Tag Archives: codependency

Do You Feel Like an Underdog?

Underdog

Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. The Chicago Cubs.

These are a few of the underdogs many of us have rooted for. (OK, if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan, you weren’t rooting for the Cubs, but millions of people were!) They are people who seem to have the deck stacked against them, but who persevere anyway.

Why do we love underdogs?  One idea is that we believe life should be fair, which leads us to favor the underdog. Underdogs are also perceived to work harder than their rivals. A team or entity that seems likely to lose is not, however, championed as an underdog if it has a lot of money or other resources. (retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/12/24/why-do-we-root-for-the-underdog/1699.html) That last statement might have thrown the Cubs’ underdog status in doubt, as they clearly had lots of resources at their disposal. Still, 108 years without a World Series win carried a lot of weight! [I will also say, as a side note, that it seems the statement excludes a certain presidential candidate from underdog status.]

I think another reason we root for the underdog is that we can readily identify with him or her. Of course, there are people who are used to success and expect to win, but many of us don’t. In fact, a person can easily feel like an underdog even when she isn’t one, just because she’s used to that mindset. I think experiences of being “one down,” particularly in childhood when we’re at our most impressionable, translate into a lifelong feeling of being an underdog. There is still a part of us that identifies with the powerless child we once were.

It’s no coincidence that characters like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are children fighting adults. This accentuates the seeming futility of their quests. Knowing how these stories go, we expect them to win in the end, but that doesn’t stop us from being afraid that they won’t. In cheering for them, we also cheer for ourselves and our own chances to triumph.

What are some of the challenges that you face? Do you believe that you can prevail, as you believe the novels’ protagonists (or the baseball team) can, or do you feel like you’re not good enough to rise to the challenge?

I’ve written before about Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. These ANTs tell you that you won’t come out on top. For instance, if you own a business, you question the worthiness of your product or service and wonder why anyone would want to pay you for it. If you aren’t self-employed, you feel “less than” other employees and assume someone else will always get the big project, promotion, etc.  If you’re on an online dating site, you figure that your profile will be overlooked by anyone worth dating.

The thing about ANTs is that they’re usually exaggerated or false; if there is some truth to them, there’s often something that can be done about it.

The next time you find yourself assuming you’re going to be the loser in a situation, step back and look again. Look at yourself as if you’re a friend who’s on the outside looking in. What are the chances that you’re right? Is there any truth at all to your belief? If there is, can you do something to improve your chances?

If you’re a business owner, look at your business history. Unless you’ve just started your business, I’ll assume you have succeeded in finding at least one customer or client, probably many of them. What was it that attracted them to you? Is that point of attraction still there? What can you do to make your product or service even more appealing? There’s nothing more empowering than finding specific actions that will help you to improve your chances of success.

If you’re worried that you won’t be assigned a big project or get a promotion at work, remind yourself of what has happened in the past. Have you been assigned projects or gotten promotions in the past? If so, did you rise to the challenge and do a good job? If you did, chances are good that you will continue to succeed and get noticed by your employer. Success breeds success, right? If, on the other hand, you haven’t been assigned big projects or gotten promotions (and there are projects and/or promotions to be had), or they haven’t gone well, look at what you can do to change that. Can you get more training? Can you speak up more on your own behalf? Can you take some initiative to show what you can do? If it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere in your current job, can you consider looking for another job?

And regarding online dating…as I tell my clients, there are lots of potential partners out there, and you only need to find one. What are the chances that there isn’t even one person with whom you are compatible? (Here come the ANTs again…take a moment to stomp on them. Look at this situation from the perspective of one of your friends. Would he or she say that there’s no one out there for you? Probably not!)

How will you rise to the challenge today (or maybe tomorrow)?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

 

Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.

family-separated

In my last post, I wrote about the “committee” meeting inside a person’s head; the committee is composed of all of the critical voices that bring us down and make us question ourselves. The committee is at its most powerful when we don’t talk to other people about our negative thoughts. People who grew up in dysfunctional households typically have very strong committees. The committee thrives on the three main rules in a dysfunctional family, which are “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”

First let’s look at “Don’t talk.” Members of a dysfunctional family don’t usually talk about anything important because it feels dangerous. If they talk about things below the surface, they might end up talking about Dad’s alcoholism or Mom’s verbal abuse. If they don’t talk about these things, they might be able to pretend they don’t exist.

