Thursday, February 14, 2013
Self-Acceptance...it's a good thing, no? It's one of those goals we all strive for as we travel the path to maturity and well being. I was thinking about the term and decided something didn't quite feel complete. Being a word nerd I looked up the dictionary definition and here it is:
1.the act of taking or receiving something offered.
2.favorable reception; approval; favor.
3.the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.
4.the fact or state of being accepted or acceptable.
I don't know about you but this sounds a little less than enthusiastic. Not much passion or joy is implied here is there? Kind of like a 'I'll take what I can get' feel to it. There is clearly a sense of something being at least okay, tolerable. I think we can admit that accepting something, or someone, as being okay is indeed better than revulsion dislike or hatred.That is why acceptance is the first step we take as we learn to heal. We have to move past defeat, guilt and/or self loathing to the next phase which is to acknowledge that we are okay.
But it shouldn't end there. I think that for some of us, for me anyway, we kind of become contented in the acceptance stage. Maybe we start to take ourselves for granted as someone we can live with, or tolerate...but come on can't we do better for ourselves than that?
Think about it this way, if someone you care about very much introduced you to their new partner and the partner said "oh I can accept them" would you think the relationship had a snowballs chance in hell of evolving into a lasting and devoted relationship? Probably not. Wouldn't you likely find yourself thinking that your loved one could 'do better than that'? We hope and expect that our loved ones will be loved and respected in the way we believe they deserve, and we expect that love and respect to come from someone else.
When you think about it who on earth do we have the only guaranteed lasting relationship with? Ourselves! From cradle to grave there is one human being you will wake up with, get through the day with, rely on to make all the decisions and suffer or enjoy the consequences...it's you.
We think of a relationship as something that involves two or more people, but in reality we have a relationship with ourselves. Most of our daily survival needs, eating, dressing, bathing, etc. are self administered (as long as we are physically able) Our personal thoughts are conversations with our self. We have private jokes that only we understand. We even have conflict; sometimes. Quite often our mind, heart and body are not on the same page and we must negotiate a compromise. Each persons perspective or perception is so unique that there we truly do have our own version of any story in our history.
We spend so much time and energy in our lifetimes examining and perfecting our relationships with other people, but how often do we even consciously acknowledge the relationship with ourselves, much less actually put any thought or effort into that relationship.
In this this most vital relationship that is essential to our survival why is it so difficult to actually feel Love? It sounds corny and maybe even a little weird, I know. When we hear the term 'self love' most of us probably think of masturbation..We think of self love with a lower case 'l', not of self Love.
So let's think a bit about ideal love and partnership. What would we expect in terms of how we would want to be treated and how we would treat another. What do you have to offer to your lifetime companion?
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard
Saturday, February 9, 2013
In the words of my Grandma and Grandmas everywhere, "there is a time and a place for everything".
I'll admit that a while back our society had become a little over zealous with political correctness, almost to the point of absurdity. I think that's beginning to level out, leaving behind a healthy awareness of how we use words to describe other people and their life circumstances.
I will also admit that I do possess a rather dark sense of humor and will sometimes say things that would seem shocking, insensitive and in generally poor taste to the average person. In fact, I say things that even I consider to be in poor taste but when I do it is within context and with people who understand my sense of humor. There are some jokes that are reserved for a select few friends and family who 'get it'. They know me well enough to know that the humor is way of buffering a subject or incident that is probably incredibly painful. They know that I have come to a point where I can no longer feel the raw truth and need a way out or I will become overwhelmed with despair or worse, anger. Social Workers, Medical professionals, police officers and others who work with the darkest, most depraved examples of the human condition all understand this phenomena. So do most survivors. In a way we have license to use this brand of humor, much in the same way that lesbians can call themselves dykes, or blacks can say 'nigga' (although there is some disagreement on the use of those terms within those communities)
There are some words and phrases I see thrown around rather frequently that seem to take hold as quick and easy multi-use reactions. Some of them are just lazy, some are irritating and others can be outright hurtful. But because they are so ubiquitous and so handy we use them without giving much thought to their meaning or origin. Here are a few of the most frequent and offensive examples.
"I got raped by the IRS"~ No you did not. Rape is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can endure. Paying taxes does not even come close.
"Don't drink the kool-aid"~ Maybe you're too young to remember Jonestown. Maybe you don't even know that's the origin of that expression. It was one of the most horrific mass murder/suicides in history. Look it up.
"Are you crazy/ O.C.D/ dyslexic?"~ Maybe I am. Maybe someone close to me is. It's something that people have to cope with every single day of their lives, making adjustments and accommodations just to function. It sucks.
"They must be on crack"~ I'm pretty open about my drug history and I will tell you that of all the drugs I've toyed with crack is the most devastating. If there is such a thing as Evil, it is crack.
