Recovering from Over-Doing

Two years ago, in a The Seeker’s Dungeon prompt, Sreejit asked us to fill in the blank in this sentence: “I am a Recovering _________.” There was no doubt in my mind what my behavior would be. If I was at a 12 Step meeting, I would say: “Hi! I am Karuna, and I am a recovering over-doer.”

As I thought about how I would present this topic, I decided to create a new mental health disorder. My fictitious disorder is called “Being versus Doing Disorder.”

The “Being vs Doing disorder” is on a continuum where the center, a balance between being and doing, is the healthy portion of the continuum. The more someone moves to either end of the continuum, the more likely it is they will have dysfunction in their lives.

When I think of the over-being end of the continuum I think of non-productivity, passivity, and lack of motivation. I don’t know as much about that part of the spectrum since I have almost no personal experience there. I have seen it at work in some of my psychotherapy clients and friends though.

Over-doing has many facets. It commonly begins in childhood when the only or main way to get positive attention from parents is to do impressive things. It also develops when parents criticize their children anytime they are relaxing or are doing things the parents consider nonproductive.

As a result, adults with an over-doing disorder may be seeking validation and praise for what they accomplish. An over-doer is also likely to be a rescuer. As such, they do things they aren’t asked to do and are likely to do things they don’t want to do. In addition, they do more than their share of the work that needs to be done and do things for other people that they could do for themselves. Those with this “disorder’ are likely to over-commit and seem incapable of being still.

Over-doing has been a major characteristic of my adult life. At one point, I was raising two children, working three jobs, doing my personal therapy and studying for a PhD. During my therapy, I realized I didn’t want a PhD, I was just seeking attention from the father, who had disowned me. I stopped my schooling but was still overdoing. Before long, I began to experience extreme exhaustion and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

With CFS, I was in survival mode and it was impossible for me to do as much as I had been doing, although I still tried to. When it began dissipating after five years, I went back to over doing. There is no doubt that a part of me believed it was only acceptable for me to stop if I was sick. Eventually I developed high blood pressure and other physical problems.

I reached a point where I had to cut back on all of my commitments. Nowadays, I am putting my emphasis on doing the things I want to do, and am saying no to many requests. I still have trouble with “simply being” but I no longer am into major over-doing. I hope some day I will be much closer to the center of the being-doing continuum.

At one point, I realized a behavior that really fueled my over-doing disorder was the desire to be “in the know.” That put me in the place of being asked for information that I didn’t want to share, which then created stress, whether I shared it or not. As I continue to slow down, I am finding myself holder of less information. I am loving responding to requests with “I’m not in that loop anymore. You will have to ask someone else.”

I learned many skills during my over-doing years. When friends of mine were in a life and death crises, I stepped in to help immediately. There is a time and place for those skills, but it takes discrimination to use them correctly. In that instance, I have no doubt that my choices were appropriate.

I am very committed to my recovery from over-doing. While I may find myself immersed in the old behaviors from time to time, I don’t think I will ever be drawn so deep into them again. I see what I am doing much sooner and and change course when needed.

In evaluating myself on the scale found in Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters, I find I am in generally in Chapter 4 or 5.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Every time I walk around an invitation to over-do or avoid putting myself in the situation where I know I am going to be tempted, I consider my choice worthy of celebration! I am truly moving towards a life of balance.

Do you have a “Being vs Doing” disorder? Where do you fall on the continuum? How does it disrupt your life?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This post was originally published on April 12, 2015

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Letting Go of Suffering- Week Seventeen: Lighten Up!

The more we become immersed in suffering, the more difficult it may be to get out of it. Sometimes it may feel as if we are being pulled down into muck. In this course, you have learned many techniques for letting go of suffering. This last lesson will be about consciously working to “Lighten Up!”

One of the ways to lighten up is to do things that will make you laugh. Decades ago, I gave one of my psychotherapy clients a toy frog and encouraged her to carry it around with her when she was suffering. She was irritated with me at the time, but soon thereafter brought clown noses to group and distributed them. She wore hers whenever she realized she was suffering and found that it helped her to lighten her mood. I imagine seeing her also helped lighten the mood of a lot of other people!

Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we were suffering about. When we say those statements that way, they may lead to laughter instead of suffering.

Another way to lighten up is to talk about the problems that are bringing us down in a dramatic and highly exaggerated way. This past December, I was at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India when the the Western residents performed their annual Christmas play. There was a point in that play when an actor portrayed his suffering in a way that resulted in the audience bursting into laughter. To me, the scene and the song that went with it, are a perfect example of this type of lightening up. Listen to the song and see if it might be a useful tool for you to use in the future!

You may also help yourself to lighten by going for a walk, immersing yourself in  nature, going to a movie, reading a book, watching a funny movie, or listening to music.  In the balloons below, write your favorite ways of lightening up.

Every day this week, spend some time practicing ways to lighten your mood. At the end of the day, journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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As I mentioned in the beginning, this is the last lesson in the Letting Go of Suffering series. Thanks so much for participating in all or part of it. I hope you find the tools you have learned during the last seventeen weeks helpful in your life journey.

Sometime this week, I will be publishing a post that will provide links to all of the lessons, and will put a widget on the sidebar that will link to that list. I will also be publishing a poll asking some feedback questions.

 

To find all of the lessons in this series click here.

Photo Credits: Pixabay.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Twelve: Using Contracts to Heal

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A contract is usually an agreement between two or more people but you can also use contracts to make agreements with yourself. It is a structure that can be invaluable when you are serious about making changes in your life.

Here are some examples of this type of contract:

Example #1

Problem: I work 65 hours a week

Contract: I will work no more than 50 hours a week for the next month and will reduce my work time to 45 hours a week after that.

 

Example #2

Problem: I constantly criticize myself.

Contract: Every time I am self-critical, I will internally say the affirmation “I am worthy of respect. I will not harm myself by thought, word or deed.”

 

Example #3

Problem: I eat when I am not hungry.

Contract: For the next week, I will record every time I am tempted to eat when I’m not hungry. Next to the date and time, I will write what incident or thought triggered my desire to eat, as well as the emotion that followed the trigger.

 

Example #4

Problem: When someone asks me to do something, I automatically say yes, even when it is something I don’t want to do.

Contract: I will not say yes to requests without taking time to think about the request first.

 

In the next section, you will make a list of your self-sabotaging behaviors, such as those in the examples above. After you make your list, you will formulate a contract for each one. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to commit to keeping a lot of contracts. The purpose of the first exercise is to help you learn how to write simple, clear contracts.

It is important that you word your contracts in a way that promotes you in being successful. For example, if you would like to exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes, it would be best to start with a contract that says “I will exercise a minimum of 3 days a week for 20 minutes.” That way you won’t break the contract if you only do 3 or 4 sessions on a busy week. You can always do more than your contract requires.

Exercise #1

In the box below, list 4-8 behaviors you desire to change and write a contract for each one. If you have trouble identifying the changes you want to make, you might find it helpful to look through the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons of this course. If possible, complete Exercise #1 on the first day of this week so that you have the rest of the week to work on Exercise #2.

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Exercise #2

Pick two of the contracts from the list above, and commit to keeping them for the rest of the week. At the end of each day, jot down some notes about your experience.

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At the end of the week, answer the questions below:

Was it easy for you to keep the two contracts?

If it wasn’t easy, then commit to continue keeping them. It takes time to change behavior patterns.

When you are ready to add one or two new contracts to the original two, write them in the box below.

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If you would like feedback about the contracts you write, feel free to put them in the comment section. I would be happy to answer questions or make suggestions.

Pen Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

See you next Monday for the thirteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published click here.

Letting Go of Suffering- New Series Announcement

Are you tired of holding on to the past or worrying about the future?

Have you had your fill of feeling like a victim?

Are you committed to stopping your self-defeating behaviors?

Starting on Monday, November 21, I will be posting one chapter a week (for 17 weeks) from the Letting Go of Suffering workbook I wrote in 1991. If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, this upcoming “course” may be instrumental in helping you to make those changes.

This course is meant to increase your understanding of why you are the way you are and to teach you some new behaviors that can facilitate your movement from suffering to joy. Among the areas that will be addressed are:

  • Identifying Your Vision
  • Discovering Your Suffering Profile
  • Stopping Passive Behavior and Critical Self Talk
  • Using Affirmations and Contracts to Heal
  • Holding Yourself Accountable

I look forward to the possibility of sharing this journey with you.

Letting Go of Suffering Series:

Letting Go of Suffering- New Series Announcement

Letting Go of Suffering- Week 1: The Beginning

“YOU PROMISED!”

When I hear someone use the word “promise” the psychotherapist inside of me goes on alert. The images that come to my mind are children who are in trouble saying “I promise I won’t do it again” to their parents, or parents saying “You promised you wouldn’t do that again” to their children. I also think of bickering children saying to each other, or even to their parents, “You promised!” when someone doesn’t follow through on a promise.

It is important that interactions between adults stay equal with the adult part of one interacting with the adult part of the other. Two adults interacting in a way where one is acting like a parent and the other like a child can be very disruptive to adult relationships.

I think when people of any age hear the word “promise” their minds often add the word “forever”. “Forever” doesn’t take into account that we have a right to change our minds. We may have committed to something out of fear or without having taken the time to think the situation through. Also circumstances may change. When circumstances change then our commitments may need to change.

That doesn’t mean we should just say “I will try.” I’ve been told that Alcoholic Anonymous has a saying that “Triers are liars.”  Too often when people say “I will try” they are saying it to get someone off their back and have no intention of doing what the other person is asking for. In my group room, I have a Yoda pillow that says “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

I suggest people don’t make promises because to me that word in and of itself evokes a child or a parent-child response. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making commitments or agreements but it is important that those commitments be well thought out, clear and not come from an over-adaptive part of us. They should be made with an understanding that we aren’t going to be perfect and that if we decide at a later time that the commitment is not in our best interests we can look at what changes need to be made and re-negotiate it.

Post written for: Daily Prompt: Promises
Photo: Bickering Children by Bernhard Keil (1624-1687) via Wikimedia

Letting Go of Worry

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“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

 Arthur Somers Roche

Think about how much time you have spent worrying during your life. Did all of your worrying help you in any way or in hindsight do you think that time could have been put to better use?

How would you be different if starting today you were able to live in the present instead of immersing yourself in regrets about the past or worrying about the future? What would your life be like if you no longer worried?

Close your eyes a moment and imagine yourself living a life free of worry. Notice how your muscles relax and your breath comes and goes easier. Are you breathing deeper? What other changes do you notice in your body and mind?

Would you like to let go of your tendency to worry? If your answer is “Yes,” considering using one or more of the techniques I list below whenever you find yourself worrying.

IMG_3428Write a list of all of your worries.  “I’m worried that _________.”  Simply fill in the blank, over and over and over again, until you have listed all of the worries that you can think of. Write whatever comes to your mind whether or not it makes any sense. It is fine for you to write the same worry multiple times

IMG_3428Vince Horan, one of my co-therapists, frequently tells clients that “Fear needs information.” Take a good look at your list of worries and pick one. What information do you need to gather in order to relieve that fear? Go get it!

If you are ready to deal with more than one fear, then identify a second, third, fourth, etc. I suspect if you get the information you need, your fear will reduce, and so will your worrying

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Play the “what if” game. For example, if you are afraid that you will lose your job, the “what if” might be “I won’t have enough money.” Next ask yourself “What if you don’t have enough money?” The answer might be “I won’t be able to feed my kids.” Then ask “What if you don’t have money to feed your kids?” The response might be, “I will go to a food bank.” Keep following the thread until you realize you will be able to deal with whatever happens.

IMG_3428FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Look at your list of worries and identify the ways you have been fooled into thinking you are in danger. Next to the false evidence, write the truth.

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Immerse yourself in the present. You may need to get so focused on the present that you think, “I am moving my spoon towards my bowl of cereal.” “I am picking up a spoonful of cereal.” “I am bringing the spoon towards my mouth.” “I am putting the spoonful of cereal into my mouth.” “I am chewing my cereal.” etc. If you focus on the present this minutely, you will become absorbed in the moment, your mind will quiet and your body will relax.

IMG_3428You can create a variation of Jean Illsley Clarke’s fuss box exercise. Stand in a box or on a pillow, or just draw a circle in the carpet with your finger and stand in the middle of it. Begin to list all of your worries out loud. Don’t stop and think, just let them pour out, even if they don’t make sense. It can be helpful to be dramatic and even to exaggerate them. At some point, you will feel done. If you’ve been dramatic and/or exaggerated, you may even find yourself laughing. When you feel finished, step away from your worry box and identify something you will do to deal with one of the problems you mentioned.

IMG_3428Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we criticize ourselves for. When we talk about our worries that way they, of course, sound really strange. It is another process that often ends up in laughter.

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Create an affirmation and use it as a mantra, such as “I am a competent, capable adult.” The mantra is likely to be something you don’t fully believe but would like to believe.

Say the mantra 1,000 times a day for the next 21 days. Better yet, consider saying it 10,000 to 20,000 times a day!  If you find yourself saying the affirmation and worrying at the same time, speed up the mantra. It doesn’t matter how fast you go.

Imagine the power of filling your mind with a positive belief rather than a fear-based one. If you say enough of them, you may find the affirmation flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up and find it streaming through your mind during the night.

IMG_3428Think of all of the challenges that have come into your life unexpectedly. Reflect on how well you dealt with those. We are usually able to deal with whatever unexpected situations occur in our lives. It is worrying about things that haven’t happened, and probably never will happen, that saps our energy and pulls us into depression, anxiety and overwhelm.

IMG_3428Actively choose where you are going to put your attention. Decide if you are going to focus on worrying or focus on something else. If you choose to focus on something else, do it.

IMG_3428Listen to music that you find soothing. As you listen, practice breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on relaxing and letting go of tension.

IMG_3428Distract yourself by doing an activity that you really enjoy. Go for a walk, work in your garden, read a book, immerse yourself in a hobby, spend time with friends, etc

IMG_3428Call a friend and tell them you are worrying. Ask for reassurance or help in problem solving.

IMG_3428Create a 3-second contract, such as those used to break fantasy addictions in some 12-step recovery groups. Your contract might be “I won’t worry for more than 3 seconds.” You won’t break the contract when you find yourself immersed in worrying; you break it if you choose to continue worrying after you have become conscious you are doing it. Sometimes having the contract is enough. If it isn’t, consider creating a consequence you will do each time you break it.

IMG_3428When you are in a worry-free state of mind, write a letter to the part of you that worries. Give him/her reassurance and ideas for moving beyond the worry. Focus on messages that will give hope or help with problem solving. Then put the letter some place where you will be able to find it when you need it. Reading guidance from a stronger part of yourself may be more effective than advice coming from another person.

I’ve shared 15 actions you could take whenever you are worrying; there are certainly more. Add any others that you know, or discover, work for you. I suggest you keep a copy of this list handy so that you can use it whenever you are worrying.

At those times, work your way through the list, in any order you desire, until you find you have shifted out of the fear. The chances are good that you will be feeling better long before you do all of them.

I will end this post with two videos.  You may even want to add them to your list of worry stopping techniques.  They sure help shift my mood!

~

What helps YOU stop worrying?

I Can Do Anything Good

Those of you who have followed me for awhile probably know that I believe affirmations can be a powerful tool in creating change.  I recommend that my psychotherapy clients use affirmations to change negative belief patterns by picking one and saying it (internally) a minimum of 1000 times a day for 21 days.

A friend showed me this video yesterday.  I loved it and hope you do to!

Tools for Dealing with Repetitive Thinking

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One of the main ways we make ourselves miserable is by repetitive thinking.  Very few of our thoughts are new; we recycle them again and again.  We ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems.  Repetitive thinking can lead to depression and anxiety.

Below I am going to list many tools you can use when you find yourself trapped in this cycle.  They are not listed in any particular order.  If one doesn’t work for you at a given time, try another.

1)  Say “Be here now” to yourself and shift your focus to the present. Do that every time you find yourself thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or into repetitive thinking of other kinds. You may need to say the phrase hundreds of times a day when you start, but if you continue saying it and bringing your attention to the present, the repetitive thoughts will stop.  Remember that you are working to break an old habit and build a new one, and that takes time.

2)  When  you find yourself into repetitive thinking, bring single-minded focus to every moment. For instance, say to yourself “I am picking up my fork,” “I am holding my fork,” “I am picking up food with my fork,” “I am bringing my fork to my mouth,” “I am putting my food into my mouth,” I am chewing my food,” “I am swallowing my food,” etc.

3)  Pick an affirmation and say it at least 1,000 a day, or more, for 21 days.  Say your mantra internally, going as fast as you like. If unhelpful thoughts start coming at the same time, speed up the affirmation You can use any kind of affirmation. Some examples are “Be here now,” “I’m competent and capable,” “I let go,” “My needs are important,” “I am enough,” “I am smart,” “My life is unfolding as it should,”etc. Pick one affirmation and stick to the same one for the entire 21 days. It doesn’t matter if you believe what you are saying. What matters is that you want to believe it. If you say the affirmation in the 10,000 a day range, it may start flowing through your mind automatically, during the day and possibly throughout the night as well.

4)  Make a 3 second contract with yourself. Since repetitive thinking is a habit, you will probably find yourself in the midst of it without being aware it had started. You don’t break the contract when you find that you have been obsessing or over thinking for some time. You break the contract when you realize you are doing it and don’t start working to disrupt the thinking within 3 seconds.

5)  Distract yourself. Go for a walk, exercise, read, talk to a friend, etc.

6)  Write lists of what you are feeling mad, sad and/or scared about. Don’t spend time thinking about it; just write whatever comes to your mind in the moment, even if you end up writing the same thing over and over.

     I am mad that _______

     I am mad that _______

     I am mad that _______

     I am scared that _______

     I am sad that _______

     I am mad that ______

     I am scared that ______

     I am scared that ______

     etc.

7)  If you are angry with someone and obsessing about that, do some anger work. Journal about your anger, write a poison pen letter telling the person off (and then destroy it), twist a towel and imagine yourself yelling at them, scream into a pillow. Stop when you feel a shift in your energy.  These techniques are for the purpose of releasing the angry energy in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself, others or the environment.

8)  Write a list of your scares in one column and in a second column write the truth about each situation.  For example:

If he leaves me I will die                           If he leaves me I will feel very sad but I will not die.

I have done nothing with my life           I have done many things with my life (and list them).

9)  Write a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for.

10)  Each time you have a negative thought about someone else, write or say three positive things about them.

11)  Each time you have a negative thought about yourself, write or say three positive things about yourself.

12)  Most often fear needs information. If you are feeling afraid, ask yourself what information you need and then go get it.

13)  If you find yourself obsessing about a negative event from your past, write a list of the things you learned because that happened to you. Also, identify the skills you have today because that event occurred.

14)  A friend recently told me about a process she finds very helpful:

The moment you get a repetitive thought, write down what scares you about that thought; i.e., what is behind it that worries or frightens you? In a stream of consciousness way (don’t go back to read what you write), write down everything you’re afraid of that comes to mind until you run out. Then wad up the paper and burn it [or tear it up] and go about your business. Do this process daily and/or every time you get a thought you don’t want.

15)  Think what your life would be like if you were able to stop most of your repetitive thinking.  Hold that vision in front of you as you make moment to moment decisions about where you put your focus.

I hope you find these tools helpful.  I wish you the best on your journey towards a peaceful mind.

 

Written for Challenge for Growth Prompt #8: Stop (Repetitive) Thinking

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Please Listen to Me

When I started my psychotherapy practice in 1987, I hung a poster titled “Please Listen to Me” on my group room wall. Even though it is no longer on the wall, I think of the content often. I believe it contains important information for everyone, but might be especially helpful to those of you who are participating in this week’s Challenge for Growth prompt.

Please Listen to Me

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

All I ask is that you listen. Not talk or do, just hear me. Advice is cheap: 50 cents will get you both Dorothy Dix and Dr Spock in the same newspaper. And I can do for myself I’m not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself you contribute to my fear and weakness. But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I quit trying to convince you and can get about the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice. So, please listen and just hear me, and if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn; and I’ll listen to you.

Author Unknown

Would You Be Interested?

I’m considering offering a weekly Challenges for Growth Prompt.

If there is interest, I would post a focus weekly.  For example:

  1. This week I focus on meeting my needs instead of my wants.
  2. This week I focus on finishing things I haven’t finished
  3. This week I focus on walking my talk.
  4. This week I focus on making time to play
  5. This week I do not gossip
  6. This week I remember that “trials and tribulations” help me grow.

People could participate in different ways.

  • Everyone can consider it a challenge for the week and make it as much a focus as they want to.
  • Some bloggers could write a post about their experiences during the week.
  • Other bloggers may choose instead to write a post about the topic rather than make it a week-long focus.
  • Bloggers and non-bloggers would be welcome to write about their experience in the comments section of my post.

Would you be interested in participating in this type of prompt?

If so, which of the areas I have listed would you suggest I start with?  Other suggestions are welcome!