Tag Archives: 12step

Resistance to receiving gifts

One of my internal struggles in intimate relationships is the vulnerability associated with receiving. Allowing pleasure from someone’s gesture or gift creates an opening of awareness that the behavior of another person can impact me. It brings a desire for something that is never guaranteed because it is outside of my realm of control. It is provided by someone other than me and it’s offering is unpredictable and therefore unsettling. Even when receiving the gift brings me pleasure, the gut wrenching awareness of wanting and needing something from others can rob me of the feeling the gift was meant to evoke. Enjoying the gift feels like handing over power to the person who provided the gift because it is met with immediate knowledge that the same person can take the gift away just as fast and unexpectedly.

This pattern developed alongside the unveiling of knowledge that some of the gifts I received from a past partner came backed by ill intentions hidden to me at their offering. The person who extended the pleasure knew that they were giving me something to get something in return. There were strings attached. Once the ill intentions came into my knowledge, I no longer had a place reserved for the joy I experienced from their offering. This experience killed my ability to believe that a similar level of joy is possible from gifts or actions that are actually tied to good intentions. It is hard to trust that some gifts are about nothing more than creating an experience for me and that in itself is a motivating factor for those that love me.

The thought behind this pattern is that no one offers a gift without strings attached. Before I receive a gift, I take on the responsibility of trying to figure out what strings come attached to my pleasure. This exercise obliterates the entire experience for both the recipient (me) and for the giver. The gift giving ceases because no fun is derived from the hunt I have created. When I no longer receive gifts, fuel is added to the story I tell myself about my unworthiness for being loved by someone.

I want to believe that some gifts are offered for no larger reason. I want to invite the possibility that some people derive pleasure from just the act of giving a gift. I want to feel powerful when I receive a gift because I am worth it.

Understanding my current thoughts is the first step to changing my thought patterns. When I can develop new thoughts, new emotions will become available and I will begin to act from a set of different emotions to get the outcomes I desire in my life.

 

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I Choose What to See (Sort of)

I recognized almost immediately following my ex-husband’s arrest that I would need help navigating my path into whatever future version of life would unfold. I sought a therapist to support my journey and was shocked to find two things.

  1. Every therapist discussed divorce in my initial meeting. This robbed me of my agency to know what decision was best for me and superimposed a timeline that ignored every personal value in favor of something that was societally comfortable.
  2. “What weren’t you seeing?” was the most prominent question across every conversation with a therapist. This had a hidden undertone that there were signs that existed that I had willingly and consciously tuned out of my vision. I believe things are revealed to us when we are ready. We don’t need to be on a vigilant hunt.

Neither of these were helpful. Eventually I chose someone who supported my own discovery and unfolding of the first point, but who pushed me to think through the second often and early.

While I am an advocate for understanding my side of the street, a 12-stepper phrase that symbolizes my responsibility in any situation, doing so early on in the grieving process did not serve me as a client. It is not exactly like asking “what did you do to cause this?,” but it felt that way. It created a deep doubt in myself to be witness to my own experience.

That doubt still surfaces today. When my current partner and I experience the same event differently, I assume that I am wrong. I convince myself that there is some detail that I am simply unable to see because I have chosen to be blind and if only I can search for and find that detail, then everything will be OK. In this hunt, I define OK as having the same experience. I am fine to contort myself in any way required to find that alignment because my fear of discovering that I am living a very different reality alongside a romantic partner is debilitating.

The logical part of me understands that the lens each of us uses to filter our world is unique and built from the accumulation of each of our experiences. The problem is that I don’t trust my lens because it’s been wrong in the past. The questioning by the professionals early on in my journey caused me to question my very being. I took on an overblown level of responsibility and created a story that everything was my fault. I didn’t think I was the reason that my ex-husband had become an addict but I was responsible being in a relationship with an addict.

What I see now, with the space over the last several years, is that they were right in a sense. The lens I use for filtering is my choice. Before making that choice, I must be aware of my default lens and accept that lens. Only then can I examine how it’s flawed and distorted. When I ignore the original lens, I discount my experience in a way that does not serve me. Seeing my default story – that my experience is a figment of my imagination – creates the choice to see something different. That choice releases me from my desire to have someone validate my original lens. I have done it myself by acknowledging everything that exists for me, including my flawed lens.

That is the key to freeing myself from assigning the value of an experience as right or wrong and instead shifts my focus to trusting my own experience.

What do you need to trust today?

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Whats Worse?

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”

This month in Al Anon the focus will skirt along the 5th step of the program. In a nutshell, revealing your truth.

I have always struggled with the boundary of what to share with people; sometimes finding a high in revealing personal details to people whom I have not yet built trust. I have fantasized that sharing my life would form friendships and bonds. In retrospect, I realize that you test the waters, dip your toes in, gain trust little by little and then begin to share – building a foundation of a healthy relationship.

I am moving into a place where it feels best to keep things a bit private – to speak more eloquently at a high level about my personal hell rather than feel trapped in a corner trying to explain emotions that fleet between moments. It is my right.

Sharing my life as it stands, throughout this entire process, has been painful. It’s isolating to reach out to a vast expanse of people with whom I have shared my life, with whom we have shared our life over the last 10+ years, and feel alone – as though no one can relate. Its easy to feel misunderstood because no one has walked in my shoes. No one has felt every detail and moment of the way things have unfolded except the two of us. And I cannot expect them to – their view of my situation is created through a window that I build for them. I am painting the picture and they are looking at it from 100 feet away or more trying to interpret it and discover its meaning. But my emotion is wrapped up in the brush strokes and colors, the details of what has built the painting. They choose how to interpret it or engage with it. I don’t have that privilege.

But what I have found to be worse as the months pass and we move forward, even if its tiny baby steps, is the inability for people to relate to the light. The bits of optimism that mange to squeeze through, the tiny milestones, the small changes. No one expects it. They are holding their breath and waiting for the explosion. It highlights the judgement, the expectation that I will wipe my hands clean from my marriage and break free. People weren’t betting on the rays of light. No one is rooting on the sidelines.

And it hurts. Worse. It isn’t that they don’t know the right cheer. Its that they only want to cheer if I make the right decision. Their decision.

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