The Way to a Healthy Life is Suppressing the Almighty Self
Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
I once wrote a post here called Being Your Own Therapist and it puts forth the proposition that you need others to check you at the door before you do stupid things like contact your ex looking for answers/closure, but you also need to know how to stop yourself.
As I said in that post, I am a fervent believer in support systems made up of friends, support groups, 12 step programs, individual therapy, group therapy, conferences, retreats, seminars and on and on and on.
But I also believe that we need to learn to parent ourselves and be our own therapist separate and apart from others. In the recent “Splitting Post” I talk about how we split our ex into good ex and bad ex – and hold onto the good ex while ignoring the existence of the bad. When we’re doing that, we are NOT being a good parent/therapist to ourselves.
There is a saying that your mind is like a bad neighborhood, don’t go there alone. And for many issues, that is true. When you know that you have certain topics and issues where you absolutely can’t be objective, the help of others is essential. On the other hand, you have to learn how to change your perspective and how to change your way of thinking when it’s getting you in trouble.
Both of my books Getting Past Your Breakup and Getting Back Out There drive home the importance of observation. Observation is the opposite of distraction. It’s very important to turn off the devices, turn off the distractions and learn to observe others. Look, REALLY LOOK, at the world around you and stop surfing or texting mindlessly on a stupid smart phone. You need this power to not keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
It’s also important to do this when you’re alone. Go for a walk with no devices. Sit and meditate. Take a long bubble bath with no distractions. It not only helps your power of concentration, but helps you key into yourself and your own thoughts. What’s going on? What are you thinking about? What do you obsess about? What is bubbling to the surface over and over again, demanding your attention?
You need to give yourself a dose of reality now and again where you step back and try to see the world through a different lens. You need to check yourself and make sure you are balancing empathy for others with empathy for yourself; you need to face difficult truths about yourself, balancing softness and toughness and being there for you when you need someone. As it says in Getting Past Your Breakup, you must balance your grief work with self-care. In the same way, you must balance giving yourself a break and eradicating your negative self-talk with making sure you’re being honest with yourself and working on that which needs to be worked on.
Justification and rationalization are scary things. People have murdered others and managed to justify it to themselves, figuring out how to convince themselves that the victim “had it coming” or “If I didn’t do it, someone else would have…” or “I should get a medal, not JAIL TIME, for killing that person.” Maybe your ex cheated on you or abused you and told you that you deserved it or you had it coming. That was your ex’s way of justifying bad behavior. The ex was wrong and if you do the same thing now to excuse your own bad behavior, you are wrong as well.
I recorded two YouTube videos on another post I’ve written : “When the Person You Love Doesn’t Love You”. In Part Two I of the video, I outline the difference between changing for someone else (to get them to stay) and changing for yourself because you know there are weaknesses that have been problems in relationships and you need to look at them and figure out how to minimize them or get rid of them altogether. Part of treating yourself well is being good to you while acknowledging you can use some changing and growing in some areas. To live a healthy life, it is absolutely imperative that you learn what needs to change and how to change it.
I can be a tough therapist but I also lead people to their hurtful places and then sit with them in empathic silence to support them while they get in touch with their hurt. When someone is avoiding issues or in denial, I call them on that and not very gently sometimes. Sometimes you need a bullhorn to get through to people. Other times a soft and simple, “Hey…what about this?” will do. And so it is with your own voice in your own head. Sometimes you need to really take a cold shower in reality and other times dipping a toe in the pool will do.
You need to look at difficult situations and try to see things from the other side while not abandoning yourself completely. This is called having a conversation with your inner con artist, or what I call The Almighty Self…the one that is all-knowing and all-powerful yet keeps landing you in trouble. The Almighty Self sounds so CONVINCING and RIGHT when it comes up with all the reasons to do the things you really need to NOT be doing. It’s the alcoholic saying, “Just one drink…” when you decide, “Just one text…” to the ex. It’s never “just one.” Texts to the broken-up person are like drinks to the alcoholic…one is too many and a thousand is not enough. But the Almighty Self will say, “Just one…” even though there is NO SUCH THING.
The Almighty Self is the bully in the bad neighborhood…the one who dreams up the rationalizations and justifications. The Almighty Self is the mugger lurking in the shadows getting ready to rob you of your dignity and sometimes your money and sanity. The Almighty Self is the man behind the curtain. So you have to question/quiz/probe/interrogate the Almighty Self when it pops up. Disarm it…call the NC police…and get on with life.
Listening to the Almighty Self and all the crazy schemes it has is like letting a toddler drive your car. You know you shouldn’t. You know you’re going to land in a ditch and wish you’d never done it. But you do it anyway….there goes one totaled car and a whole lot of regret.
You also need to ask the Almighty Self probing questions when it presents you with the latest and greatest grandiose idea…whether it’s approaching the ex about reconciliation or your parents about being lousy parents…or your boss about why you’re not being recognized for great work.
The two main questions are: “Tell me, how will this work?” and “And then?” For example, the Almighty Self suddenly knows what to say to the ex to change his or her mind. The next thought should NOT be the two of you strolling into the sunset hand in hand. The next thought should be, “Tell me, Almighty Self, how will this work? You’ll say what to him, he’ll say what to you…go on…fill me in…” And a series of “And then?” questions. “I’ll send her a text…” “Saying what?” “Saying I miss her. And then? And then she texts me back the same…and then? “I suggest we get together for coffee…” and then? And then we meet and rekindle the flame…
“And then?” Almighty Self is stumped if the Almighty Self is honest. Because this latest “and then…” either isn’t going to happen or isn’t going to be good for you if it does.
It takes years to build an ALMIGHTY SELF and a while to knock it down and put it in its place. When you’re full of stupid ideas that sound smart, that is a clue that Almighty Self is in charge. When you’ve done a series of things that hurt when you do them, yet you keep doing them, the Almighty Self has taken the reigns…the maniacal laughter you hear is the Almighty Self which loves to make a fool out of you.
A combination of tough love with yourself: not mincing words, not accepting rationalizations and justifications and having good strong boundaries is the key to getting better. Learning to listen for and yet, NOT ANSWER, the Almighty Self is the key to muting it. Yes, it will get LOUDER before it gets SOFTER, but eventually it will realize no one is paying attention and will stop coming up with the crazy ideas that land you in difficult situations.
Another benefit to being your own therapist is that when others criticize you or give false compliments, you know whether or not it’s true. When you are honest enough with yourself, others can’t hold sway over you with their critical or sickening sweet opinion of you. No one can gaslight you. Boundary crashers can’t accuse you of being mean (well, they can and they will but you know it’s just a tactic to get you to back down.)
When you are honest with you about you, no one can tell you things about you that will throw you off course. You are a healthy person when you can believe in you enough to tell yourself the truth about you. Unless and until such time, you have work to do. Quelling and quieting the inner crazy voice (the Almighty Self) is the one you have to work on.
Spend some time each day unplugged and listening, truly listening, to your inner dialogue and figuring out what needs to change and change it. Ask the questions: “And then?” and “How will that work?” and be honest about the answers.
Having an actual therapist and an actual support group and friends you can depend on is very important but they are not worth anything until you learn to be there for yourself when you’re alone in the bad neighborhood of your mind with no one but the Almighty Self. Learn to beat the neighborhood bully by confronting it with reality and then, more reality. And question, question, questions – especially when you are about to set off on doing something that has only brought you misery and pain in the past.
As always, remember: You can do it.
Copyright 2007-2017 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author
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