Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Suppressing Our True Selves

Key Words: Our True Selves, Suppressing, Image, Mask, Seeking Approval, Al-Anon

My True Self
I am learning that whenever I think something is bad in my life, that I may be suppressing myself in some way. When I judge it as bad, I may not be able to analyze what it is and how I may not be fully who I am.

Here is what I mean - as this might be a little difficult to explain.

When I say, "The world won't let me be myself . . .(out to get me, etc.) Or "You won't let me express myself . . . " Or "I wish I was someplace else . . ." I am suppressing myself in some way.

It is not obvious at first.

Before going on, please reread these statements. We have all made statements like these in some form similar to these before.

After you reread these statements, think about what you are really saying and then, what you do next. When I say statements like these, I say the problem is "out there." It is, in fact, controlling me - the so-called problem.

However, I am allowing it to control me. What?! I am saying that I could be happier/better if these things (the world, you, someplace else or I wish) weren't doing something to me.

So, what I do is go further along the misery path and I put on a mask to conceal. I place a mask on my face (or a cloak around my body) to become what I believe others want me to be or what I want to show to others.

Does this make sense?

This may be a little difficult to grasp, because while I believe the problem is someone or something causing me to be a certain way, I in reality, have chosen to be a certain way - other than my true self. I have chosen. I have chosen to cloak myself to show only what I think others will accept.

I have to stop here for you (actually me the typist) to see what I am saying more clearly. So think about this. As I type this, this is like a judo move in my brain. My brain is beginning to hurt because it is a twist.

Now if you have grasped this "cloaking" or "masking" concept, I want to move on. If you haven't, please go back and reread the above. Because the next sentence will only add to the above.

Here is the next sentence.

We cloak and we cloak, and we cloak and we cloak. (I am going to use this word instead of mask at this point for a reason. Mask works well, but cloak works better for me and I will explain why in a second)

What I am saying is, this cloaking thing, goes on ALL DAY LONG, several times a day, with different people, in different events, in different circumstances. Sometimes this serves a good purpose, I think. Other times, not so.

Are you with me thus far?

We cloak ourselves. Especially in this disease. We - in essence - HIDE. Now everyone "hides" parts of themselves. Maybe this is normal. Maybe it shouldn't be. I do not know.

But I do know this, as I become more of myself, the revealing of myself, in the rooms of Al-Anon, I am shedding layers of blankets, that I feel - that I never felt before - covered me up so others would not judge me as "bad" or "not whole, complete and - [YIKES, here's the word I didn't see before, but have heard it stated a lot in Al-Anon - here it comes . . . ] perfect."

A Note to Myself
[That perfect word is a word, I didn't think I had affecting me. I have heard others use it and I thought "I know I am not perfect" and sorta reveled in the thought that I knew I wasn't. But, in truth, I think after typing here, I revealed that I want to present an image of perfection. I wear nice clothes, just bought expensive cologne (ha!), have a nice car, nice house (paid off and I want all to know that!), a nice rental home, money in the bank (and I drop hints about that around too), I have had/have great jobs, - so hmmmm, I found something else out about me. Interesting.] - these square brackets "[ ]" are me talking to myself.

Layers of Cloaks
So, back to cloaks. I have shared in Al-Anon that I feel as I reveal more and more about me in these rooms, that I find more and more about myself, that I thought wasn't true for me. And as I see myself being revealed to myself (and to others), I feel like layers of wool blankets (the cloaks) have been covering me up are being taken off. I was - suffocating - and didn't know it.

Over time, with all these layers (cloaks) being put on me, I had become someone else. I put these on -one layer at a time - by trying to adapt to others expectations of me and the expectations I had of myself. But these expectations - well they are and were - here is another key term - an "illusion." I created the expectations. [Are you friggin' kidding me?! Yeppy deppy. Now that I think about it - no one said you need to be this way or that way. Yeppy deppy.]

After writing this - the above paragraph specifically - I think the toughest of expectations - are those that I hold up for myself. And they can be the greatest of illusions of all.

Who Am I? (MY Great Houdini)
I performed the great Houdini act. I - in essence - "disappeared."

I am getting back to me, however, slowly, but surely. But I must say it is hard. I live in a world that wants illusions and wants people to fit into certain molds and patterns.

As I learn more about myself - and learn to be more accepting of my true self - I am learning to be more accepting of others. I now have friends who are male, female, but are also now, black, Hispanic, Asian, and gay. I could never say this before. I see me in all of them. And some of these people are more REAL than I am. They are more authentic, and I would never have admitted that before because I never knew it before.

