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Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.

 

Emotional Abuse:  The Illusionist

Emotional Abuse: The Illusionist

“Bill is such a great guy!” Carly smiled and made some sort of neutral comment. It did absolutely no good to dispute the evidence of Bill’s obvious charm. He was engaging, witty, energetic, and charismatic. People liked him. She knew the feeling.

When Carly first met Bill, she was overwhelmed by his outgoing nature. His gestures were larger than life, outlandish even. But to a young woman being courted, he seemed the walking incarnation of romance. She was being wooed. What Carly didn’t realize was that while she was being wooed by Bill, she and everyone else were being fooled. Bill’s grand gestured and protestations of care and love were for general audiences only. In the intimacy of the private viewing area called home, Bill turned out to be someone quite different.

At first, Carly just put up with Bill’s moodiness, nastiness, and withdrawing into himself. She figured he would snap out of it. It didn’t take her long to learn that Bill’s negative private behavior could turn in an instant if someone cam over to the apartment. Finally, she mentioned to Bill her concern over the way he treated her at home as opposed to the way he treated her in front of others.

Bill’s reaction was astonishment. He acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Every incident she brought up was countered with a rush of excuses, reasons and outright denials as Bill fought to maintain the illusion of himself as the compassionate lover, the life of the party, the perfect soul mate. It struck Carly that Bill needed her only as long as she continued to mirror the reflection of himself he so needed to see.

Illusionists are generally highly intelligent, charismatic people who thrive on being seen well by others. As long as there is an audience, they are “on.” Because it takes a great deal of energy to be “on,” their “off” persona may be the exact opposite. In public they are witty and humorous; in private they are sarcastic and cutting. In public they are deferential and attentive; in private they are hostile and distant. In public they are happy and easygoing; in private they are sullen and angry.

Being in a relationship with an illusionist can cause you to doubt your own judgment. Because illusionists are generally highly intelligent, they are able to convince you, even in the face of contrary evidence, that the concerns you have are invalid.

If there is a problem, you are always portrayed as the source. Feigning confusion, they appear shocked that you find their behavior unusual. If you ask other people, people who have seen only the carefully constructed illusion, you may not get validation of your concerns. Instead, you may hear a reiteration of how wonderful the illusionist is. Highly persuasive, the illusionist is very adept at creating and maintaining a positive image.

What is most important to illusionists is the maintenance of the illusion of who they are. You are valuable to them only when you are helping them to maintain this illusion. You become a danger to them if you question the illusion they have created. Because the illusion is more important to them than you are, the truth is never acknowledged. Your reality of events and circumstances is consistently denied, downplayed, explained away, rejected. This is a pernicious form of emotional abuse in that it causes the abused to second-guess his or her own assessment of the relationship. As such, many will stay in the relationship for an extended period of time until their ability to help their abuser maintain the illusion demands too great an emotional toll.

At this point, the abused person will lean but with his or her sense of self seriously tattered. After all, how could anyone leave such a great person? Because others have not seen through this illusion, the abused person who leaves can appear to be in the wrong. Not only does the abused lose the relationship, be he or she may lose any friends made during the relationship.

If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional, sexual or physical abuse, or body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

It is important not only to eat healthy foods but to eat them in the proper proportion.  As a unique individual, you have an amount of calories needed each day and a weight range that is healthy and right for you.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit with your primary care physician or gynecologist, if you have not done so already, and determine what a healthy weight looks like for you.

Different women have different body types and frames, so two women of the same height arrive at different healthy weights.  Many women are as cyclical with their weight as they are with their periods.   They lose and gain the same ten to fifteen to twenty pounds over and over again.  When the weight is off, they’re happy.  When the weight is on, they’re miserable.

Because of the nature of yo-yo dieting, the tendency over time is for the weight to come back on, stay on, and increase.  As you work with your doctor to find your healthy weight, come up with a plan to not only achieve that weight but also maintain it over time.

Additionally, how you feel and the health of your body depends not only on what you eat but also what else you put into your body.  If you are a smoker, I urge you to quit.  Pumping nicotine into your system and smoke into your lungs is not good for you.  The evidence of the damage done, apart from the dangers of lung cancer, is compelling.  Smoking is an age accelerant, as its toxicity contributes to a more rapid decline of the body and overall health.  If you smoke, you need to stop.  This is also a conversation for you to have with your physician.

