I think there are three phases when it comes to any problem in life: Acceptance, Management, and Cure. But what if I’m wrong about setting my sights on the “Cure”? Is it necessary, or even possible, to be cured?
Accepting your Crazy – Don’t Stop Here!
Acceptance is the first step to working any problem: we have to name the issue, take ownership of it. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge but stopping at this point is a cop-out…an easy way to say, “This is how I am. Love it or leave it. I’ll never change.” It’s the mentality that people are stuck the way they are and change is not possible. The old dog refusing to learn new tricks*.
It’s a good thing we didn’t take this “I’m set in stone” attitude early in life. Otherwise we’d all still wear diapers and get pushed in a stroller.
Managing your Crazy – Is This the Best Step?
Managing your behavior is the process of recognizing what flips your switch and then choosing not to take the bait. In order to change a behavior, you have to figure out the hidden payoff behind that behavior. If we didn’t get some sort of payoff (good or bad) we wouldn’t do it. To react is pulling a burned hand away from a hot stove. To respond is recognizing the hot burner before touching it. Stop blindly reacting and start consciously responding.
This change in behavior takes practice! Try > Fail > Try Again > Fail Better… and keep trying until you hit a level of success that works for you.
With this step, it is necessary to really sit down with your Crazy and figure it out. Why does one spouse’s late homecoming set the other spouse off? Why is one spouse’s innocent comment taken as criticism by the other spouse? Even the thought, “This is all that I deserve. I’m not worthy of better” rolls around in our heads and impacts what we will accept out of life. Family of origin issues are so deeply buried that it takes serious effort to step out of the pit and look critically at the situation. Go in with the attitude it is all about ME and I have to figure out how to work with ingrained patterns of response that have developed over decades of use.
Curing your Crazy – Is it Realistically Possible?
Curing your crazy behavior, this is the biggest elusive illusion we live with. Frankly, I believe this lofty goal is where the self-help industry fails us. We live with the mistaken idea that there is a cure, when in reality life is managed.
My sister, the recovering alcoholic, tells me that every day is a struggle. She hasn’t partaken in three years but that doesn’t mean she’s cured. She lives in a state of constant vigilance, forever guarding against the lure of “just one drink”.
There are many stories of “cured people” that weren’t truly cured. Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind. The man was clean for decades and then…dead from an overdose. Did 23 years of sober living qualify him as “cured”? Obviously not.
My therapist shared with me an interesting poem by Portia Nelson called There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
The hole still exists but the walker’s behavior changes. Many will read this poem and think that the hole refers to a specific person. Step beyond that notion. Think bigger and see the hole as your behavior. It’s the only thing you can control.