CHECK UP: STEP NINE
Admitting Our Lives
Chaotic & Unstable
Have you looked for something like this program because you want to heal and find peace?
A critical part of this journey is to admit that our lives have become chaotic and unstable. In looking closer at this idea, we may see that our lives have always been chaotic and unstable even though it may seem from the outside that we are productive and that life is manageable.
For many of us, however, being productive and manageable is a form of control. We may be imitating our original family life, which looked and seemed productive, but we know in our hearts that being productive does not equate to a wholesome upbringing.
The chaos and instability we speak of comes out of a need to control people, places and things. But the reality is, we don’t have any control at all. There are occasions when our efforts to micro manage the world around us work beautifully and we think we have it nailed.
However, these times rarely last long because in trying to ‘control’ we are actually trying to compulsively be in charge of everything or everyone. It’s much more than being selfish. This stems from a deep need to have a tight rein on behaviors, thoughts and feelings. This extends to needing control of others’ reactions to us. We do this by exercising our vigilance and being a people pleaser to illicit the responses we crave.
When our control doesn’t work, we feel intense discomfort. We experience the pain of losing control or even feel harmed when other people express their opposing views. It doesn’t just feel like criticism, it feels like a threat. We might disengage from those people, silently vow to never speak to them again. We often choose relationships with people who allow us to control them and this is when we feel relief and, mistakenly believe, we have found ‘the one’.
Our need to control comes from a deep insecurity that we are at risk of losing everything. This control is a way of keeping a tight lid on our own distress about the past, present and projected future. When others challenge us about our control we feel hurt and abandoned because we think we are doing the ‘right thing’.
When we were children, this need for control was vital because we were desperate to believe we had some influence over the chaos. To believe we didn’t have any would have been too frightening. We had to convince ourselves that if we were good enough, clever enough, fast enough, loving enough, successful enough maybe our parents would love us and then everything would be OK – we would be OK.
Of course, we couldn’t always exert enough control over people, places and things and this resulted in us lashing out or withdrawing into secret, harmful behavior. Our family, however, may have been very angry with us yet we blame them for not seeing ‘the truth’. They still tell us it’s our behavior that is causing the problem but we believe the truth is it was their dysfunction that was causing us to lash out. Failing that, we criticize ourselves for being ‘too harsh’, or we back down in self-pity; both of which result in even greater discomfort.
In an effort to find relief for this discomfort, many of us turned to alternative behaviors. These include alcohol, drugs (prescribed and street), sex, food, shopping, work, gambling, smoking etc. The chaos and instability that ensues includes mental health problems, physical illness, severe depression and an inability to function at work leading to burn out, poverty, homelessness or turning to crime.
Family dysfunction does not stay static; we either get better or we get worse. Many of us end up dying prematurely, in jail or in mental institutions.
We didn’t speak of our distress until it hurt too much. We assumed that once we’d grown up and left the family home our plight was over. However, we discovered we cannot run from our terror of being abandoned, or our feelings of shame. We may have come to this type of program, or other forms of recovery, on our knees.
But now there is hope. This is a journey many hundreds of thousands have taken and now, they live contented lives. We join together and speak out about our past and find the comfort we need to heal old wounds.
It’s time to admit to ourselves that our lives have become chaotic and unstable. Let’s recognize that our need to control is buried in a desire to be loved, even though we’ve always believed we’re unlovable. Our inner being was shattered by continued abuse or neglect, being hit or shamed, being criticized or blamed, and [CLD2] being continually compared to others. We looked to others to help us feel loved, but we always went to people who were incapable of meeting our needs. We do the work in this type of program to find the love and security we need to recover.
We have learned or will learn that when we try to control people and situations, we set up a roadblock that prevents the natural flow of events and relationships. When we obsess about trying to have power, make things turn out how we want them to and to make people like us, we lose the ability to live our own lives. When we try to control, the energy acts like a wall around us.
Others can feel the energy and become guarded. They may back away or try to please us by doing what we want them to do. Either way, we are creating instability. We want others to look at their own issues so they can be there for us. However, we aren’t responsible for taking care of others; we are only responsible for taking care of ourselves.
Answer These Questions To Determine How Chaos Runs Your Life:
What is your definition of chaos and instability?
Have you been trying to control someone else when in reality, you have no power?
Who is causing you a lot of stress in your life?
Are you re-creating pain, abandonment and fear (from your childhood) in your current relationships?
Who do you feel victimized by?
How did you feel victimized as a child?
Was this response to the abuse in your childhood a defense mechanism?
Are you still acting out these defenses now?
What feelings/situation would you have to face if you stopped trying to control others?
What feeling/situation would you have to face if you stopped allowing someone to control you?
How did your parents react when you tried to tell them how you felt?
Did you feel ‘crazy’ but never talked about it?
How did you survive when your parents criticized you?
Give one example of how you’re using those survival techniques now.
Do you act like different people in different situations?
Do you turn to alcohol, drugs (prescribed and street), sex, food, shopping, work, gambling or smoking for relief from your feelings?
Do you feel your life is ‘boring’ if there’s no excitement?
Do you accept abuse from others and often don’t recognize it?
Do you thrive on chaotic relationships even though they create instability in your life?