Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Issue is not the Issue

Its in the struggle that we find our strength.

"Stress" is an emotional response to external stressors. Understanding this helped me to understand the difference between being able to bounce back from life issues vs breaking under the weight of what I'd carried as a survivor of really bad things. (SRBT:))

Its like my emotional resilience is a rubber band that balances the events called "life". 

If I only have life experiences that allow me to develop minimal emotional resiliency I won't have the ability to bounce back from normal, let alone abnormal, life experiences. 

In essence I have a very thin, weak rubber band instead of a bunch of rubberbands that I'd gathered through many different life experiences that would hold heavier burdens of life.

My thin rubber band will easily bend and bow to the weight of the burden it is holding and in time become frayed or even snap. 

As a survivor of childhood nastiness and parents who did not have their own healthy, strong emotional bunch of rubber bands developed from extended and consistant use of their emotional muscles, they passed to me not only the burden of being responsible for making their emotional stress levels easier to manage but they also modeled this way of managing - ie not managing via avoiding - levels of stress.

In other words - I learned that my survival depended on my ability to do the dance and "make" my adult parents "ok" and that I was safe only when I eased their emotional stress by not allowing myself to experience any of my own emotions in response to my own life stressors and experiences. 

Because -  of course - a child's emotional needs become a stressor to parents who don't understand that emotions are normal and that their child isn't doing anything "to" them.  

My parents modeled "stress management" by the way they engaged with life through avoidance/control coping instead of embracing life experiences and learning from them.

I did did not learn of or that I was capable of developing emotional resilience because my parents modeled emotional avoidance and punished emotional expression.

So as a child, then teen and finally adult - when I felt powerless over my thoughts, feelings and emotions I saw the stressors of life - the people, places, things and circumstances outside of myself as the problem and - avoidance of stressors the solution.

Life was my problem. 

Avoidance in any way, shape or form was the solution.

The downside?

Trying to control how I feel by controlling things outside of my control created a very tight and limited life experience.

I could not tolerate the downside of life but whats more - is I typically could not engage in the positive life experiences or emotions either.

And this became overwhelmingly exhausting - to the point that eventually I completely shut down and wore myself out physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I could no longer cope because I had exhausted all of the coping skills I had access to.

My rubberband was stretched to the max and quickly being stretched beyond its limited capacity.

The other downside?

My efforts to avoid things I couldn't control often left me feeling even more powerless.

When I could no longer control people places and things to be "ok" when I created ways to avoid this stress through

acting out...

where I attempted to control others by blaming them for causing my distress and demanding that they adjust so I could continue to avoid my feelings of powerlessness or escape by running away from situations that were less than my ideal.

I blamed life circumstances for the state of my miserable life.

I could not see that I held the power to change my circumstances by changing my choices - because I did not know I had any other choices or the power to choose.

And acting in...

where I went when I was overwhelmed with trying to do this dance.

It was when I learned to see these life experiences as life lessons

that I learned that I could grow.

It was in embracing the emotional responses to past stressors that I began to live beyond the pain of the past.

My magical thinking from a childhood that required me to adapt to those who controlled my survival had left me ill prepared to understand the very grown up understanding that 

Life Happens. 

When my focus became learning to be ok in spite of what was going on around me is when my need to act out, lash out, run away or freeze...

simply ceased to be an issue.

When I began to see the life issues that could send me spinning...were really 

not the issue.

But that the issue was how I'd learned to see myself as powerless...

is when I began to see that I was no longer a victim and that I could learn to live far beyond survival, coping, managing and in general - avoiding life and the feelings my today life could trigger from my past life where I truly was powerless. 

What I've come to understand is that my expectation that life be perfect in order for me to be ok is a normal response to living in and coming from an environment that told me I was less than, incapable, defective, broken, never enough AND if life wasn't perfect -it was because of something I'd done; it was my fault.

This healing thing is a journey and sometimes I used to think that because I wasn't perfect I was therefore not enough; I wasn't good enough, couldn't do anything right enough to finally be accepted.

I dried up; I didn't know who I was or how to find "me" in the mess that had become my life; I'd been stuck in that dance of dependence for so long I didn't know if I'd ever find my way out. 

I was still waiting for someone to pat me on the head, toss some holy water over each shoulder and announce to the world that I was no longer broken; I was waiting for permission to exist.

What I've since learned is that in finding my power by learning to recognize why I felt so broken and how it showed up in my life is how I've come to realize that I'm not broken at all.

Just wounded.

And in finding this truth I found the power to find and heal myself by learning to recognize that when I'm lost in life's issues....

thats really not the issue.

In other words...the issue is not that life is my problem...

but in how I've learned to engage with life as it happens.

Learning to live beyond that place of broken is the hard work of this healing journey.

Its where I learned to fly.

The Story of the Emperor Moth tells of a man who desperately wanted to "help" this magnificent being to escape the bondage of its chrysalis. When we try to avoid the struggle is when we are most easily crippled.

This is how we do it... talks about how I discovered what the "hard work" was and how I came to understand that to go through the pain was the only way out of it.

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!


Rita Brooks said...

When I was in a Psycotic Episode, what I prefer to call "my awakening" I wrote that "we are here to teach and to learn." That was the beginning of my journey to recovery. now when I am dealing with adifficult issues I ask myself, "what is the lesson I am to learn from this event?" This method of dealing with stress has been life altering for me.

Susan said...

Rita; I so agree. It was when I began to see life as my teacher instead of my problem that I began to live beyond the struggle. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom!