Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are you addicted to the problem?

Old joke --

Father: "Why are you banging your head against the wall?"

Son: "Because it feels so good when I stop."

Are most of us really so different when it comes to solving our problems? We actually create them and then we spend our lives flailing around trying to make them go away. In the end we are like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" - realizing we could have just clicked our glittery red shoes together instead of making such an arduous and dangerous trip.

It's not a new idea that we subconsciously seek out interactions that will force us to confront our own problems. I wish I had a dollar for every psychologist who put their kids through med school on the frustrations of clients who seek out the same kind of painful and often impossible relationships again and again. The person "can't get it through their head" that if you play with your own particular type of fire you are more than likely to get burnt. They do it again and again, try to "fix it" again and again, and too often fail.

Come to think of it I wish I had a dollar for every self-help book that's been published on this topic, too. I wish I were Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura.

It is easy to tell people addicted to pain that they should turn instead to less challenging situations. But that would be the wrong advice.

The reason we seek out challenging interactions is because we know that we have to heal. In effect we use other people as a way of pinpointing the defects in ourselves.

The way people do this, normally, is to find someone or some situation totally on the opposite end of the spectrum. Overtly they are trying to justify their own extreme-ness. Covertly they want the other person to bring them back into balance.

So for example, glamorous, shallow, attention-seeking LA lady Kim Kardashian rushes to marry a simple homebody who represents the polar, extreme opposite and who literally tells her to her face that her career in the limelight is short-lived.

The truth, if you ask me, is that Kim doesn't even like the limelight but is only trying to please her mother Kris. Who really, really does. And who has pushed Kim into an identity that is fake. And so Kim's way of "rebelling" is to find someone who disagrees with her mother's values. So that she can battle him, instead of dealing with what's eating her.

Ultimately Kim's marriage fell apart fast. She went too far, too fast in choosing Kris, and he is not going to be able to help her reach the balance that she needs. So she'll go on to the next relationship. But until she deals with the inner demons driving her, it is always, always going to be about Kim's inner conflict.

Will Kim Kardashian live the rest of her life satisfied to be a pure object for the camera, with no self, no inner life? Or will she walk away from her mother's projected expectations and discover a calling, an identity that is more meaningful and not dependent on her "assets"?

Similarly, will Kris Humphries evolve in terms of having respect for other people? Will he become respectful and gentle instead of "brutally honest" (rude) and roughly physical (throwing Kim around, shaking baby Mason in his play house)?

Only time will tell.

In a sense, it can be socially productive to try and heal yourself by finding out-of-balance situations that only you can address effectively, because you are so unbalanced in the other direction. For example, sometimes you need someone who is obsessed with rules to tighten up a loosey-goosey culture, and vice versa. (If you ever watched that show "The Odd Couple," you know what I mean - it's that Felix vs. Oscar dynamic.)

At the same time, just because an imbalance works for you, doesn't mean you should let it drive your life and use it as an excuse to avoid achieving more balance on your own - without having to be confronted by challenging people and situations. If you're walking around with your iPhone in front of you, texting all the time, then you probably ought to take it upon yourself to put the device in the drawer a few hours a day. Rather than wait for someone to tell you to stop managing by e-mail.

In the end it really comes down to two things: Choice and objectivity. You are free to choose how to live your life, but the choices you make will be vastly better if you can be objective about why you are making them.

Ultimately whether you are dealing with personal choices or business decisions that affect your brand, it is more gratifying to confront yourself and grow, rather than ignore the subconscious drives that keep you locked in the same painful patterns again and again.

Your existence on this planet is intentional - you have been placed here to accomplish a goal. You have the power to eliminate the distractions that are getting in the way. Stop wasting time looking for negative people and negative situations that you can complain about. Start focusing on what matters to you, and then go out and get it done.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

P.S. RIP Amy, I am still a huge fan.

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