Saturday, April 4, 2009

Upside Down Lessons

Dysfunctional homes teach upside down rules for living. Upon reaching adulthood, a child of such a home has learned beliefs about responsibility that seemed logical as a child but don't help them to lead healthy adult lives. Examples of such rules might be:

--I am responsible for others. It is my job to make them happy, not mad, not drunk, etc.
--I am at fault when another misbehaves.
--I am responsible for reading other people's minds.
--I need to be on the lookout for danger and prevent it.
--I am inadequate so, of course, I've earned any abuse directed at me.
--Hiding is my only responsibility to myself.
--My needs will be met by other people, if they so choose. If they don't meet my needs, then I am wrong about what I need.
--I am responsible for paying attention and agreeing when others tell me what I feel, think or need.
--I am responsible for other people's feelings.
--I must be perfect. Being perfect will prevent bad circumstances from happening.
--I must be in control. Being in control will protect me from harm.
--It is my job to fulfill another person's needs, both spoken and unspoken.

If you're like me, you spent great amounts of effort "being responsible" only to discover your ways weren't helpful. Rather they interfered with having close and meaningful relationships.

If we grew up learning upside down ways, what can we do? Ask God for help. Ask Him to show us how to see and change the beliefs that govern our actions. God can use our reading, observations, and participation in self-help groups and/or counseling to help us discover healthier rules to operate by. Such rules might look something like these:

--I am responsible for myself.
--It is my job to express my thoughts and feelings.
--It is my responsibility to choose how I behave, who I hang out with, what I do for entertainment, etc.
--When I blame others it does not negate my responsibility for my actions.
--I am responsible for managing my attitudes.
--I am responsible for meeting my own needs through communicating to others and/or my own actions on my behalf
--When I agree to do something for another I need to follow through.
--I am capable of meeting my responsibilities.
--I, like all human beings will fail sometimes. When I mess up I can apologize and do my best to make things right or better.
--No one can control all the circumstances in life. I have the tools I need to respond responsibly to both positive and negative circumstances.
--Others are responsible for meeting their own needs.
--Others are responsible for their own behavior, attitudes and thoughts.

Be patient with yourself as you learn new rules and put them into practice. Generally speaking, learning any new skill takes time and practice. Not perfect performance. Not flawless execution. Practice. Mistake-filled, repetitive, frustrating practice that eventually leads to acquired skill. Hang in there, the effort is more than worth the joy that will come with a life governed by healthy, right-side up perspectives.

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