Be aware of the preservatives, additives, and hormones used in the foods you eat and drinks you consume.  Many women have sensitivities and allergic reactions to these substances.  Whenever possible, choose organic-type produce and foods.  There are medical tests you can take that can help identify if your body is experiencing an ongoing allergic reaction to foods and other substances.  If you suspect you are allergic to a certain food, eliminate it from your diet for a period of time and track your symptoms.  When your body is under constant assault because of a sensitivity or allergic response, it will affect how you feel.

Be aware of the amount of alcohol you consume.  As a chemical dependency professional, as well as a licensed counselor, I’ve seen the hard alcohol causes.  If you have a problem with alcohol, don’t drink at all.  If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, make sure to drink moderately.  Not only do you need to be aware of the alcohol you are consuming, you need to also be aware of the extra calories in that alcohol.  The more you drink, the more you impact the amount of calories consumed each day.

Lastly, be aware of the type and quantity of drugs you take.  These include, of course, over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs.  If you are concerned about what you’re taking and how much, consider having a chemical dependency assessment done.  These assessments factor in both legal and illegal substances and evaluate your level of dependency and abuse.  If you’re worried or if family and friends have expressed their concern, if your use has interfered with your job or with social and family functions, I urge you to seek professional advice and assessment.

Please be aware that use and misuse of drugs is one strategy women use to self-medicate their feelings of anger.  Because the anger is suppressed and not dealt with, it doesn’t go away.  Because the anger doesn’t go away, the need for self-medicating doesn’t go away, and use can change to abuse.

If you or a loved one is struggling with body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Forgiving someone is never easy. It does not happen overnight; it is a process. Often it requires getting over the faulty beliefs and practices taught to you by the very people you are trying to forgive.

Beware of the need to punish. In your anger, you may withhold the healing act of forgiveness as a way to punish or to retaliate against the person who hurt you.

Beware of the desire to continue focusing on yourself. Forgiveness allows for you to move on to a healthier focus in life, away from your self-consuming relationship with food and on to a healthy balance of focuses and interests.

Beware of the belief that you deserve to be hurt and miserable. You don’t; that’s your eating disorder talking to you. Forgiveness will bring you peace, healing, and relief.

Beware of pride. Your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns may have brought you a perverted sense of pride as a way to counteract the pain. Forgiveness, by lessening the pain, interfered with the maintenance of that pride.

If you were never provided with an example of love and forgiveness growing up in your immediate family, where can you find these examples? Try to remember the people who did give them to you as a child, maybe a grandparent or a family friend. Then, think back to how much you needed love growing up. Remember how you would have felt if you had received acceptance. As a forgiving adult, you can give those who wronged you the very things you were denied as a child.

If you have constructed the myth of a happy childhood, giving up that dream will be painful. You will have to discard your idea of the perfect mom and dad, or the image of an idyllic, loving family. Instead, you can establish a new relationship with your family, just as they are.

For some people, their pain and hurt are so deep inside of them that their ability to forgive is buried under layers of anger and resentment. If this description fits you, you will need to search outside of yourself for the strength to forgive. Again, you need to understand that forgiveness is something you can rarely accomplish immediately. You’ve lived with your pain for many years; allow yourself time to work through your need to forgive.

Your eating disorder is a response to your pain and anger. If you can understand what happened, get past the anger, and forgive the pain, the reason for your behavior will no longer exist. When the reason no longer exists, and the health-related complications of your behavior are addressed, true healing becomes a reality.

Once you are able to acknowledge the truth of your pain, you must look towards proactive forgiveness. You have to decide to forgive—not because you want to, not because it feels good, and not because it’s deserved, but because it is the healing thing for you to do. A conscious choice on your part to forgive can counteract your conscious decision to continue in the behaviors of your eating disorder or disordered eating. Your will is the same, but you are choosing to use it in a healthy, uplifting way.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depressionanxiety and others.

 

 

 

Overcoming Denial and Facing Your Eating Disorder

Overcoming Denial and Facing Your Eating Disorder

Successful recovery from an eating disorder requires you to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about who you are. Keep in mind that really looking at yourself honestly is not self-absorption; it is introspection. Self-absorption leads to a false reality; introspection leads to insight. Insight leads to truth.

We all have times in our lives when we need to concentrate on ourselves in order to survive. This is definitely one of those times for you. Your eating disorder has brought you to a point where you’re seeing that this introspection is really addressing your survival.

Pride—both your own and that of those who hurt you—will work against your recovery. Faulty pride cannot coexist with perceived imperfection; it’s impossible to be prideful when you recognize your own flaws and weaknesses so clearly. You’re beginning to understand that your eating disorder was not the “perfect” solution it promised to be. You’re starting to remember that yours wasn’t the “perfect” family after all. You’re now seeing that your pursuit of being “perfect” yourself isn’t bringing you any sense of peace.

It’s okay to admit that you’ve made mistakes. To do so is simply to recognize your humanity. And it’s perfectly fine to recognize the mistakes of others; you’re simply seeing them for who they really are. It’s okay to understand the way others’ mistakes have affected you; you’re simply accepting reality.

Accepting reality means facing the pain and discomfort in order to process it and place it in its proper context. Within that context, your pain will cease to wield such unhealthy power over you. The truth will weaken the hold your self-destructive behaviors have over you. Truth is not something to fear; rather, it is something to be embraced. The truth will not diminish you, no matter how much your false reality says it will. The truth will complete you, giving you needed understanding of yourself and others. The truth will enable you to operate from a new reference point of strength so you can deal with future hurts, pain, and frustration.

False realities do not dissipate quickly. They are stubborn and hold on for dear life. But you must let them go. If you don’t, you won’t be able to change from wanting to die to wanting to live. You must let go of pride. Coming out of the darkness of a false reality of pride is not an overnight trip. It will require determination, perseverance, and faith. It will require an acceptance of your own weakness and an admission of your own need for God to strengthen you.

For many people, it also requires outside, professional support. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at guiding people through a whole-person, individualized recovery program, designed specifically for you and your needs. We are standing by to help you face your eating disorder and to heal. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an eating disorder specialist today.

 

The Devastating Physical Effects of Eating Disorders

The Devastating Physical Effects of Eating Disorders

Your body is paying a heavy price for your eating disorder. If you are bulimic and use laxatives or vomiting to purge, your skin is probably quite dry and frequently breaks out in small rashes and pimples. If your salivary glands haven’t yet become enlarged because of your constant vomiting, they could.

If you’re bulimic or anorexic, you probably experience continual constipation and intestinal bloating because you either don’t keep down enough food to pass through your system or simply don’t eat enough to trigger elimination. You may also have swollen, puffy hands and feet brought about by an electrolyte imbalance. For anorexics, this is because of malnutrition; for bulimics, vomiting or laxative abuse. If you compulsively overeat, your extra weight is putting a strain on nearly all your body’s systems and setting you up for future health problems. These are not easy things to say or read, but you need to know the truth.

Your eating disorder today will affect your body tomorrow. One such effect is the slowing down of your metabolism. You have a unique metabolic rate that has become unbalanced by your lifestyle choices. Down the road, this can result in weight problems years after your eating disorder has been overcome. Your body can readjust itself in time, but the longer you continue in this destructive behavior, the more difficult it will be for your body to reestablish its proper functions.

If you are an anorexic woman, your self-starvation will lead to a complete loss of your menstrual period, if it hasn’t already. Rigorous exercise, emotional ups and downs, even bingeing and purging can also shut down your body’s reproductive systems. It knows something is wrong, even if you don’t, and it’s not about to take any chances with pregnancy. With menstrual loss comes estrogen loss, resulting in loss of calcium to your bones. Too much calcium loss can result in osteoporosis, or brittle-bone disease, later in life. Many young anorexia develop the bones of an eighty- or ninety-year-old.

If you’re bulimic, the bitter acid from gastric juices washes over your teeth when you vomit and destroys enamel that can never be replaced. If you continue your eating habits long enough, your teeth will be irreparably damaged and will require either caps or replacement by dentures. What teeth you retain will be more susceptible to cavities because of weakened enamel.

If you use laxatives to purge, either exclusively or in addition to vomiting, there is added damage to your digestive system and bowels. If your body hasn’t had to work at passing food through your system for a number of years, it has become lazy, and you’ll need bulk lubricants to aid in having bowel movements.

If you are anorexic and are denying your body the life-sustaining nutrients it needs, your body will begin to turn on you. It will feed on itself in order to survive. When fat is no longer available, your body will begin to digest its own muscle tissue. Since your heart is a muscle, damage to this organ can become irreparable, even fatal. Your hair will thin and fall out.

Your eating disorder is putting an enormous stress on your body. Stress has been shown to have far-reaching effects, contributing to cancer and heart disease.

These symptoms may sound severe and fear based, but they are the harsh reality of eating disorders. Even if you can’t observe these symptoms just yet, consistent disordered eating patters will result in the issues listed above.

In light of these facts, it is vitally important that you begin to work on the reasons why you’re engaging in this destructive behavior and begin to treat its physical effects. This is important not only for today but also for your tomorrow. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is standing by to help you. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an eating disorder specialist today.