Author Archives: Steve Hauptman

Hellidays

xmas tree w starQuestion:  Why do the holidays feel like hell to codependents?

Answer:  So much to control, so little time.

Control addicts constantly compare the reality they have with the reality they want, then try to bring the two closer together.

‘Tis the season for that.

And how do we do it?

Usually in too many ways to count.

Some favorites:

~ We imagine ideal holidays and try to manufacture them.

~ We remember traumatic holidays and try to compensate for them.

~ We notice relationship problems and try to disguise them.

~ We notice feelings that don’t match the holiday mood (resentment, jealousy, anxiety, rage) and judge ourselves for feeling them.

~ We associate with people we don’t really like, then suppress or deny our inevitable discomfort.

~ We use the holidays as a benchmark to measure our progress through life, then try to conceal our sense of  disappointment or inadequacy.

~ We mask our awareness of all the above by eating or drinking or drugging or spending too much, then wonder why we end up feeling empty, lonely and mad at ourselves.

What to do instead?

(1) Pay closer attention.  Notice what you already do.  Don’t judge your behavior, just observe it.  Can’t change what you’re unconscious of.

(2) Focus your awareness with the three questions: What am I trying to control?  Have I had any luck controlling this in the past?  If not, what can I do instead? The answer to question 3 should be some form of surrender, responsiblity and/or intimacy.  But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sure how to do any of that yet.

(3) Use the year before the next round of hellidays to get better at answering that third question.

 

 

 


Three theme songs

x

The song of the child:

this is me 1 w balloon

x

The song of the socialized adult:

what will people think w balloon

 x

The song of the healthy grownup:

this is me 2 w balloon

 

Which is your theme song?

Not the one you’d like?

If so, don’t despair.

Monkeytraps

(The Book)

starts in January.

 Logo_v1

 


The chase

 

 

the chase 1 revised

There’s something we’re all after, something we chase all the time.

Click here to watch The chase.


Anxious?

() (pending) Anxious 2

Bert is.

Bert’s a control addict.

Control addicts are usually anxious.

Their anxiety is what makes them controlling.

Unfortunately their controlling makes them even more anxious.

So the more they try to control stuff they more anxious they get, and the more anxious they get…

Sound familiar?

If so, don’t despair.

Monkeytraps

(The Book)

starts in January.

 Logo_v1

 

(For more Bert, follow Bert’s therapy: Adventures of an inner monkey.)


Don’t look now

Don't look now

From “Session 34: Leashed” at bertstherapy.com.

 Don’t despair.

Monkeytraps (The Book)

starts in January.


Stink think

The folks in AA have a term to describe the denial-ridden thought process of alcoholics:

Stinking thinking.

Examples include,

It’s not a problem, I can stop whenever I like.  Or Hey, it’s only one beer.  Or It’s your fault I drink so much.  Or Everyone’s against me. Or Who gives a shit?  And so on.

Control addicts have their own version of stinking thinking.  It takes various forms, but behind them all is a dangerous (and often unconscious) assumption:

If I just try again, or harder, or longer, or differently,

I can make things turn out the way I want them to.

Yeah.  Right.

When stink think crops up in session I usually recommend an antidote I call the three questions:

What am I trying to control here?

Have I had any luck controlling it before?

If not, what can I do instead?*

*(I.e., which of the three healthy alternatives to control — surrender, responsiblity or intimacy — would help me in this situation?)

Taken together, and answered honestly, these questions amount to a free, convenient, and surprisingly reliable bullshit detector.

Like alcoholics, control addicts take a while to notice their own stinking thinking, and even longer to interrupt it.

But those who ask the three questions regularly can speed the process of unstinking their thinking.

_____________________________
 *For more on the alcoholic version of stinking thinking, see Stinking thinking: When negative thinking becomes harmful at alcoholrehab.com.

In the elevator

An elevator pitch is a summary of a book brief enough to deliver in the space of an elevator ride.

Below is one I just wrote for my impending opus Monkeytraps.

Feedback welcome.

x

elevator pitch #2 corrected


Adult children

First time I heard it, the term adult child made no sense to me.

It seemed an obvious contradiction in terms, like square circle or military intelligence.

I understand better now.

I understand that an adult child is someone who’s adult on the outside, childish inside.

That the childish part is a collection of unmet needs, unresolved conflicts and unexpressed feelings.

That, under stress, this part gets triggered, and the adult experiences all the fears and insecurities of the child when that child’s growth was interrupted.

And that you needn’t have grown up in an alcoholic or abusive or especially dysfunctional family for this to be true of you.

That it happens to all of us.

In other words, that Andrew Malraux was right when he wrote,

There is no such thing as 

a grown-up human being.

That we are all adult children.


Two questions

Everyone over the age of two knows relationships are difficult.

Not everyone understands why.

It’s because relationship forces us to combine things that don’t go together.

Specifically, to meet two sets of seemingly incompatible needs:

Connection and separateness.

Security and freedom.

Acceptance by another and self-acceptance.

A real partner and a real self.

Put another way, relationship forces us to answer two questions:

How can I have you without losing me?

How can I have me without losing you?

Tough questions.

How do I have you and me at the same time?

Most people I know are secretly convinced that you can’t.

Most came from families — alcoholic, or abusive, or otherwise dysfunctional — unable to teach them to balance connection with separateness.

What they learned instead was that having one meant losing the other.  That winning love and approval from parents, for example, meant sacrificing parts of themselves, like the freedom to express feelings or take care of their own needs.

The family that raised us is where each of us learned our own personal answer to the two questions. And the answer we learned grew into a crucial (though mostly unconscious) part of our basic view of life and relationships, what I call our Plan A.  

Some of us decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have you, and to hell with me.” This is the infamous codependent answer.

Others decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have me, and to hell with you.”  Shrinks call this the narcissistic answer.

Neither answer works.

Eventually codependents tire of feeling like doormats, while narcissists tire of feeling all alone.

At which point, if they’re smart (or have a smart therapist), they go back to struggling with the two questions.

You can’t answer these questions, only struggle with them.

But it’s the struggling that matters.

Because without it, healthy relationship is impossible.

* * *

tv 2 green w B&S

 Re: my impending book,

click here.


My impending book

tv 2 green w B&S

                                 Click here.

 


Codependent suicide

In my work with couples the most common resentment I encounter is over the failure of partners to make each other happy.

And that’s because many of them have signed what I call the Codependent Suicide Pact.

It’s an agreement — usually unstated, often unconscious, always a potent shaper of feelings — that goes like this:

“I’ll sacrifice myself to your happiness, and you sacrifice yourself to my happiness, and that way we’ll both be happy.”

Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.

But it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work because self-sacrifice of this sort tends to breed not happiness but disappointment, not contentment but anger.

Why?

Because happiness is ultimately the responsibility of each individual, not anyone else.

Because happiness comes from figuring out what you need, and learning how to get it.

From listening to and taking care of yourself, not relying on others to do the job for you.

And because all this takes work and learning and practice that only the individual can do.

When offered this idea some couples respond angrily: “Then what’s the point of being together?”

I reply,

“We’re social animals, wired for relationship.  We’re supposed to pair up.  Human beings need other human beings.  Period.

“So sure, you can and should expect to be happier together than apart.  But that’s not the same thing as being responsible for each other’s happiness.

“A couple’s happiness come from discovering each other — and themselves — within the context of relationship.

“From learning who each of you is, and what each of you needs, and how you can combine both identities and both sets of needs in one package.

“It’s like learning to dance.  You set out to learn how to listen to the music and respond to it together.  It takes practice.  You start off bumping and stepping on each other’s toes.  But you keep at it in hopes of learning, over time, how to move in harmony.

“Difficult?  Sure.  Not every couple succeeds at this.

“But working at relationship in this way is always a better approach than expecting your partner to pick you up and carry you around the dance floor.”

 

 


Thx

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.  ~ Albert Einstein                   

 

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Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.  ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

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If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.

~ Meister Eckhart

 

 

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Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.  ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

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Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.  ~ Charles Dickens

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Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.  ~ Buddha

 

 

 

* * *


You say potato

Most new clients and I start off with a language problem.

We’re both speaking English, of course, but the words we use have different meanings.

This happens because people come to therapy for help with emotional problems, and I see most (maybe all) such problems as caused by control addiction.  And that view has changed my view of almost everything human.

For example, it often happens that what clients call polite, I see as artificial.

What they call niceness, I see as fear.

What they call respectful, I see as dishonest.

What they call strong, I see as rigid.

What they call responsible, I see as oversocialized.

What they call loyal, I see as coerced.

What they call productive, I see as compulsively busy.

What they call helpful, I see as intrusive.

What they call protecting, I see as enabling.

What they call love, I see as codependency.

At the start of our work clients often object to my redefinitions of behaviors in which they’ve been engaged until now.

Sometimes they get so angry at how I see things that they leave and never return.

But if they keep coming back, eventually they start asking themselves:

If I’ve really been doing what I thought I was doing, why do I need therapy? 


Everything

*

*
Monkey Traps The Book (on black)

It.

 

Monkey Traps The Book (on black)

Changes.

 

Monkey Traps The Book (on black)

Everything.

 

 

Coming soon,

to this very space.


Big happy family

‘Tis the season.

Of, among other things, wishful thinking.

One example: the myth of the Big Happy Family.

The idea that two disparate sets of individuals joined by marriage — i.e., by accident — are supposed to love, like, or even tolerate each other.

That because it’s a holiday and they’re technically “family” they should be able to enjoy the day together and that nothing else should matter.  Not hidden conflicts, old wounds, personality clashes, political differences, substance abuse or mental disorders.

It’s this myth that persuades us to arrange gatherings of people who’d otherwise never spend five seconds together.  To bring them together and then add stress and alcohol and small children and physical disorder and expect everything to come off swimmingly.

Sigh.

I know many people who approach these gatherings with dread, and survive only with multiple emotional wounds.  Then the day after they crawl into my office to lick their wounds and debrief.

If we get to talk about it before it actually happens, I tell them this:

“Just be aware you’re walking into a setup.

“A setup for compulsive controlling of all sorts.

“A setup for denial, unrealistic expectations, people-pleasing, loss of self, emotional inauthenticity, hurt feelings and disappointment.

“In short, a CodependencyFest.

“Yes, some families can pull off this sort of thing with minimal damage.

“And some can’t, no matter how hard or how persistently they try.

“You need to ask yourself one question, and answer honestly:

“To which sort do you belong?”

 


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