Family members don’t talk to others about what’s going on, either, because it’s all a big secret. If it’s too dangerous to talk about things in the family, it’s even more dangerous to share them outside of the family. A dysfunctional family is very invested in making things look perfect on the outside, no matter what’s really going on. This brings us to the second rule.

The second rule that dysfunctional families follow is “Don’t trust.” Let’s say the father is an alcoholic. It’s likely that no one in the family trusts him because his behaviors are erratic, based upon whether he’s been drinking. He, in turn, doesn’t trust anyone else in the family, because they’re probably critical of his drinking, making him feel attacked.

Each member of the family feels some level of responsibility for what’s going wrong, which leads to a deep sense of shame. This shame contributes to the family’s isolation from the rest of the world. Who really wants to talk about something they’re ashamed of? It’s unfortunate that this leads to distrust of others, because people outside of the family can be helpful. They aren’t part of the family dysfunction, so they can offer a different perspective and resources that family members don’t have and probably can’t even imagine.

The third rule is “Don’t feel.” If you grow up in a dysfunctional family, you learn that your feelings usually don’t matter. Sure, you’re allowed to act happy, like nothing’s wrong. But it’s not likely that you’ll be encouraged to express feelings of sadness or fear. Expressing these things might seem to your parents to be indicators of what’s wrong in the family, and they can’t have that! Plus, they’re probably too wrapped up in their own worries to be concerned about yours. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to express feelings of anger, particularly towards your parents. And don’t forget that sharing feelings can make you vulnerable to others; this is certainly not a comfortable thing in an environment where it feels like it’s every person for him- or herself.

What happens when you stop expressing your feelings? You lose track of them entirely! I start every session of my “Discovering ‘Normal’” counseling group with a feelings check. After a lifetime of ignoring feelings, it’s hard for group members to identify what they’re feeling, so I give them a chance to practice that in group. Remember that, as uncomfortable as so-called “negative”* feelings are, we need to feel them in order to be able to feel the “positive” feelings. It’s a package deal; you can’t feel one end of the spectrum without also feeling the other.

Did you learn these three rules in childhood? Are you still following them today? If so, what can you do to change that?

 

*I often tell my clients that there are no “positive” or “negative” feelings. There are only feelings that are more or less comfortable. All feelings are needed, even sadness and anger, and all feelings can be put to positive, as well as negative, uses. Think, for instance, of the women whose anger at losing their children to drunk drivers led them to form MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). They used the energy of their anger in a positive, life affirming, way.

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Your Mind Is a Dangerous Place

Committee signs

“Your mind is a dangerous place. Don’t go in there alone.”—author unknown

For several years I worked at Chrysalis House, a residential treatment center in Crownsville, MD for women with addictions. Chrysalis House residents who spent significant amounts of time by themselves were regularly warned of the danger of “isolating.” Many of them had a problem with this, as they felt a need for time away from the other 20+ plus residents of the house. How were they to tell the difference between healthy solitude and “isolating?”

The difference, I think, lies in what is going on inside a person’s head when she’s alone. Twelve step groups speak of the “committee” meeting, meaning that a person’s unhealthy thoughts are getting the better of her. The committee causes isolation; solitude alone does not. Isolation, therefore, can happen even when a person is surrounded by other people.

What does the committee tell you? Nothing good! Here are some of the messages you may get from your committee:

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re going to fail.”

“Nobody likes you.”

“You’re unlovable.”

“You’re on your own.”

“You don’t have the right to exist.”

You’re not [thin, smart, rich…] enough.”

Do any of those sound familiar?

The committee plays a significant role in anxiety and depression. One reason that depression and anxiety tend to persist is that we use our minds to understand our world. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, your means of perceiving and interacting with the world is filtered through negative thoughts and feelings. This is the committee at work.

A great way to defy the committee is to get an outside perspective, possibly from a family member, a friend, a therapist, or a member of the clergy. He or she will be able to look at your situation more objectively and help you to see the flaws in your internal logic. If you are self-critical, talking to someone who cares about you will help to cut the committee down to size.

