Archive for March 30th, 2012
We need to know that we have an epidemic of addictive behavior in this country. We have addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sports, television, the Internet, shoplifting, self-harm, food, exercise and sex. Addictive, self-destructive behaviors seem incomprehensible to non-addicts: “Why don’t they just say No!” That’s a good intention. Even the practitioners trying to save these sufferers from themselves seem unaware that these illogical behaviors can be understood in terms of the good intentions that the abusers have for themselves:
• To relieve in one way or another the terrible pain of their existence, pain that comes from attitudes that they are inferior, inadequate to cope, unloved, unlovable, worthless and many more.
• To maintain and perpetuate their self-contempt, painful as it is, because it is the misey they prefer to the even worse misery of ceasing to exist.
• To bring about the self-destruction that worthless people believe they deserve. They prefer to do it themselves. They are in control of it. It hurts less that way.
• To guarantee they do not experience any undeserved happiness in this lifetime.
• To replace forbidden happiness with self-indulgent, self-destructive negative excitement, which is all they do deserve.
• To relieve the pain of their anger at themselves for their inadequacy to solve their problems in any way that works in the real world.
• To relieve the pain of their guilt at failing to be good enough, that is, perfectly good.
• To relieve their anxiety about the painful disaster that waits for them in the future.
These addictive good intentions have hidden purposes:
• To anesthetize all these pains,
• To drown all these sorrows,
• To escape from the greater miseries of their existence into all these lesser miseries which are not lesser at all.
To take drugs or suffer the psychic pain of worthlessness? That is the addict’s terrible choice. There is a third choice: no misery at all, no anxiety, no worthlessness. We cannot relieve these negative behaviors until we identify the root of this scourge as self-anger in a context of self-contempt and replace it with self-respect. Until then, all we can have for these sufferers is superficial good intentions. Those treatment programs that succeed may have at their core, not just a foundation grant, but a self-respecting healer who can set an example of sanity for the clients to follow.
We need to know that we are the victims of our own good intentions for ourselves. Our doctor tells us to stop eating junk food, but we override his professional advice. We have “had a hard day,” we tell ourselves; we “have suffered.” Our attitude is that our suffering entitles us to a treat today, so we indulge ourselves to our ultimate detriment. We are not only self-indulgent, we are self-critical. It hurts less if we criticize ourselves so we beat our critics to the punch. Our self-criticism also guarantees that we don’t get too happy, or smug. We are overambitious for ourselves, which means we cannot be happy with the raise we have just received; we cannot be happy until we get the next and the next. This is called the Someday Syndrome. “I’ll be happy someday — maybe when I retire — but not until.” It is our experience that, “Someday” never comes. It’s always a week from Tuesday.
We are overprotective. At the same time we are self-destructing with junk food and junk ideas, we protect ourselves from disaster by imagining all sorts of catastrophes for ourselves. We want to leave town in advance, but we never do. We cause ourselves an anxiety that we didn’t need to cause. We have the good intention to solve such problems as how can I keep my teenager from becoming an alcoholic, which we have no competence to do. So we obsess uselessly, which drives everyone to drink.
Here are some good intentions that determine our behavior to everyone’s disadvantage:
• When our loved ones are angry at us, we defend ourselves against them to relieve our own pain.
• We tear our loved ones down to build ourselves up.
• We say, “I can’t do it” and we let ourselves off the hook to prevent humiliating failure, instead of asking ourselves a focusing question: “What am I afraid will happen if I do it?” “What’s the worst thing about it?” It usually turns out to be not that bad.
• We think, “I might succeed and be happy! Who knows where that will end? I’d better not start!”
• We try to outsmart life. We try to figure out what other people are plotting to do against us so we can beat them to the punch.
These are all mental mischief: A waste of our time and mental energy. They impede our progress and dilutes our happiness, which is exactly what unself-respecting people like us deserve to do.
Self-respecting people have real intentions for themselves. They don’t live in the future. They take life as it comes and do the best they can with it. They do not override their judgment with outsmartings or discouragements. They trust their judgment to solve problems as they arise in the present. They are able to live in the middle ground between too much and too little. They do not criticize every little imperfection in their lives. They are worthwhile human beings in spite of them. They have gotten out of their own way.
How can we get out of our own way? By catching ourselves about to inflict a self-serving good intention upon ourselves, such as exempting ourselves from the painful responsibility for taking out the trash, or trying to eliminate the painful waste of waiting for our life partner to finish combing her hair. We can catch ourselves indulging in vengeful behavior to relieve the pain of our past griefs and choose to do what reality requires us to do instead. We can shift our gears. We can ask, “What would a grownup do?” Then we can choose to do it. How will we feel afterwards? We will have feelings of relief, control, identity, maturity, security, independence, peace of mind and all the other components of self-respect.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )