Have you ever been in a situation where something happens or something is said & you react immediately, later asking the question, “Why did I do that?” or “Why did I say that?” or even “Why did I think like that?”
If you have, you are in the vast majority of human beings. I don’t know anyone who has not regretted an action, word or thought.
Why do we react?
In most cases it is the result of what we’ve been told, what we’ve experienced or how we have perceived things in our younger years (childhood).
It is learnt behaviour.
Most of the time we are able to realise when we’ve done something wrong, what is was & correct it.
But what happens if we over-react or react inappropriately almost every day?
Or even more scary, what happens if we react like this but don’t realise we’re doing it or don’t care?
If that is the case, we should perhaps begin to look more closely at our daily interactions with our friends, colleagues or family because it is an indicator that all is not well within, especially our thinking.
Over the past couple of years I have worked hard to face-up many different unhealthy responses that I have had to others, responses that I have learnt or been programmed to do since I was young. I have had to learn how to unlearn these & replace them with something more healthy. They have reigned for too long & brought with them anguish, concern, confusion & self-doubt for myself & for those around me.
This has not been a particularly easy road, as one step forward was often followed by seemingly taking two-steps back! However, with the support of friends & help of professionals it has ben possible.
The breakthrough came in identifying 3 behaviours that can almost drive me to act out a drama as I deal with others. I subconsciously play games, without realising it!
These 3 instinctive reactions have been developed through years of receiving messages from others that were too sticky & have taken their toll on me.
My 3 characters are:
- The Rescuer: Most of us have, at some time have stepped in to help someone else at a time of need. That is great & is not what I’m talking about here. The Rescuer in my case was the need to step in to help someone so that it was me who received a sense of fulfilment or a sense of worth or purpose from my action. It is an unhealthy need to be needed. The focus had shifted from genuinely wanting to help to needing to help for a sense of worth. That was unhealthy for me & for those I helped because I ran the risk of creating a co-dependency where we needed each other, instead of my help being a source of support, encouragement & release for them. This was difficult for me to identify because my natural tendency is to help where I can. However, the motives for offering that help, at times became a driving force to do it & that is where I went wrong.
- The Victim: Most of us have been on the receiving-end of some injustice. These things happen & are part of daily life. However, we can become a professional victim, abdicating any responsibility for our thoughts, words or actions. Someone is always getting at us, trying to prove us wrong, trying to undermine us, steal our friends, take control of us. But it is never our fault! Unwittingly our life becomes a battle against unseen forces: we trust no-one & even if we do, some sort of threat or danger lurks in the wings.
- The Persecutor: Every so often we come across people who love to pick on others, for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s to make themselves look better, hide a misdeed, cover up a weakness, create smoke & mirrors behind which to hide, a way of pushing the focus onto others uninvited. When we are cornered or feel trapped, this behaviour can be a simple extension of our fright & flight response. But it can also be an unconscious habit, at which point it becomes a dangerous & destructive weapon. Perhaps as children growing up we never had opportunity to make our own decisions, perhaps we had to fight to be heard, perhaps we fought & still were not heard, perhaps we tried our hardest but it was never enough. All of these (& more) have created an instinct in us that is about survival & sometimes the best way to survive or to feel some sense of control is to attack others.
Put simply, our formative years as children impact our thinking & behaviour as an adult.
Repeated, often long-term attacks on our personal values & self-esteem over the years create dysfunctional thinking & leave traits & habits which are so much a part of us that we don’t even notice them. They have truly become a habit, part of our skin; who we are.
The saddest impact of these wrong messages, perceptions & behaviours is that unless someone points them out to us (& we are able to hear & understand what is being said) we are prone to leaving a trail of confusion, anger, resentment, broken relationships & bewilderment amongst those with whom we try to form friendships & relationships.
My next blog will take a quick, simple look at what research tells us about the impact of the dramas on us & on those around us. I will also highlight some of the lessons I have learned & helpful strategies I have been able to use to bring some order & direction from the chaos that was me! 🙂
In the meantime, be encouraged: change is possible
For now, I would like to encourage you that from my own experience, the greatest & most significant step was to realise that I needed help.
The next steps were:
- finding people on whom I could rely to help
- making sure that even when things were (& still are) difficult I press on as best I can
- knowing that the only person who can change me is me.
I can listen to all the help & advice I’m given, read all the books on the subject, watch the videos & listen to the audio tapes, BUT UNLESS I RESOLVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY & HELP MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN, IT WILL NOT & I WON’T BE ANY FURTHER FORWARD THAN I AM NOW.
One of the first lessons I learned was to play my ‘ABC’ cards:
It is an exciting & sometimes scary journey, but understanding my more dysfunctional behaviour patterns & being able to change them for the better has brought a real sense of achievement, because the changes have impacted not only myself for the better, but others too.
Take care until next time when I will be continuing these thoughts …