I'm not trying to censor anyone and I repeat I have a pretty grimy sense of humor myself but I do think that when we throw around statements like this we need to be aware of what it is we are referring to. Words do have power and people have secrets that they choose to keep personal and private. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women has been a victim of some degree of sexual assault. The chances are you know someone who has been raped, even if you don't know it, so when you decide to complain about your taxes (or anything else) think about your choice of words. You never know who you might be hurting. Thank You.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard
Posted by Jennifer Hazard at 11:26 AM
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
I did it to myself again...I froze my brain. And not by walking in the cold Wisconsin winter weather either. Nope. What I did was write an impassioned post expressing my concerns about the public perception of mental illness, and then I ended by saying that I had so much more to say on the topic that I was going to write a follow up post. I even had the chutzpah to call the last post #1, implying that I would soon create a brilliant and equally impassioned sequel. I was so riled up, so certain that I had much more to say about this urgent and socially relevant topic that there was no way I could possibly get all that information and opinion in one singular post. I was on a mission!
Two weeks later I have two unfinished and unfocused drafts and I feel like I have painted myself into a corner. I have developed an acute performance anxiety that strikes only when I dare to commit myself to following through on...anything. After all these years I should know myself better.
Of course one could argue that challenging one's demons is probably a noble gesture, or that it's good practice that may lead to changing one's self defeating patterns. The latter is probably true, but so is forgiving ourselves when we don't quite succeed.
I don't know what it is about committing to something, anything, that has this power to completely slam me into a deadlock. I do have a couple of theories.
One is fear of failure. If I say I'm going to do something then people will have some sort of expectation attached to that promise. I will have no way of knowing what that expectation involves and therefore will be doomed to let someone down (this is my irrational thinking, mind you..not what I really believe)
Two, a promise infers a kind of deadline which translates in my mind to the realm of "should" which is a close cousin to the notion of authority, which automatically causes me to recoil. Is this a giant leap off the track of logical thought? Don't ask me, it's how my brain works, it's all I know. But all this circular thinking does bring me conveniently back to my original intent, to talk about mental health diagnoses.
My crazy train of thought and belief could easily be labeled as Attention Deficit Disorder, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or maybe even some level of Social Anxiety. But when it comes right down to it I'm not all that different than most people I know. When they are honest about their thoughts and feelings many people describe similar traits. Some people manage them more effectively. Some people have a kind of kill switch that easily overrides these worries and the resistance that they feel. Other people are more introverted and would be terrified of sharing personal thoughts and feelings all over the internet. But you know what, that's okay. We are all okay. For the most part none of these worrisome little thought patterns hurts anyone, not at this level anyway.
The bottom line is that there is great diversity in human thought, emotion and consciousness and I'm pretty sure we evolved that way for a reason. It brings with it a diversity of talent and capability for life's essential tasks; different tasks require different abilities and specialized ways of interacting with out environment. But it seems that as we move into a predominately service oriented society and as more industries adopt a hierarchical corporate model of structure and management the limits of acceptable behavior and cognitive processing are becoming narrowed, more specific, more controlled. Creative thinking, so called 'distracted thinking' and questioning authority has no place in this world. So what do we do? Rather than making adjustments in the workplace to accommodate the diversity, we attempt to fit people into a model that does not fit. And if it doesn't work out, then it's our fault for not fitting in. And because we love to have reasons and explanations for things that don't work out the way we want, we look for a cause of the problem. We assess and diagnose and label them as somehow deficient.
Of course we also like solutions too, and the easier and faster the better. So we have pills for that. We also like profit in this culture, and oh boy is there profit to be made from those pills! Now everybody's happy, right?
Wrong. I was taking an ssri (anti-depressant) for a couple of years. Granted when I first started taking it I was in the midst of more major life crises than most people would experience in a decade, they just all kind of piled up at one time. The medication did help me get through a very difficult time and I am grateful for that. It also, I noticed, made me a very focused and docile employee. Hmmm, interesting side effect. This made me wonder if the popularity and frequent recommendation for use of these medications isn't somehow linked to that quality. Now I know this borders on sounding a bit paranoid, a bit like maybe I read "Brave New World" one too many times, but is it such a stretch really? Think about all the school age children in overcrowded understaffed classrooms, all with needs of their own, who are given amphetamines or other Attention Deficit medication because they are more focused, i.e. less disruptive to the class and easier to manage.
Do I think there is some evil plan to turn us all into a nation of compliant well behaved automatons? I certainly hope not. But regardless of whether this is some master plan at social engineering or merely an unintended consequence of an attempt to make life easier the potential outcome is the same. Creativity is stifled, diversity and unique traits are eliminated and, most frightening, peoples health is put at risk. This is especially true for youth who, when medicated through the most significant social and emotional stages of life, miss the opportunity to learn how to self regulate and manage challenging emotions and social situations.
Finally, because I know it will come up at some point, I will say that there are indeed situations where medication can be life saving. For people with schizophrenia and other psychoses it can make the difference between living in a bizarre world where there is no line between the reality we perceive and the often terrifying reality they experience or being reasonably functional . Even then, the side effects of these medications are often horrible and many of them take a toll on major organs like the nervous system kidneys and liver. I think that we owe it to humanity and to the individuals who experience these terrifying and disabling conditions to continue to research and explore other treatments and ways of managing daily life, because all too often it is medication and only medication that is offered as the means to manage their lives.
And for the rest of us who are all unique individuals designed for some purpose in this life I truly hope that we can begin to embrace our qualities, our differences and our quirks and that we are able to utilize them as we co create a world where we are all valued and useful. I truly believe that is the master plan.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard