Thursday, April 28, 2016

post estrangement - Dealing with the stress of imperfection

Taming the Stress monster:  
Strive for excellence, not perfection.

Somewhere along the line I got the message that unless it is perfect it isn’t good enough. It ranks as one of the worst inner messages that I absorbed.  This belief that I needed to be perfect has caused me no end of grief. 

It set the path of my life to constantly feeling I was underachieving, that I had no value unless I could “get it right”. I stressed out over every dinner party, over every conversation, over every project fearful that I wouldn’t get it good enough. 

I knew I was in trouble when we got a renovation done in our home and I started the cleaning up project.  I was on my hands and knees with a razor blade going over every single ceramic floor tile looking for tiny paint splatters.  Not only did I do this once, I did it seven times!!!!   I felt that only if I could get every single last teeniest tiniest paint splatter would I be able to say I had done the job good enough!  I keep waiting for someone, anyone to say to me “the floor looks fabulous!” but the compliment never came….so I beat myself up and got down on my knees again looking for that elusive paint splatter that I had missed.

That was the day I recognized for the first time just how much trouble I was in from my internal demon that was constantly telling me “it’s not good enough”.  I realized I did not know how to say to myself; “self, you did a good job” without that inner demon saying “yeah, but it’s not perfect”

Yes there should be an imperative to do your best, to work hard at striving to improve, but it shouldn’t get to the point of debilitating your ability to recognize that a well done job does not have to reach that illusive standard perfection. 

That self-induced stress almost ruined my life.
It caused me to negatively judge myself on everything I undertook
It caused me to be my own worst critic
It caused me to stop projects that brought me joy in the doing, because I could never hope to be good enough.

I remember being in a class preparing for my teaching degree where we had to answer questions.  I answered my question fully to the best of my ability.  Before the teacher could say anything a fellow student shouted out “that’s not right”.  I broke down in tears and rushed out of the room, my dear best friend in the course with me, rushing after me.  I was in such a state of stress that all I could repeat over and over again was “I am so stupid, I have wasted 3 years of teacher training and I can’t even answer a simple question”.  My friend tried to tell me that I had answered correctly but I did not hear her.  All I heard was the other student saying “that’s not right”.  Finally, I calmed down enough to return to the classroom ready to tell my teacher that I was dropping out; I would not take my final exam. My teacher said, “Renate your answer was perfect, the other student was out of line”.  I looked at the other student and she did not have one shred of remorse or doubt that she would do well on the exam.  Why of why did her outburst so destroy me!?  Because I had set up the parameters for myself to such a degree of perfection that her comment shattered the foundation of my need to be perfect.

Coming to terms with being estranged for not being a “perfect parent” has led me down the path of reevaluating exactly what it means to be perfect and if I miss the mark on being perfect how does the impact on me as a person?  It is all well and good to repeat to myself; “you are good enough just the way you are”; but if deep down I don’t believe it, then I am always striving for the elusive perfection that will make me feel that I am good enough. 

Except of course, that road never arrives at any destination that fulfills the emptiness of low self-esteem.  You can do all the hard work you want to, to do your best but when that best is still not good enough you end up deeming yourself a failure simply because it was not perfect. 

Can someone who has this strange love hate relationship with perfection ever come to terms with being alright with “good enough”?  I am working on that.  I am getting better at acknowledging success without expecting perfection.  I still catch the inner critic trying to get heard, but I am better able to tell critic to “shut up”.

I think that being a parent is one of the most difficult challenges we face in life.  When our children find us “insufficient” and estrange us, those of us who have trouble with “perfection” and the voice of the inner critic, suffer disproportionate amounts of stress related to our perceived inadequacies.  To be abandoned for not being “good enough” plays right into our biggest fear of being “imperfect”

So after years of hearing only one message in being estranged; “you are a failure, I can now realistically say, “my best effort was unable to provide my offspring with some vital element that she required but that does not negate my effort, it does not negate my intention to do my best and it does not diminish who I am as a person.  It simply means that I am human.”

On the road toward healing that is a huge step forward!

Oh and the floor that I so meticulously scraped!  I can now look the other way when a few crumbs fall on it without going into a frenzy of needing to get on my hands and knees to wash and wash and wash.  I have come a long way.

Renate Dundys Marrello  
2015 – 04 – 28

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reflection on the wisdom of proverbs

When I was young I was told "don't put all your eggs in one basket".  Yet I figured I knew better than old proverb.

As a parent, over my parenting life time, what did I do?  I put all my eggs into the "family basket".  I figured if I just worked hard enough at protecting that one basket all would be well.  I did not cultivate enough other friendships or other interests.  Everything was about family, their needs and their wants, where did they want to go, what did they want to do, that was always my first concern.

Life has a way of teaching us when we don't listen to the wise words of our elders.  When I put all my eggs into the mother / family basket I neglected to find different eggs and make other collections.  My shelf of baskets and eggs contained only that one BIG all important basket. 

Then one day, when my daughter stole that basket and walked away with it , I was left holding nothing... my cupboard was bare.  I had no other resources to bolster me through the devastation that I felt.  When I lost that one all-important basket I thought for a long time that I had lost everything.

Now, I can yearn for the basket that has been stolen but have started new baskets and I have begun collecting new eggs.  My life is quiet full.  I have even found a way to create a new family basket with the eggs that escaped and the eggs that have been returned. 

I still miss the basket that was stolen.  I deeply miss the newest addition to that basket, my grandson.   However, I have come to a place of accepting that my family egg basket will always be half empty, and yet, that it is okay to enjoy to the fullest my other baskets.

The universe taught me an important lesson, respect the wisdom of the elders, those who said “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”; they knew what they were speaking about. 

I wonder if they too learned that lesson the hard way like I did?

Renate Dundys Marrello

Blogged 2015 – 04 – 19

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

What came first; the labeling or the estrangement?

I hate labels. I think they pigeonhole people more than they help people. 

People start to think of themselves in terms of the label instead of as people first. 

You are not depression, you are not a victim, you are not bipolar, you are not mentally ill.  You are a person first and foremost and always you are person first.  You have symptoms of spiritual or emotional un-wellness, usually brought on by life events. But you are not those symptoms, rather they are something you are coping and dealing with.  

When you become your “label”, other people, as well as you, start to see you only in terms of that label.  None of your other assets or virtues matter. 

If you think of yourself as depressed, then that becomes the focus of how you see yourself. 
If you see yourself as a victim that is all that you start to see about yourself.
When you label yourself based on a psychological list you start to think only in terms of the items on the list, you focus on what is “wrong with you” rather than what is “RIGHT with you”

Then it follows that others in your life only focus on your faults as well, whether because they associate with the faults because they too have labeled you or because they pick up on your own focus makes no difference.  You become defined by your label.

There is also a growing trend to “labelize people”.  By this I mean, they go to the psychology sites and read lists.  Then they label and put the people they know into lists according to those labels.  So now they have all kinds of people in their narcissist list or their depressed list etc. etc.  The problem of course with these lists is they focus only on the negative qualities.  

So now all their acquaintances, friends, even family are reduced to the sum total of the negative qualities.  All the good qualities (which do not appear on any lists) are overlooked.  People are now labeled as toxic and are shunned or distanced based on a list written by psychologists to try and help people recognize their baser qualities and learn from them and from there to work towards improvement. 

Instead, these teaching lists have become a tool to pigeon hole people, for ostracizing people, for rejecting people.  Instead of compassion, empathy and understanding, instead of working together, healing together and helping; our labels serve to divide, to create a barrier between “them and us.”

In this climate poor Eeyore would not be included in activities with his friends because they do not want to be around depression, his negative attitude is one to be excluded from the group because part of how he sees the world is gloomy.  In this climate "Eeyore is depression", he is no longer seen as an individual with a wide range of other characteristics. 

I think we need to recognize that people are packages of many characteristics.  While we are all tarnished by some bad characteristics, we must  however remember that most of the characteristics are good!

This range is what makes us all unique.  We all carry with us symptoms that stem from our experiences, some more than others, but we are all complex creatures.  I believe we need to reverse this current trend, we need to be less judgmental, less prone to pigeon holing people based on labels.  Labeling divides us rather than bringing us together.

Rather than dividing and separating we need communication and understanding, we need inclusion with boundaries.  We need awareness yes, but we also need to find a balance between ostracizing people for their character faults and helping them see those flaws and giving them options for healing. 

We can only do this if we learn that labels are dehumanizing.  We can only do this if we take our knowledge beyond categorizing our friends by “lists” and start using that knowledge to encouraging growth and transformation in our friends. 

  • We can’t do that through punishment and ostracizing and segregating.  
  • We can’t do this with manipulation and control.
  • We can't do this on a "them versus us" battleground.  

Rather we must learn to do this with love, with compassion, with a focus on communication and learning.  Healing is something we all need to engage in, some of us more than others, but healing together with the support of loved ones is more fruitful that healing in isolation and the seclusion of being boxed in and discarded over a “label”. 

I would love to hear your thoughts or how you have been affected by "labeling". 

Renate Dundys Marrello

2016 – 04 – 17

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Post Estrangement: Processing Acceptance

As always I find it fascinating how something we read can trigger something in the healing process.

Today I read this quote:

I am getting to a place where I more confidently believe in a certain degree of separation between me and what was done to me. 

Yes I continue to own everything that I might have done to contribute to or escalate the situation that is only logical because it does take two in any dispute.  However, I no longer accept blame.  That is a huge change in my personal healing. 

However, having said that, I also do believe that estranging adult offspring have problems in their own minds fueled by their opinions and their beliefs and their point of view and until they face those head on and work on healing themselves there really is not a possibility of a convergence of pathways.

So in the meantime, it is self-destructive for me to allow my estranging daughter's actions to be a statement about my value.  My value has nothing to do with any mistakes I may have made.  People make mistakes but the mistakes do not diminish their value!

When estranging adult offspring act badly that does not diminish their value either, it simply reflects that they are humans with problems and character defects that prevent them from acting in a more compassionate, re-conciliatory, honorable way.

Bottom line, why should I feel diminished as a person because my estranging daughter treats me badly as a result of the demons she is not facing?  She does not feel diminished, rather she feels justified.  To allow myself to be diminished gives her actions toward me power.  If I do not allow myself to be diminished by her actions I take my power back.

Healing is about taking power back in a situation which leaves us mostly feeling powerless.

Healing means I have to give my estranging daughter ownership of her problems and her choices just as I take ownership of my problems and my choices.
Neither one nor the other should feel diminished.

In estrangement, the person doing the estrangement attempts to diminish the other in a bid for power and control.  A bid for power comes from character disturbances characterized by manipulative behaviour. Gaining personal power by taking away someone else's is a sign of not only weakness, but a character flaw.  

I can accept a person's character as a reflection of their own inner demons.  I can even accept that they will act in accordance with those feelings that come from them allowing their inner demons to control their actions and behaviours.   However, I can also recognize and label those actions for what they are, an act of deliberate manipulative behaviour and an attempt to diminish me through emotional abuse. And I can also accept that when they act in such a way that allows those inner demons to reveal themselves they may or may not be in control. 

However, I do not have to accept that they have the "right" to attempt to diminish me to satisfy those inner demons.  Just because they have chosen to act in a certain way based on their inner demons does not make the action right. It also does not mean that I have to allow myself to suffer the emotional consequences of their actions against me.

Rather I also have the right to create boundaries against further hurt by choosing to not allow their actions to diminish me. When I stand up for my right to not be controlled and manipulated and harmed, I give them back ownership of their own demons, even if they don't realize that this is what I have done.

Separating myself from their actions in this way is healing for me.

Of course this whole story can and should change the day she takes ownership of her own demons and demonstrates her willingness to work toward her own healing without making me the scapegoat for her actions.  Healing a relationship begins when both parties have healed themselves, when there is no finger pointing or blaming, just accepting of unacceptable behaviour and devising a way to forgive and atone.

But since that is not happening today; today I have to care for my emotional well-being, which requires me to heal, to resolve my wounds to regain my self-confidence and self-esteem, to be the kind of person that knows the boundaries between being used, put down and manipulated or working on joint solution finding.  

I need to become the kind of person that clearly understands that acceptance of a situation does not mean that I have to diminish myself in the process. 

deserve and I have the right, to reclaim my power to differentiate between acceptable  and unacceptable behaviour, regardless of the intent.

I have a right to expect correct behaviour as opposed to behaviour whose intent is to coerce through punishment. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 – 04 – 07

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