. Usually, as adults, we reject ideas or feelings that intellectually we know are not ‘appropriate’ for us to feel, or that we don’t want to feel, and so these feelings are never verbalized. They usually leak out, however, in ways that are difficult to control, like when we are very upset, and that we usually later regret.
Therapy is a forum to give voice to all the illogical parts of you – in a safe, non-judgmental forum. Parts of you that are exasperating because you already should ‘know better’, but you still cannot stifle.
Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
Changing is difficult; taking risks; going down a new path. Familiar misery feels safer than the unknown leap into something we desire.
At times, it is difficult to really see ‘why’ is nothing changing “even though I desire it so?”. One difficulty is that an individual looks at the horizon, their goal or destination but then does not look at where their feet are planted, nor do they take the next step. All these inspirational messages are for naught when we cannot apply them to our own lives.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. Hmm – how does this relate to my own complicated life? This sounds sweet, but my situation is unique. The distance between the present and the destination appears insurmountable. I’m different. Or worse yet, I’m not different, I’m just a loser, a dreamer that won’t get anywhere. I know better, but still I don’t do it.
Looking at this through a ‘cognitive -behavioral’ perspective, how you look at yourself and the steps you need to take is what ultimately helps or hinders you. The most common reasons that an individual doesn’t take the ‘first’ or the ‘next’ step are:
it’s not enough
I need to do more than that
If it’s already months/years later and you are still saying the same thing to yourself, it’s time to look at this more closely. It’s time to turn this around and do it even though you don’t think it’s enough. Make the step so easy, that you know that you could do it with your eyes closed. So small, that when you’re done, you feel like taking more steps. Don’t! But you already know the drill. You then burn yourself out, and stop altogether. Keep things slow and steady; take it very slow and keep it easy.
For every step forward – you will still have to contend with your self esteem and self confidence that will start clamoring for you to go back to bed or to do more than you planned.
Making changes is difficult; one cannot do this alone – if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. It’s important to get others involved in the changes you want to make. Sometimes it’s good to get someone outside of your primary support network. Sometimes they may have their own stakes in whether or not you change. Getting involved in a support group with others who are trying to make similar changes is one way to expand your network of support. Getting a therapist is another.
What changes have you been wanting to make? Do you keep making the same plan over and over again, expecting it to be different this time? Do you stop yourself before you even start? It’s time to turn to the sun and unfurl your petals.
This is not a post adressing suicidal thoughts. If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself, please talk to someone or take yourself to the nearest ER.
The song is about loss: being left at the altar, the mother dying, father dying, relationships ending and being alone. But the critical word, I believe, is ‘naturally’. The idea that you are alone again, – of course, what else is there for me; I’m forever destined to be alone.
How we perceive an event and the reason things happen to us is one of the centerpieces of our mental health. If I think that I’m doomed to be alone for the rest of my life, no matter what I do – I’ll be pretty depressed, including feeling helpless and hopeless about it to boot.
It’s important to look at the themes of your perceptions of yourself, about life, about ‘why’ things happen to you to see more clearly what you bring to the table of your life. Once you identify those themes, you can work on changing your perceptions, changing the possibilities of ‘why’ certain things occur in your life. Who knows to what bountiful horizons you could point yourself towards!
This is hard to do alone. Therapy is one tool that can help you out of outgrown mis-perceptions.
This song is the mantra for many people who grew up in that era and thereafter. I remember being on the dancefloor where there was always someone crying while dancing, yelling out the lyrics to the song, possbily after one beer too many. Songs help people identify their emotions, express them and hopefully move on. This is definitely a ‘I have moved on’ song. Or more precisely, ‘I’ve moved on, but you seem to think that I will take you back’.
Sometimes, we hold on to our anger or resentment long after the event has passed. A person may stay stuck in the grief or the anger of the event that occurred. It could be death, the end of a relationship, or another significant change that the individual has a hard time accepting. Maybe there are others around this individual who say ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ or something else along those lines. It seems that others don’t understand the pain involved, and it may seem impossible to move on. This is where psychotherapy can help possibly identify what the block is to letting go and moving on.
Is there anything that you are holding on to?
Alanis Morissette – You Owe Me Nothing In Return
This is someone’s YouTube posting of mostly the lyrics of the song. I was not able to find an actual video made by Alanis Morissette.
This song is intended to be from one person to another. The general message is to be able to love someone else unconditionally – which is great and is something to strive for. It is also a message against those relationships where basically, one person is held hostage in the relationship through guilting, blaming and or shaming.
The reality though, is that we are all human beings struggling to do the right thing and always imperfectly. We all have needs and if we come from a dysfunctional background, we have not learned how to appropriately get those needs met. There is a healthy ‘give and take’ in relationships. Sometimes expressing your own needs comes to be seen – by yourself, as well as possibly others around you, as being ‘selfish’. The struggle is, basically, to come to an answer to the question ‘am I being selfish for wanting this?’ The idea of unconditional love gets distorted. An individual can find themselves stuck in a bad situation due to this confusion and distortion of unconditional love versus setting limits on someone else’s behavior.
This is a difficult topic to address in one posting. In terms of this song, I hear it as being from a higher power, not another human being. Your higher power can love you, and does love you, unconditionally. No matter how you act or what you do, your higher power will accept you and forgive you. Even while you experience the consequences of your behavior, it is not your higher power that is punishing you. You can express yourself and ask for what you need to your higher power, and your higher power will respond. This is guaranteed, although you may not always hear the answer, or like the answer, your higher power is there for you.
Can you set limits on someone’s behavior and still love them? Where does the other person end and you begin? Are you making another human being your higher power?