By David Joel Miller.
Ending the connections with your problems.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could solve our life problems by just tossing them out? Just toss that addiction, the depression and the clutter out in the trash can and now life will be grand. Loose that excess weight – once and for all. Why doesn’t it work that way?
Our problems are not just a single thing ready for disposal. Often they are an integrated part of our life. Life problems are connected by lots of wires to other aspects of our life. We have a host of wires connecting our problems with the rest of our lives. These wires are elastic like bungee cords, toss the problem and it keeps bouncing back.
We see this in relationships that crash and burn. We see it in addiction and we see it in lots of self-help failures.
A couple can’t get along, they divorce, but there are children, the children act like wires pulling the parents back together. Calling the ex to complain about “look what your son did” or to argue about money and the needs of the children keeps the dysfunctional relationship alive. I have seen couples ten years post-divorce and already with new partners who still manage to call each other once a week to continue the old marital argument.
“Rightism” that need to prove you are right long after it has stopped mattering is a common defect of character.
Just because you end a relationship does not mean the connections are severed. You divorce your partner but not your kids. I warn teens when I counsel them that you can break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend but babies mommas and babies daddies are forever. The key here is to maintain the relationship with the ex as your child’s parent while cutting all the old relationship wires. The wires of anger, bitterness and resentments keep us connected to the pain of the past.
Any 12 step meeting is sure to have a couple of people, sometimes more, who are not drinking, but they are not happy about being sober. You can spot these people in a flash. Ten years not drinking and they are still angry and resentful, unwilling to do any work on self-change. They keep the wires that connect them to their addiction connected and eventually most of them are pulled back to the problem.
Three things we all should know can keep us connected to our problems, people, places and things.
Most of us have people in our lives that help maintain our problems. Plan to lose weight? Do you drop by that friend’s house, you know the one I mean, the one that is a good cook and always has a fresh-baked cake ready to help you eat instead of exercise.
Do all your friends have your same problem and are they stuck in the problem and not the solution? Addicts in recovery find most of their “friends” are really just using associates. Going to see old friends often means doing old behaviors. Hard to cut wires of bad relationships? They have a strong pull to take you back to old behaviors.
Places are also strong wires that bind us to our past. The old saying goes – “Hang out in a barbershop and you get a haircut. Do you think it is safe to visit a bar?
When a mental illness takes hold people may find that they can’t return to the place they used to work or even the career they used to hold. Not that the place or job makes them mentally ill but the tendency to slip back into old patterns, to work too much, neglect self-care, all these things set you up for another round of illness.
Do you have some wires connecting you to your problems that need to be sniped?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books