Archive for the ‘Reframing (challenging faulty premises)’ Category

In my blog entry yesterday, I talked about writing a mission statement for my life. This is something I have never considered doing before because I have spent my entire life adapting to my circumstances and using my intensity to break through barriers. On the rare occasions that someone asks me about my dreams, I say that I want to go to Hawaii (which I actually plan to do when my son leaves for his freshman year of college – that’s still a few years away, though). Beyond that, I have had no dreams.

I could not fall back to sleep after two hours of trying, so I starting thinking about what I want in my life. I could not answer the question. I can tell you many things that I do not want, but I draw a blank at dreaming about what I do want. Dreams are a foreign concept to me.

So, I came up with the following personal mission statement:

I want to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others.

I came up with this at 4:00 a.m. after only four hours of sleep, so bear with me. LOL

I then asked myself if my life is currently leading me in this direction. The answer was a resounding NO. Perhaps that explains the level of unrest I have been experiencing for pretty much all of 2012.

Here was the hard part – What could I do differently that would meet this mission statement? I immediately went to the book that I want to write “someday” about healing from child abuse. My vision for this book is similar to the format of this blog – a book where people could look up applicable topics rather than have to read through the whole thing in narrative form. Just like with this blog, the book would include “taboo” topics that are not currently addressed in any healing books that I have found on the shelves.

Of course, my first reaction was that I don’t have time to write the book. I have been waiting for my life to have fewer responsibilities so I could focus on writing. I am now starting to think that I have this backward. If my personal mission is to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others, then why am I not doing it?

Don’t get me wrong – this blog is also something of value I produce that meets my personal mission statement. However, this blog is also the first thing to get pushed aside when I am weighted down by responsibilities. I have a long list of responsibilities that come first, but my passion for the blog drives me to squeeze out 10 minutes here and there to write it.

Perhaps I have everything backward. Perhaps the part of my life that fulfills me needs to come first rather than last. I am not saying that I will just walk away from my job and family and go write, but perhaps there is a way for me to fulfill my own needs instead of always ignoring them to take care of everyone else.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Most companies have a vision and/or mission statement that guides the direction of the company. As a detailed-oriented person, I used to think a mission statement was a bunch of hooey. I would read my company’s mission statement posted on the wall and think, “Thanks for that. I had planned to do a $#%&ty job today, but now that I read the mission statement, I’ll do a good job instead.” (Yes, I am a sarcastic person by nature.)

However, as I have developed the other side of my brain so that I am better able to see a bigger picture, I have grown to appreciate the value of a vision or mission statement for an organization. Whenever an organization has a big decision to make, it helps to ask which direction will lead the company in the direction it wants to go, and that direction is defined in its mission statement.

I have been struggling with insomnia for weeks (am writing this blog entry in the wee hours of the morning after only four hours of sleep), and I think it is because I am trying so hard to grasp a concept that is just out of my reach. I have glimpses and pieces of what I am trying to see, but I am unable to see the big picture yet. The following concepts tie into what I am reaching for: letting go of control, pouring energy into dead ends, managing my time, surviving versus living, facing reality, awakening to my life, finding fulfillment, and having a purpose.

In Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, there is a passage involving critical thinking and challenging assumptions, and I feel like I am learning along with one of the main characters. The conversation was interrupted by an emergency, so I didn’t get any farther along than the character did. However, the line of questioning got me thinking about my own life, especially what I want out of my life.

What do I want? That is such a foreign question to me because most of my life has been about adapting, not directing. I haven’t been steering the ship for open waters – I have been navigating around the harbor mines.

As I tried for two hours to fall back to sleep, I asked myself what I want out of my life, which I could not answer. So, I decided to come up with a mission statement. This is what I came up with at 4:00 a.m.:

I want to produce something of value that is meaningful to and appreciated by others.

I am not sure if that is where my mission statement will stay, but it’s a start. Tomorrow, I will talk about applying that mission statement to my life as it is now.

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This week, I am discussing my reaction to the following quote from Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged:

Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. Atlas Shrugged, p. 418

The “disastrous consequences” for me often seem to be insomnia, frustration, unrest, anxiety, anger, and depression. Because I believe the distorted reality, I think that if I just put more energy into this path, I will push through the barriers and reach a place where everything is OK. The problem is that X is never going to lead to Y if X is actually Z. I am awakening to the realization that in just about every area of my life, I have bought into lie upon lie, which is why I continue to stay so frustrated in so many areas of my life.

The areas of my life that do not frustrate me are those that I have already worked through, the biggest being my child abuse history. I am not saying that I am “over” healing – that day will never come – but I know how to process each layer of healing as it arises. This process does not frustrate me. It wears me out sometimes, but I know that all of my hard work is leading me to a better place, so I do not typically get frustrated by it.

I am also no longer frustrated in my friendships. For many years, I struggled with being a friend to people who only saw me as an acquaintance. I would pour more and more energy into the friendship without receiving much back, which frustrated the h#$% out of me. As I have grown emotionally healthier, I have drawn healthier people to fill the friendship role. I am also better about observing my friends’ behavior and building my expectations based on their actions rather than their words.

These were two big areas of my life that used to frustrate the h#$% out of me but do not any longer, and I got from Point A to B by going through the painful work of removing my filters and facing reality. It was very hard in both situations, but the payoff was HUGE. Now I need to work through this process in other areas of my life, which is daunting.

I only know how to commit fully, whether it is to a person, a job, or a hobby. I am either “in” or “out.” I do nothing “half @$$.” (That is probably an aftereffect of the child abuse as well.) Either I care or I don’t, and if I care, I care enough to give it my best effort.

As I open my eyes to reality, I am going to have to figure out how not to be so “all or nothing.” The reality is that most people do not seem to be like me in this regard, and there is a place for putting in some effort (as with a relationship with an acquaintance versus a friend) so that my effort matches the other person (personal relationships) or entity (professional relationships).

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Yesterday, I shared a quote from Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, that ended with this sentence:

Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. Atlas Shrugged, p. 418

I think this statement is true, and I am in the process of exploring in just how many ways I have lied to myself to avoid facing reality in my life. I used to believe this was limited to the child abuse, which was understandable – As a child, my abusers distorted reality to meet their purposes, and I had not yet developed the reason to be able to fight back other than believing deep down inside that their actions were wrong and that there had to be another way of life than being an abuser or victim.

My challenge today is awakening to the reality that I have refused to recognize reality in so many areas of my life, even in adulthood and even after working for years to heal from the child abuse. My guess is that this need to self-delude is a widespread issue that is not limited to abused children. (I think it helps explain the dynamics of many dysfunctional families.)

Society is responsible for many of these delusions (which is one of the points in Atlas Shrugged). As an example, growing up in a rural area of the South in the United States, I was told repeatedly that being a stay-at-home mom was the “only way” and that it would fulfill me as a woman. It did not. Don’t get me wrong – I love my child and value our relationship. However, being his mother is only one aspect of who I am, and the first three years of his life were very difficult because I thought there was something “wrong” with me. Being a stay-at-home mom whose sole role in life was to take care of a child and do housework was not a good fit for me, but I kept beating myself up for being a “bad person” for not finding fulfillment in this role. I kept thinking that if I tried harder, put forth more effort, etc., I would reach that place of fulfillment, but it never came.

When my son was three years old, I placed him in a preschool program and started working part-time as a writer during preschool hours over the objections of some family members who believed that being a stay-at-home mom should be my only job. This led to me being a paid to blog on the topic of adoption and then to starting this personal blog. My life is much more fulfilling by meeting my own needs as well as the needs of my family. Once I faced the reality that, despite what anyone told me, being a full-time wife and mother as my sole role was not meeting my needs, I was able to make changes in my life that led to more fulfillment. As long as I fought the reality that this arrangement was not working for me, I was frustrated and pouring effort into continuing a course of action that was not a good fit for me.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am continuing to work my way through the almost 1,200-page book, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand and am really enjoying it. I came across another quote that I am mulling over and wanted to talk about with my readers:

That woman and all those like her keep evading the thoughts which they know to be good. You keep pushing out of your mind the thoughts which you believe to be evil. They do it, because they want to avoid effort. You do it, because you won’t permit yourself to consider anything that would spare you. They indulge their emotions at any cost. You sacrifice your emotions as the first cost of any problem. They are willing to bear nothing. You are willing to bear anything. They keep evading responsibility. You keep assuming it. But don’t you see that the essential error is the same? Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences. ~ Atlas Shrugged, pp. 417-418, emphasis mine

I am finding this idea to be true in my own life, and I suspect this is true for many people who are reading this.

I have talked about this concept as applied to child abuse numerous times. To survive the abuse, abused children lie to themselves about reality so they will not lose hope. They tell themselves that the abuse is their fault so they can avoid the reality of having no power to make it stop. If the abuse is “my fault,” then I have the illusion of control over the abuse – if I change my behavior (stop being “so bad”), then I have the power to stop the abuse. The alternative is to accept the reality that the child has absolutely no power to stop the abuse, which as Judith Herman points out in her book Trauma and Recovery, would result in the one emotion abused children cannot afford to feel – utter despair.

Sadly, the refusal to recognize reality runs much deeper than in childhood. If that is where the self-delusions stopped, we might be able to process our child abuse in adulthood and then be done. That has not been my experience. I feel like I lived most of my childhood and the first 15+ years of adulthood “asleep.” Since beginning the healing process, I keep awakening to more lies that I need to unravel. I thought healing would only be about dismantling my childhood lies (it was my fault, I deserve to feel shame, etc.), but so much of my life – in just about every aspect – is filled with lies that help me avoid reality, which has had “disastrous consequences” because I do X, expecting Y, and Z keeps happening. This brings me back over and over again to challenging my premises.

More tomorrow…

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This week, I have been writing about the process of reframing or challenging the premises of the contradictions in your life. You can read the series here and here.

The initial premises in my life that I challenged were child abuse-related – premises such as whether the abuse was my fault, whether I was worthless and unlovable, etc. However, to this day, I continue to identify areas of my life in which I have been operating on faulty premises, resulting in much frustration on my part.

I don’t know how often this happens with people without a history of child abuse, but my life has been filled with buying into faulty premises. These tend to be areas of my life that suck my energy and cause me endless frustration. I keep expecting my efforts in doing X to result in Y, but they don’t. Of course, I assume that I am just not trying hard enough, so I put even more energy into that area (typically a relationship) with the same results.

The movie He’s Just Not That Into You covers this concept in an amusing way. The movie begins with a girl being taught a faulty premise. A boy shoves her to the ground and calls her a mean name. When she cries to her mother about what the boy did, the mother says, “Do you know why he did those things to you? It’s because he likes you.”

That’s the opening of the movie – the laying of the foundation of a faulty premise that many women sadly believe. The next scene is a montage of different women reassuring each other that “he” isn’t calling for any reason other than the obvious one … that he just isn’t that into you (hence the movie’s title).

Later in the movie, one of the main characters, Gigi (played by Ginnifer Goodwin) gets the following advice from her friend, Alex (played by Justin Long):

If a guy acts like he doesn’t give a s#$%, it’s because he really doesn’t give a s#$%.

This is another example of a “duh” moment for anyone who isn’t buying into a faulty premise, but there are (sadly) numerous women who buy into the premise that someone they are dating cares about them despite the plentiful evidence that he does not. (This dynamic is clearly not limited to men treating women this way.)

If you have an area of your life (especially your relationships) that appears to be a contradiction, challenge your premises. While the process is daunting, you will be better off knowing the truths in your life and finding clarity. For me, the process often is accompanied by grief intermingled with feeling like a rube. Give yourself permission to grieve your losses, even when you awaken to the reality that nothing was actually lost – it never actually existed. The loss of what you believed to be true is still a loss that might need to be grieved.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketIn my last blog entry, I talked about my experience with reframing or challenging faulty premises in my life. Today I am going to share the specifics of how I work through this process. I will use a specific example from my life that was very difficult but also empowering for me.

My mother/abuser was a “religious nut.” She started taking my sister and me to church when I was eight years old, and we bounced from church to church every few years because she was asked to leave so many times.

My mother has very strange views about religion, and she raised my sister and me to believe that she had this special connection with a higher power that we did not. If we only had more faith, we would have this special connection, but we didn’t try hard enough.

I bought into this premise hook, line, and sinker. I truly believed that my mother had this strong connection with a higher power while I was not “good enough.” This premise shaped my views on religion well into my late thirties (when I was in therapy for healing from child abuse). I held onto this belief despite all of the memories I recovered of being sexually abused by this allegedly religious person.

I spent one Easter pushing my baby in his stroller on a two-mile walk. Since we did not go to church, I thought I would meditate on scripture as we walked. During this process, I faced my frustration with not wanting to connect with a higher power who viewed my mother as religiously “right” and me as religiously “wrong.”

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks – What if my mother isn’t actually a Christian? This is probably a “duh” question for all of you reading this since you know my mother was my first abuser. However, this was a groundbreaking thought to me that felt like heresy even to ask!

When I chose to challenge the premise, I experienced amazing clarity. If my mother wasn’t actually a Christian, then her abuse, whacky versions of faith, etc. made complete sense. I no longer had to wrestle with trying to make sense out of the contradiction of my mother being a Christian and being an abuser. My premise was faulty, so when I challenged my premise, my life suddenly made much more sense.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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