The committee uses a variety of techniques, often called cognitive distortions, to make you feel inadequate or just plain wrong. These cognitive distortions can also be called Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. There are different types of ANTs, including mind reading; fortune telling/catastrophizing; a negative mental filter; maximizing and minimizing; and all or nothing/black and white thinking. For more information on ANTs and how to “stomp” on them, sign up for my free “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” e-course by filling out the form on this page.

Adult Role Plays

Angry Woman Yelling At Husband

If you think you’ve escaped the role(s) you played growing up in your dysfunctional family, think again! Unless you’ve deliberately worked on escaping these unhealthy patterns, you are no doubt repeating them in adulthood or even taking on new ones.

A quick review from my last post: the roles in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family are the chief enabler (generally a spouse), the family hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to look at it so you know what these roles entail.

Many adult children of alcoholics unintentionally marry alcoholics themselves. They unconsciously see something familiar in their prospective partners. They tend not to notice red flags early in the relationship that indicate that they are involved with someone who is probably an alcoholic. They may eventually find themselves falling into the role their mother or father once played, that of the chief enabler. If you’re in this role, you may make excuses for your partner’s drinking, try to control his/her drinking, do your best to make the family look functional to the outside world, and feel resentful about everything you do because of your partner’s problem.

If, while growing up, you were the family hero, you have probably carried perfectionism and high achievement into adulthood. This gets you praise, promotions, and other kudos, but you probably still feel inadequate. It’s likely you think that if people only knew the real you, they wouldn’t admire and like you so much.

If you were the scapegoat, you may have internalized the idea that you were bad and that you were responsible for everything that went wrong. If you continue that role as an adult, you will still identify yourself as a problem. This may show up in different ways; you might be an alcoholic or drug addict, or you may even get in trouble with the law. But being a scapegoat doesn’t have to be this extreme. You may, for instance, marry someone who constantly criticizes you, triggering those familiar feelings from when you were growing up. You may also attract critical attention at work or elsewhere. This serves to reinforce the negative image you already have of yourself.

If you were the lost child, you probably continue to try to be invisible even as an adult. At work, you may not speak up even when you have good ideas. You may marry someone who is domineering, with you disappearing in his shadow. You probably go along to get along, agreeing with friends, family members, and coworkers in order to avoid making waves. You do your best to maintain peace.

If you were the mascot, you may be very outgoing, someone who is well-liked by many because of your charms. You love being the center of attention and make an excellent party host or hostess. You’re happy to share ideas at work and in personal situations, because you are confident that they will be well-received. You are not likely to be willing to acknowledge the bad or difficult aspects of life.

Which of these roles have you played in adulthood? Are they the same or different than the ones you played growing up? What do you like about your role(s), and what would you like to change?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Role Plays

Father Sits On Sofa With Children Smoking And Drinking

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family such as the ones I described in my last post, you fit one or more of the roles that are characteristic of these families. What role(s) did you play?

The first role, the chief enabler, was probably filled by one of your parents. If, say, your father was an alcoholic, it is likely that your mother covered up for him (calling his job, for instance, and saying he was sick when he was actually hung over). She did her best to make sure everything in the family appeared normal and happy to those outside the family. She also probably nagged your father repeatedly, trying to get him to give up drinking; no doubt she complained to him and to everyone else in the family about what she had to put up with.

Kids in dysfunctional families take on one or more of the other roles: the family hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. The same child may take on more than one role depending upon the situation. Each of these roles distracts from the family dysfunction in some way.

The family hero is the family success story. She is a high achiever who does her best to make her parents proud of her. It’s likely that she not only gets good grades, but also participates in multiple extra-curricular activities. While she gains the admiration of many outside the family, she will feel like she can never be good enough for her parents.

The scapegoat is the child who gets in trouble the most, often for being disrespectful, not doing well in school, possibly skipping school and/or drinking and using drugs. This is the child who seems to be the problem in the family; she is the one whose parents may take her to therapy, asking that the therapist fix her, when the real problem is the whole family system. She will, understandably, probably feel like a disappointment to the family.

The lost child is the one who tries to blend into the woodwork. She does everything she can not to rock the boat. While she craves positive attention, she is afraid of negative attention, so she tries to stay out of the way and be as invisible as possible. The lost child can seem a bit like the family hero if being successful is the best way to avoid unwanted attention from her parents. She may feel like she’s not worthy of existence and doesn’t deserve to take up space.

The mascot is usually the youngest child, often fitting the stereotype of the baby of the family. She tries to take attention away from the family’s dysfunction by being happy and fun, generally trying to make it look as if everything is OK. Later, if her siblings talk about the things that happened to them while they were growing up, she may deny that these things happened; she may even believe that they didn’t.

Which of these roles did you and your siblings take on? How did that affect you as you were growing up? And, just as importantly, how does that affect you now?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Early Losses

Little Girl On Swing

The losses I mentioned in my last post are, of course, not the only ones. For instance, what about the loss of things or people you never actually had? Do you consciously feel a sense of loss in those cases, or maybe just a vague sense that something is not right, or do you never even think about the fact that your “normal” is not that of most people?

I’m thinking particularly of the loss of a parent’s love and attention. Some children, for instance, have parents die before they’re born, or early enough in their lives that they don’t remember them.

Death isn’t the only way to lose a parent, though. I mentioned divorce in my previous post, in the sense of losing a spouse. But divorce also affects children. If divorced parents don’t share custody of their children, one parent may essentially be lost, even if he has not died. At times one parent will desert the family and rarely, if ever, be heard from again.

These are pretty obvious losses; one or both parents is/are physically absent. What happens, though, when a parent is physically, but not emotionally, present? Some possible reasons for this are chronic mental or physical illness, alcoholism or some other addiction, and frequent absences from home (traveling for business or working late, for instance).

Let’s look at chronic mental or physical illness first. Actor Alan Alda said, “I was a child, and my mother was psychotic. She loved me, but I didn’t really feel I had a mother. And when you live with somebody who is paranoid and thinks you’re trying to kill them all the time, you tend to feel a little betrayed.” He had a mother who was physically present in his life, but she was unable to give him the positive attention he deserved. In this case, the adult, rather than the child, became the focus of attention in the family.

Your parent doesn’t have to be psychotic for this to apply, though. Many times I’ve had a client talk to me about having a mother who was so depressed that she didn’t leave her bedroom for days on end; she didn’t take care of the kids or the house, so it became their job to do so. This can also happen with a parent whose chronic physical illness renders her unable to care for her kids the way they need her to do.

And then there’s the alcoholic parent. What do you do when your father is as likely to be drunk as not, and your mother focuses all of her attention on trying to fix him? What is left for the children? Not much. What they get, instead, is unpredictability and emotional and/or physical danger.

It’s possible for none of these things to be true, but for a child to nevertheless not have her needs met. There are parents who are too self-absorbed or too busy to parent their children. Or they may suffer from anxiety or a type of low-grade depression called dysthymia. In this case, it’s not as apparent that something is wrong. The parents are not obviously mentally or physically ill, but still they are unable, or unwilling, to give their children positive attention.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios? If so, you may want to read books on the subject and/or seek counseling to work through the issues that have resulted from your loss(es).

There are many books that may help you to better understand yourself and overcome the effects of your childhood. One is my book, Me Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself. Many other helpful books can be found in the “Resources” section at the end of the book.

If this post did resonate with you, what will you do to help yourself overcome the effects your childhood has had upon you?

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

When Facebook Isn’t Your Friend

I have several clients who are considering deleting their Facebook accounts. Shocking, isn’t it?

You know the benefits of Facebook. You can reconnect with friends from the past. (For instance, how many of you, like me, are now connected to people you hadn’t heard from since high school?) You can also keep up with the goings-on of people who are closer to you. And don’t forget all of those cute pictures of children and pets!

If you want to be outraged, there’s usually at least one link to an article about something really bad someone did to someone else. There are article links you may find funny or helpful, as well. There are posts that make statements you agree with, and ones you don’t (which you can critique, of course). There are as many quizzes as you have time for (“Which ‘Big Bang Theory’ character are you?” “What color best represents you?” etc.)