So, I am working to reveal me - not to others - but to me. And just be - well - er, um, me. And me is good enough.

But it is taking time and work and Al-Anon.

Hope you are well and I hope this post helped you as much as it helped me today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taking Responsibility

Responsibility - Al-Anon, Life, Work.

We have the right to choose to do anything we want to do. The key word is "anything" and I would add - "we want." This seems liberating when we read it. But how many of us - want someone to decide for us? We wait to hear what others want to do. We want others to tell us what they think first, so we can see which way the "wind is blowing."

Because, God forbid we are wrong in telling others what we want to do or worse - we make a decision, others are unhappy with!

But here are the facts. You have a life. I have a life. We need to be clear on what we want. Why are we not clear sometimes? I believe - because we have been told that our ideas and choice are not important, stupid, bad, wrong, selfish - you name it.

But guess what? What they think does not matter. But we have made it matter. And therefore we wait and we decide our choices are of little value to us.

We are allowed to make mistakes! Yes, some of our decisions have been - well - wrong. And some of our decisions have been - well - RIGHT!

Let's take responsibility back. We may have given away our "right" to decide and choose what is right for us. Let's take it back by sharing with people what we want to do. Now I am not saying sharing with people are intimate secrets - people with whom we don't know or cannot trust. What I am saying is our choices and wants matter.

But it is up to us to take responsibility and choose what we want to do - in all situations. ALL situations.

To become better and smarter about what it is we wish to do, we need to open ourselves up and learn to trust our judgement. We need to listen to that "still small voice within." We need to "trust our gut." We need to learn to be quiet and calm ourselves. Get out of the chaos - if there is chaos around us.

A great way to start listening to ourselves is to take that notebook and write out and describe the situation at hand. And list out what the outcome we want, the fears we are facing - and worst possible outcome.

I actually wrote - "I will die" - when I wrote about a big situation I was facing. But it was after about 6 major "if this happens, then this will occur." When I looked at it, I uncovered fears and unfounded fears, I was harboring unconsciously.

But I digress. The point is, the notebook, the uncovering, "If I do this, what will happen good?" and ". . . what will happen, bad?" is a powerful little free tool that you can put into use today. Problem is - it is free and no one will remind us to use it in a time of crisis. So write it in your notebook in the back - where you could/should have an index called "tools."

I am still digressing - and I know it!

I learned this from Robert Anthony. Here it is;

Keep in mind nothing is "good" or "bad" or "right" or "wrong." It is only "wise" or "unwise." He points out in his Total Self Confidence book, "as you move from 'unwise' to 'wise' actions, the importance of this terminology will become increasingly evident."

Here are some questions he suggests that you ask;

Is this a wise or unwise act?
Will it contribute to my basic needs?
Will it harm me or someone else?
Is it in harmony with the Laws of the Universe as I understand them?
What is the total price I must pay?
Am I willing and able to pay this price and accept the consequences?

PS - I am sorry I have not blogged in a while. I have been redoing my work life . . . Which has become a significant point of change. Some day I reveal what was at one point, I would have called a crisis, that turned into a blessing and I believe a gift from my Higher Power. It actually allowed me to SEE myself and force me to take a good look at why I was working so hard.

PPS - There are times when my ego says "I am recovered." This is the ego trying to trick me into a false hope. The truth is; I am in recovery. The trip and journey are miles and miles, and without a road map. I slip - a lot.

Good luck today and this weekend.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Making Our Decisions

I am reading several books from Ari Kiev. They are old for sure, but they are filled with principles on how to live life for the better. I had to order these books off Abebooks.com, a place where you can find out of print books and search used book sellers around the country.

Here is something that I read this morning. It is derived from one of Kiev's books, a letter to teenager growing up. We may have missed some of this advice, as I know I have, and I am not blaming my parents as I say this, they did the best they could, under the circumstances.

The reading from one of the chapters is about making our own decisions.

First, try to experiment with the word "no." Try saying it to someone to whom you typically respond with a "yes." One woman in an Al-Anon meeting said she repeated the word "no" over and over again, so she could get comfortable with it coming from her mouth. Strange, I thought at first. But a second later, perhaps, I thought, brilliant.

Second, try cancelling an appointment or postponing a meeting.

Third, try refusing some food at the table, like bread. Ask the waiter, to remove the bread when dining out. Bread is one of my big favorites. Send it back? Will it hurt the other person's feelings? We are people pleasers aren't we Joseph?

Fourth, when someone wants to borrow something, say "no." I am going into cardiac arrest here. I have shortness of breath.

Fifth, quit solving others problems. Yesterday, a woman I work with needed a pen for she could not find one for the con call she was on and needed to take notes. So what did I do? I gave her my expensive, rare pen. She held onto it through out the call. I, on the other hand, was without a pen. Duh?! Could I be any more accommodating?????

On all of the above, don't offer an explanation.

WOW! When I write this, it seems like I am being, well, an ass if I do this. YIKERS! Am I trying to find affection by being accommodating at my expense?

Remember - this is just an exercise. I think if you can lend someone something, and they really need it, maybe, perhaps, um, er, I am faltering here, provide it to them?!

But, maybe, without an expectation of being loved, or this being reciprocated.

How hard this is going to be for ME!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Note to Kelly

Kelly - I too was worried about the death of my qualifier. I knew she was killing herself. There were things happening to her body that - well - were not normal.

I am not a doctor, but if I described them here - you too would see it that way.
Alcoholism is an insideous disease. It is almost - to me anyway - disease that attracts attention from others and sucks the life out of those of us it attracks.

Our belief is we can fix it. And somewhere it tricks us into thinking we caused it.

My word for you is to - DETACH. With or without love. With love is kind and compassionate with understanding that this is a disease. MOst importantly - it is kind and compassionate toward yourself.

If you have too - just DETACH. Don't get angry or blame or cause anxiety with yourself by arguing, or trying to presuade. The arguing and persuasion part - is the disease working thru us and once again, putting the attention on him/it/the disease.

Think of the disease as a disease except with a psychological attraction that grows by you feeding it with hate, anger, persuasion and frustration.

If you want to defeat it - then of course you would never do the above things. But it has gotten to you and filled you with anxiety and the NEED to control and fix it.
You can't.

The only thing you can fix it YOU. You are numbero uno. You fix yourself and the world is a better place. Family, friends and relatives see you as the good guy and healthy. When you get healthy - you make better choices. You have more options.

I can say all this now. For I am not living with the disease any more. My wife's disease carries on. I see it in her emails and hear it in her voice. She baits me. She wants me to engage.

Sometimes I am trapped in the snare and I react. I fall prey to the disease and I am not even living with it. So everything I say above - while it is true - requires real fortitude and strength.
Reprogram yourself and reprogram your responses to your husband.

Reprogram your thoughts of death as perhaps a metaphor that part of your life is perhaps over. Not a physical death - but a mental death.

I felt this "death" - I think we all have. It's called shattered dreams. We lived a life - and wanted something - a vision - a dream of what could be. It maybe that it never materialized, or you saw glimmers of it.

Detach. Detach. Detach.

Focus on yourself is a great slogan.

Read Chapter 10 - hell read all the chapters of How Al-Anon Works.

I really found The New Earth by Tolle and his earlier book the Power of Now great books. I sat and read and reread The New Earth and the Pain-body sections over and over and over all summer. I read - I think it was pages 160 to 220 - about 12 times. In fact, I was thinking just yesterday I need to reread them again. It is about detaching, being powerless over someone else, surrendering your thoughts and realizing your ego - your own ego needs to be fed. The ego wants you to think you are less than. It feeds on your misery. And it makes you see everything is a light of being miserable.

First step - be aware of it coming up and starting. It starts as a small voice and then it calls a meeting. The committee meets and you are being knocked around by the voices. FIRE your committee and rehire new people for your committee. You can hire Jesus or Budha or both. What would they be telling you? How about one of your closest friends too? Or someone you admire and respect? Abe Lincoln? It's your head. You can control your head - we just don't. The mind is a terrible master - but a good slave(no offense intended to anyone - it is only a metaphor).

Love yourself. Have compassion for yourself.

See a therapists that DEALS with alcoholism in families.If you have an EAP program - the program from your work that has trained counsellors they can guide you and provide assistance in finding a therapist/coach/Sherpa.

You are a good and worthy person. And everyone is thinking about you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Question from A Reader

Here is a question, a burning desire, from a fellow reader Kelly

Here is here question;

" Hi, I have a question. I'm having a terrible struggle with thoughts of death -- my death, the death of my qualifier -- and they're nonstop. Every awake moment is torture. Which step, slogan, or other reading would be most helpful. I've been focusing on step one and applying it to death in general -- that I'm powerless over death. But even that thought is frightening.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Couple of Quick Things . . .

First, sorry about the comments that may not have been "published." I did not reject any, it's just that I apparently did not "accept" them properly. I discovered 5 unpublished comments this morning . . . Well, I "published" them all. I will make it easier for all of us by taking this moderator option off the comments.

Second, it has been suggested that we create a New Post on anyone that may have a "burning desire" or "question" that they would like answered. So, if you have a question or burning desire, please use the comment box or send me an email and I will publish it as a post. This way you can receive feedback from multiple people as to what they may have done to achieve serenity.

So, I like the idea of burning issues and seeking feedback. Talk about true anonymity! No one can even see what you look like! And we may not even know your name! So, feel free to ask, and I will publish the request/question.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Fear

Al-Anon - Fear - Turning it over.

I met with the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) yesterday. The GAL is a court appointed representative for the child.

There have been some issues about strange words and sentences coming out of my daughter mouth that seem to originate from grown-ups. I was VERY angry this weekend when I learned that some things are being said in front of a child during a divorce/custody case.

To me, and I am not trying to be self-righteous (or am I?), the child should be off to the side.

I think everyone will agree - even my qualifier. But because of anger, the affects of alcoholism, etc., maybe things are being said in earshot.

I should have called my sponsor this weekend. A voice inside my head called out three times to call him. The other voice said this was NOT Al-Anon related, so leave him alone. The other voice saying "don't call" was the ego - the voice wanted me to feed on the fear represented by anger. On Monday, I called him. Told him about the voices - and said, "Next time I am calling - even when I don't think it is Al-Anon related." He said, "Absolutely, because it ALL is!"

Interesting. What a friendship! What advice/guidance I receive from him. In truth, as soon as I speak my words out loud confidentially - I almost know what he is going to say. And I know what to do. I just need to "vent" or say the words out loud - almost as if I can measure what I am saying.

Anyway, my fears were unfounded yesterday. I cannot be specific here, but I found that my fear of me losing out - was not justified. I had created scenarios in my head Saturday that placed me in a bad state of mind. I have so much to learn, and the fact that I slipped back into my head and did not call, says I need more programming of the program. I am so grateful to have a program.

Last note, my daughter and her friend and I went roller blading at the park Sunday. It could have been a national disaster, as the trip to the big park was 25 minutes in the car - a lifetime for 11 year olds. And then the wrong socks - they brought footies! I have soooo much to learn. My daughter clinging on me every second - holding on for dear life. I brought them to the restaurant at the park. They have cement floors. I bought them Cokes. And sort of "left" them - to be on their own. They loved being their with all the cool park people.

They skated on the cement floors. When I "picked" them back up, my daughter was skating by herself. Wow! I guess the restaurant with chairs to hold onto and smooth floors was the training ground for them. I am sure two cute girls were no match for the patrons.

We went back down after school yesterday - me and her. There are no hills in the park, until you are wearing roller-blades. Then, any incline and decline becomes a mountain. Well, we went down a mountain yesterday, her clinging onto my arm, she fell twice and I was able to pull her back up before she fell again all in a matter of like 5 seconds. The spill - fortunately - was uneventful, except some park people looking at us - which caused embarrassment for her. I was relieved there were no scrapes as she was wearing really short shorts. Note to Joe: Long pants for her next time!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Gee, Thanks for Sharing."

Al-Anon - a good one liner for people trying to provoke us.

I must admit, I stole this one liner. I stole it from the website - Loveandlogic.com

The website is about raising children and has some great articles. One of the articles is about "tease proofing" our children. The article discusses how a 2nd grade teacher taught his class a "cool look" and how to maintain it when being teased. It also gave a one-liner for the child to say back to the tormentor.

The one-liner "Thanks for sharing."

I thought, "How cool."

I was hooked by my qualifier last week. I engaged. I retorted. I gave my rebuttal.

But I lost serenity. Not a good trade.

It happened again yesterday when she called and told me how "unnice" I am.

Well, the next time someone says something that may trigger me, I am going to say, "Thanks for sharing." with no hostility or anger or sarcasm. I need to work on the cool look though. My child says I look anything but cool. "Geez, thanks for sharing!"

For more on my stealing here is the pdf http://www.loveandlogic.com/pdfs/teaseproof.pdf

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Request From A Reader

The following request was made by a reader. Here is her question. Please add your thoughts as you feel appropriate.

Just a word to the person making this request for advice. None of us are qualified to provide any advice . . . We can give you examples and ideas of what actions you could take. However, I say this with caution - the advice is worth exactly as much as you paid for it. We are not in your shoes. We have no emotional attachment. And we can hardly understand your situation.

BUT . . . There ARE some things you can do, such as; "Keep the focus on you" and what you can do to set up "boundaries" and "detach with love" . . . .

Here is the request from a reader:
I need advice. My husband has been cutting back on his alcohol usage. It was causing great pain within our marriage. His father is an alcoholic and alcohol is the bond shared between the two whenever they get together.

My mother in law has chosen not to ever discuss the pain in her marriage to an alcoholic and I respect that. I have mentioned to her several times that my husband, her son, struggles with abusing alcohol. Sadly, she points at me as being far from perfect,end of talk. At our most recent family gathering I mentioned to her that our marriage was improving since we were actively taking measures to address the alcohol abuse and he'd agreed to cut back.

A month goes by and she calls my husband via his cellphone and invites him home to New York to spend quality time with his father in a BAR watching and Irish football game for the weekend. I am hurt by her attempts to separate my husband from his family in TX and place him in an environment that he's weakest in.

Anytime spent with his father always revolves around excess beer drinking. She didn't invite me or speak with me about this. I'm pretty sure she knows how I'd feel. I feel she's not respecting me and our children. We have 3. They need a healthy father. I hoped she'd support his efforts to cut back and not place a gun to his disease.

Any thoughts on how I should respond? I feel she's not being respectful of me. Please help.

Thx in advance and sorry this is so long.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sarcasm or Self-Effacing Humor Anyone?

Where I grew up, we all used sarcasm to one degree or another. Later in life, I learned how to use self-effacing humor. I would - essentially - poke fun at myself.

Also, I would use sarcasm, not a mean sarcasm, but what I considered to be a little good natured fun, a teasing, poking gentleness toward others. It was my way of showing my affection for the other person. I would do this with males and females (when I was single).

With females it is a form of flirting - this teasing thing. So I was always careful never tease a female when I was married.

At Al-Anon a few people in various meetings came up to me and asked me not to poke fun at myself. They did not like hearing me criticize myself. My response was a very "Really? Is that how you hear it?" A resounding "yes" would be the reply.

Let me give you an example of one time when I shared. I said, "Hi I'm Joe. I must be the biggest idiot in the entire eastern hemisphere because of what I did yesterday. Wait until you hear this . . . " Or something like that. I was using drama - for effect - and probably - no definitely - for laughter through being ridiculous by exaggeration.

I truly do not think I am the biggest idiot. There are far greater idiots than me.

You see, there it is again. That last sentence.

Is that sarcastic? Is that self-effacing?

The person, whom I respect very much, came up to me and said, "I like Joe. I don't like Joe criticizing Joe." Now, she is married. She isn't hitting on me. I would have thought that a LONG time ago - possibly. But she really meant what she said. Since that time, my humor is being observed to see if I do this often.

I can tell you I asked others in Al-Anon about self-effacing humor. They said, "No don't do it." My therapist, Sherpa, guide to places I am heading without a compass or map, said the same, "Stop it now."

However, there were two guys on a boat on the lake this weekend that said, "What? Self-effacing humor is great stuff. As long as you don't take it too seriously." Of course these guys are guys. These guys are a "type cast" set of guys - like the ones - from New Jersey, or Miami or boat (pronounced boat - meaning "both" - it's a NY or NJ or Miami accent - which by the way I don't have and I am neither condoning nor condemning - however - if you are in NY and you want to rumble - I will have to say "I can take on boat of yas" - meaning "both of you.").

Anyway. I am cutting back on the self-effacing humor. I am eliminating sarcasm all together.

I would like your thoughts on whether there is room for self-effacing humor in life.

This is just something - a pause

This probably has absolutely nothing to do with Al-Anon, but it may help you and help others.

I receive a lot of phone calls. Phone calls from some very bright and worldly people. But when they leave me a voice message, you would not believe the how fast they talk and how when they leave their phone number, the numbers run together and I have to jump back to the place in the voices message where they start to leave the return number. What a pain!

I wonder how many clients receive voice messages from sales people who leave their numbers and - maybe the client DOES want to return the call - but cannot understand the phone number left on their answering machine.

This last one - left by super smart guy - a Senior Vice President with a super good accent (Canadian accents are so clean and clear), but even he, as he was leaving his return number left no pauses between the area code and the next three numbers and therefore the numbers all ran together.

Instead of 800 pause 543 pause 1022, it became 8053122, or something like that.

Even after rewinding it three times - I think I got it. Someone once told me, I could slow down the voice message. Hmmmm, should I have to? Sure - if it's my boss, I guess I would have to. But shouldn't we know better?

Take your time when you leave a message. Put the pauses in there. And, repeat it again.

Maybe this is my sign of codependency kicking in or people pleasing, but it sure would be nice to have a clear number to call someone back on.