- I have young children at home. They are suffering and acting out and I can’t pay the bills. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- I was married for 33 years. Our children are grown and we were preparing for retirement. This is all I know. This was my life. It’s harder to accept a change the longer you’ve lived with something. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- We don’t even have children yet. We don’t have the connection as incentive for reconciling. After years of trying and infertility treatments, he just gave up. And now I’m 42; he took my best years for having children and wasted them. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- I have a chronic medical condition. I am on disability and he provides the income. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- Last year our son died of cancer. He was three. She couldn’t handle it. All she has is her grief and she won’t let me in. And now she has left. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- My MLCer is a Clinging Boomerang; he won’t leave me alone. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- My MLCer is a Vanisher; I have not seen him in 2 years and I haven’t heard anything for 8 months; he could be dead. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- My MLCer is in constant Monster. He hates me and is trying to make my life miserable. He’s fighting me for custody, but won’t visit the kids or pay to help support them and he’s trying to force us out of our home. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
- My Bomb Drop was 6 years ago. My MLCer has been in this longer than most. He’s been Monster and he’s still in Replay. It’s harder for me than it is for you.
I think my point with the above is obvious, so I am not going to distill it into a convenient platitude—and anyway, I’ve done that before on this topic.
I know that not all of you think this way and that for some of you these thoughts are real and yet you feel guilt for having them since you know that someone else’s suffering is still suffering. The people who really use this and cling to it are those who have not detached and are often stuck at the pity party.
If you wonder why others are stronger—or seem stronger—than you, think about why that may be. Do you keep concluding that others are having an easier time because of the context of their situations. Let’s give credit where it is due. They are having an easier time because of how they are handling their journey.
What are those other people doing that you are not doing? What are they doing for themselves that you are avoiding or refusing to do because it is just too hard, too time consuming, too much money, too far away… While you make excuses, those other people are facing their fears; they are looking directly into the mirror and acknowledging their faults, their missteps, their failures, their successes, their abilities…
The ability to accept change is not based on the context of your suffering within the journey; it is based on your coping skills. And your coping skills are based on what you have learned before—previous experiences. We often think strength in the journey is based on Acceptance, but even that has its foundation in your coping skills. Without the skills you don’t know what to do and with such a loss of insight it is easier to deny and make excuses. In crisis we often fall back on familiar patterns of behavior and coping. For some those patterns are functional, but for many and perhaps most of us, we have a mixture of functional and dysfunctional patterns. Mirror work involves recognizing and then replacing the dysfunctional patterns.
So what are your patterns—functional and dysfunctional?
Times are pretty tough now, aren’t they? But have they always been tough? This tough? Look back to a time in your life when you handled a challenge well. Really well. When you succeeded. When you were not afraid.
- What was different then?
You may be thinking of a specific moment or day or a period of months or even years.
- What was different about the context of those situations?
- What was different about how you were feeling?
- What was different about you? Your attitude, your actions, your medical condition…?
- What was different about those around you? Your kids, your spouse, friends, family, work environment…?
- What was different environmentally? Is there a seasonal change that seems to make a difference? What about your house and changing maintenance, your neighborhood, your town, state…?
- What was different about the start of that day—before the conflict?
- Maybe it was a Monday, or a holiday or you had company coming over? Maybe it was s storm or there was a parade…what was different?
- Something was working, what and why?
- How did you handle the situation? You may be thinking of a specific event or situation or your life in general when it was better.
Think of as many exceptions as you can. Relive each experience. Picture the scene; bring up the smells and the sounds. Recreate that experience within you now.
Recovering and growing is about reclaiming what you already have and building upon that. But to do that you need to do a little looking back—not too much—to identify those past experiences.
Can’t think of any better times or successes?
Make them up. Act As If. Live as if you know exactly how to resolve each situation. Live as though you are successful, confident worthy. Imagine that and go through that list above again using your imaginative experience. Imagine a better future and describe it; make it real by including sights, sounds smells… why is everything going well? What are you doing different that is creating the success you are having?
Now think about this. Live the next few days as though all your problems are gone. That doesn’t mean your MLCer knows that and so you still have to interact in ways responsive to their experience too. But what will be different about your attitude, actions and feelings?
What are your dysfunctional patterns?
What are you functional patterns?
What are you doing to recognize both the functional and dysfunctional and replace the dysfunctional?