So what’s not to love? One thing is the amount of potentially productive time that is swallowed up by Facebook. You know you’ve done it—spent time on Facebook when you could have been doing something that actually needed to be done, or even something that you wanted to do. Sometimes, if you’re like some of my clients, part of that time is spent “cyber-stalking” old boyfriends or girlfriends, even though the “stalker” knows it’s best to just move on. It’s so tempting, though, and so easy to do…

The main complaint that I have heard from clients, though, is that Facebook doesn’t represent reality. People post their triumphs, their happy photos, and their “Aren’t I silly?” moments. They post things they’re doing that no one would have asked about. Sometimes they post updates about their health or that of their loved ones.

But where are the posts about their failures? How many people have you seen admitting to having wronged someone? How many people say, “I have a drinking problem and I’m afraid I can’t stop” or “I treat my spouse and children badly on a daily basis” or “I’m lost and don’t know what to do with my life”?

We know that Facebook generally isn’t the place for really deep self-revelation. For someone with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or a history of trauma, though, reading Facebook posts can make it seem as though she’s the only one who doesn’t have it all together. Everyone else leads a successful, happy life; she’s the only one who doesn’t get it. What is she doing wrong? Where’s the missing rulebook for life? These thoughts can make a lonely person even lonelier, or a person who feels broken feel even more so.

I’m not saying that you should abandon Facebook, but take some time to think about it and what it represents. Remember that if you base your opinion of others’ lives on their Facebook posts, you will get a very distorted picture. And, as always, remember not to compare your insides to someone else’s outside!

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

What’s Wrong With You?

Woman looking through dirty broken glass

Probably a lot less than you think!

If you grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family, there’s a good chance you grew up feeling like you were just plain wrong or unfixably broken.

In your early childhood, when you still believed the world revolved around you, you learned to feel responsible for everything that went on in your family. At that age, you were entirely dependent upon your parents, so you couldn’t risk thinking there was something wrong with them. Instead, you decided there must be something wrong with you. Why else wouldn’t (or couldn’t) they meet your needs, including your need to be seen, loved, and nurtured?

Many people, rather than learning as they grow up that they are not really failures, continue to listen, without realizing it, to that hurt, self-defeating child inside.

This generally leads to a continued negative self-image; you notice your faults, but not your positive qualities. You make a big deal about the times you mess up, but barely notice the times you do something right. Even though you don’t really want to feel this way, it’s comfortable, because it’s what you’re used to.

You can change these negative thinking patterns, although it will take time. I’ve created a free 5-part e-course called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Five Simple Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life” that will help you recognize and change your negative self-talk. You can sign up for it here.

It is actually possible to rewire your brain so you can think differently about yourself. Give it a try—what have you got to lose?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

Don't Believe Everything You Think

Have you ever stopped to notice that not everything you think is correct? That’s a thought that doesn’t often come to us, because our brains are the only interpreters we have of what’s going on in the world. Of course we believe what we think!

Automatic Negative Thoughts (abbreviated ANTs) are  particularly destructive thoughts that need to be noticed and disbelieved. Let’s look at five types of ANTs: mind reading, fortune telling/ catastrophizing, negative mental filter, maximizing/ minimizing, and black and white/all or nothing thinking. I’ll use examples of potential ANTs I might encounter regarding my book, “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself.

Let’s look at mind reading first. Mind reading is something many of us learn early in life, often as a defense mechanism; we try to guess what other people are thinking. We can become convinced that we know what they’re thinking, not considering the possibility that our guesses might be wrong.

How might the mind reading ANT mess with my head regarding my book? Authors can be very insecure about the reception their books will receive. If I engage in mind reading in this situation, the ANT might say, “You know that people don’t like your book, don’t you? When they read it, they realize that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. The only people who are saying positive things about it are people who want to make you feel good.”

That brings us to the next ANT: fortune telling or catastrophizing. This ANT tells you that you know what’s going to happen in the future and that it’s going to be bad. In the case of my book, this ANT might say, “This book is going to be disastrous for your career. Not only will you not sell many books, but prospective clients who read it will decide not to work with you because they’ll think you’re incompetent.”

The third ANT is a negative mental filter. This will filter out all of the positives in the situation and only look at the negatives. For example, my book is available for sale on Amazon.com, and has been reviewed there. All except one of those reviews have been very positive, but if I use a negative mental filter, I will not notice all of the positive reviews; I will only look at the single critical review I received. The ANT will whisper in my ear, “Look at that negative review! That person didn’t enjoy your book or find it particularly useful. I told you that you never should have written it!”

ANT number four is maximizing/minimizing. Similar to the negative mental filter, this ANT will make any negatives seem huge and any positives seem very small. This ANT might whisper, “Ignore those people who said positive things about how much your book has helped them. I’m sure it wasn’t really that helpful. Think of all of the people who read your book but didn’t review it; I’ll bet they didn’t get anything good out of it at all, but they were too nice to say anything. Those people are the majority of the people who read your book, not the positive ones.”

Black and white, all or nothing thinking is the fifth ANT I will talk about here. This ANT sees things only one way. Things are either all good or all bad; there is no gray area. This ANT might whisper, “Writing that book was a total waste of time. Think of all of the hours you spent writing and revising it. There are a lot more useful things you could have done with that time. A book is only worth writing if it sells hundreds of thousands of copies, and there’s no way that’s going to happen with your book.”

You’ve probably fallen victim to each of these ANTs at one time or another. The important thing is to start to notice the ANTs whispering in your ear and to find positive responses to challenge the negative thoughts. The more you do this, the easier it will be, and the more likely that the positive thoughts will be the first ones that come to mind.

I have created a five-part e-course called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Five Simple Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life.” You can sign up for that e-course at www.BeallPastoralCounseling.com. You can find out more about my book and order it by visiting www.FindYourMeTime.com. And by the way, those ANTs are lying; the book really is an invaluable resource that you will enjoy reading!

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Leave Me Alone!

Loki and Willow 2

We have a new kitten, named Loki, in our house. He has been a source of laughter, delight, and fun for our family. Everyone in the household loves him, with one exception: our older cat, Willow, who hisses, growls, and swats at him when he gets too close to her.

Being a kitten, Loki doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Despite Willow’s very clear “Leave me alone!” messages, Loki continues to chase her and pounce on her, wanting to play.

You may know people who are like Loki, who can’t take a hint that you want them to leave you alone. For instance, someone who is romantically interested in you may persistently pursue you even though you’ve tried to make it quite clear that you’re not interested in him.  What can you do to get him to stop bothering you?

Lana found herself in this situation.  One of her coworkers, Colin, wanted her to go on a date with him, but she wasn’t attracted to him. She thought he was a nice guy, though, and she didn’t really want to hurt his feelings.

At first she tried telling him white lies, like “I’m busy on Saturday.” That didn’t work, because then he just asked her about other days. Then she told him she didn’t believe in dating coworkers, which led to him giving her a list of reasons why it wasn’t a problem. When she told him she’d just gotten out of a serious relationship and wasn’t ready for a new one, he waited a couple of weeks and then started to pursue her again.

Lana finally realized that making up fake excuses wouldn’t work, because Colin would always come up with counterarguments. Much as she didn’t want to hurt Colin, it seemed she’d gotten to the point where she had no other choice but to tell him the truth. So the next time he asked her out she told him that she just wasn’t attracted to him and that the reasons she’d given before were just excuses.

This didn’t stop Colin either. He figured that she just didn’t know him well enough yet and that she could become attracted to him in time.  Every time he approached her, though, she repeated that she wasn’t interested in him romantically and never would be.

Unlike Loki with Willow, Colin did finally get Lana’s message, and they eventually went back to being just friendly coworkers again.

Is there anyone in your life like Loki? Have you been telling white lies to get that person to leave you alone? Is it time to come out and be honest with that person? If so, how will you do it? What will you say?

Remember that in the long run honesty is better for both of you; don’t feel guilty because you don’t share the other person’s feelings or point of view. It is your right to feel the way you feel, just as it is the other person’s right to feel the way he or she feels. You are not obligated to change your actions to fit someone else’s feelings.

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.