Archives for category: denial

tape measure on pretty day 002

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

This morning at Centering Prayer I was reminded of the importance of being tethered to the God of our understanding by our longing to be connected to the love of our Creator. In other words, our willingness to surrender ourselves to attain a connection with the total love that created us and is part of us is crucial in this journey we call life. If we are not willing to surrender our “I-ness,” our ego, if you will, then our own self-will creates a barrier between us and our Higher Power.

What immediately came to my mind was the realization that my surrender of wanting to be in control and to be independent (my “I-ness”) is not a one time, all or nothing occurrence. My surrender of self will is like one of those small round tape measures that let you pull out the tape measure to any length you want and then, at the push of a button, the tape measure is immediately retracted. When I surrender self and connect with God’s love I will eventually allow someone or something  to push my “ego-button” so that my connection  with God is severed and I retract back into my ego-driven isolation.

I have worked so hard and so long at not being dependent or co-dependent on any person, place, or thing that it is difficult for me to realize the God of my choosing cannot be limited to or defined by one of those categories. To not accept my total dependence on God for every breath I take is sheer insanity, but my ego keeps desperately hanging on to that denial.

My ego has been having a denial party ever since my best friend died this summer. I found myself submerged in grief, despair, anger, and the feeling that no matter what I did, I was going to die anyway, so I might as well live for the moment and stop denying myself what gives me pleasure. Fortunately, for me, that did not send me back into practicing my addiction to alcohol. However, I did start eating what I wanted to when I wanted to. Was I suicidal? No, being a diabetic, I still did not eat sugar, flour, bread, or high glycemic fruits and vegetables. But I did over indulge in protein, milk products, fats, and nuts.

Guess what happened? The usual——I gained some weight, food stopped tasting good, and nothing was filling my “emptiness.” It wasn’t until I stopped the denial/self-pity party and started weighing and measuring my foods again, saying please and thank you to God every day, and taking baby steps towards regular exercising that food started tasting good again and I started feeling “okay” again. Of course, my body rebelled and let me know it did not like “detox”—–but, being the “surrender, take it back, surrender again” type person I am, I was used to that  and it didn’t really bother me.

I guess what I am saying is I finally “got my groove back” and was in right-relationship with my Higher Power. It felt good. It felt like, as I heard a friend put it at a meeting recently, “I just stopped fighting the water and turned over and started floating on my back.”

I think I did so just in time because last night I had another medical crisis that kept me awake for several hours and convinced me once again that God is in control when all else fails. I experienced symptoms for several hours that usually either put me in the ER or in the hospital for a week or so or both, and I knew I had to surrender and trust God. I was able to stop fighting the pain,  to accept it, to take my prescribed medicine, and to turn myself, my will,  and my pain over to God with the understanding that I might still need to go to the ER if the medication did not work. God and the medicine worked their magic—–I was able to sleep for a few hours, and when I awoke the pain and nausea were gone.  The relief is indescribable, and I am most grateful for God’s gift of another day of life. God bless and keep you.

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I’ve had quite an interesting and challenging couple of days. First, I found out my ninety-two year old father had fallen and spent the night on the floor two nights in a row—–at least he was found both mornings lying in the floor instead of his bed. His confusion did not allow people to determine what had actually happened, and he did not have his lifeline necklace on so the automatic “subject has fallen” message did not get sent to the monitoring service.

Later that evening,  I had my house alarm set off indicating a burglary attempt,  and I had to rush out of a meeting I was chairing to meet the police and my “back up person” at my house. No one had been able to contact me directly because I had my phone turned off so it would not interrupt the meeting. I was extremely grateful that our church had installed a phone in our kitchen and that my “back up” friend kept calling that number until I got annoyed enough to stop leading the meeting, walk into the kitchen, and answer the phone so my friend could tell me my house alarm was going off.

Fortunately,  we were able to determine it had been a false alarm. Of course, all the noise and commotion had upset my dogs, and my most timid rescue dog saw an opportunity to escape out the garage door and did so. I called him; he ignored me. I headed out the back door to intercept him and, as I went around the house,  I spotted him barking at and “herding” a young boy on a bicycle. The young man was delightful—he told me “You’ve got a good dog—–all he did was walk across the street to a bush, pee on it, and then he came back to your front door waiting for you to open it.”  I should have known Boo would not leave me or the treats he craves so much, and I should have figured out he’d go to the door he is used to coming in when we go for leash-assisted walks.

That should have been enough excitement for one evening, but my aging body delivered the “crowning touch” to my evening’s adventure. Once I straightened things out with my monitoring company and got my dogs calmed down,  I realized it was way past the time that I should have had my supper. Missing a meal by hours is not a problem for most folks, but for a diabetic it can create problems.  So, as I was fixing my dinner, I noticed an empty plastic zip-lock bag had landed on the floor. I bent to pick it up, and on the way “up” got a muscle spasm in my lower back where I never even knew there were muscles.

Today I am navigating around the house using my cane to help alleviate the pressure on my lower back. All is well, and as problems go, I really have been lucky. However, I have noticed even minor problems like the ones I experienced seem to leave me feeling more tired and worn out than they used to and my pride and ego associated with being  “physically fit” keep being assaulted.

Yesterday I made a trip to the drug store to get some low dose aspirin, and while I was checking out at the register I propped my cane beside me on the counter. The cane fell to the floor and a kind gentleman waiting in line behind me picked it up for me. I thanked him and told him I had not figured out how to keep the cane from falling at times like this.  In my mind I thought my statement about the cane implied: “I don’t need this very often, and I am still not used to using it so I haven’t yet figured out how to keep it from falling.”  The gentleman suggested maybe putting some Velcro on my cane so I could fasten it to my person. This was a well-meant suggestion, and it was probably one that would work. But my still child-like ego heard, “You’re an old lady who needs to constantly have her cane with her.” Logically, I knew this was not what the man had said, but it is what registered.  Actually, I am having a hard time accepting that even simple movements such as stooping to get something off the floor (an almost continuously necessary action in my household) or lifting a small dog down from the bed to the floor can cause acute discomfort that sticks around for a day or two.

I have written in these blogs before about aging being devalued in our society. This week I’ve had to acknowledge that the problematic perception of aging is not just within  my culture at large—–I have internalized it.  I don’t know if it is thinking about my father lying helpless on the floor or anticipating that it will be myself on the floor at some point in time, but I am experiencing a bit of  free-floating anxiety that is telling me I have not transitioned to being retired and on Medicare quite as well as I thought I had.

As I recently told an old friend, “One breath at a time, one moment at a time….all will unfold in God’s time. God is guiding you through this wilderness, and he has also provided co-sojourners who can offer support along the way. Consent. ” Good advice—–I think I’d better follow it. God bless and keep you.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Have you ever been so happy that you were afraid to trust your happiness and found yourself intentionally distancing from that emotion? Are we so used to longing for that which we don’t have that when we get “it”—– whatever it is—–we quickly begin to feel restless and “not quite right” once more and begin to search for something else that will make us happy?
Is finding happiness like putting ourselves in the midst of a geographical cure only to find that our problems came with us? I apologize for asking multiple questions, but I am in the midst of a confusing emotional journey. I received very good news recently that something I had wanted for a long time was going to happen. I was very happy and very grateful, but an hour had not yet passed before I started feeling restless and uneasy. I could bring fleeting moments of joy back by focusing my thoughts on the good news I had gotten, but now, days later, that has given way to a minor depression, and I find myself not willing to seek out the solution to this emotional state. I know God is always with me and that if I “tune in” to that love and peace, I too will be peaceful and content. Once again, I seem to prefer floating around in a sea of uneasiness and “agitated depression” rather than relinquishing my will to God’s will. I find myself praying less, eating more, and thinking and writing less about spiritual matters. I seem to be purposefully avoiding consenting to letting God’s will and love empower me.
Years ago I was at an addictions conference, and one of the speakers talked about the research he had done with people addicted to gambling. He reported that as soon as such people won money from a slot machine, even a jackpot worth thousands, they immediately felt restless and dis-eased until they once again put money in the machine and began pulling levers or pushing buttons. The speaker explained his research suggested these addicts were more addicted to the potential of winning than they were actually winning. Perhaps, all addiction is about being addicted to something imagined and/or potential rather than reality.
I know working in partnership with God brings me happiness, contentment, and serenity. And I know I periodically distance myself from that partnership. I know intimacy scares me because of life experiences I have had, and, perhaps, I am more uncomfortable getting closer to and staying close to God than I realized until just now. Then too, on the tails of that insight, comes another “aha moment.” That may explain, somewhat, why I seem to be more comfortable in the familiar comfort of my “self-will run riot” than I am in the serenity I experience when I consent to God’s love and will. Could it be possible that I am not as addicted to chaos, food, or alcohol as I am to the illusion that I can control my life on my own? Perhaps the bottom line is I am a “self-will addict” that can only enjoy happiness, contentment, serenity, etc. temporarily and, just like the gambler putting money back into a slot machine, I am the one who distances myself from God to chase the illusion that this time things will be different and I can control my life with less help from God and by being less connected to God’s will. I have to “break the strong connection” or else I will not be able to chase the illusion of independent or mostly independent control.
Well, that is enough insight for today. I know what the solution is, but I seem to be choosing chasing the illusion over re-connecting more closely with God. And so, I get “sadder” and more restless, and I believe God may be crying—–or very, very irritated because his child repeatedly gets caught up in this approach-avoidance dance . I know he is used to it and me by now, but I know he also wishes I’d stop putting myself in harm’s way by periodically putting distance between us.

Reality is inescapable. Denying what is real only pushes us further into the problem we are trying to deny. It has often been said that insanity is the act of repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results. Denial allows one us to chase after the always non-existent “different results” and keeps us trapped in the same, inevitable results.

That should simplify things. Reading the above paragraph implies that the remedy for denial is to simply “turn it off.” Psychiatric texts discuss denial as an unconscious defense mechanism that buffers individuals from feeling anxiety. It allows us to stay steeped in that “protection” even though we are not aware that we are denying anything.

If one is we are unaware of something, then it is not possible to consciously “turn it off.” I believe the urge to avoid anxiety can cause us to use denial even if doing so were a conscious decision. Conscious or not, denial keeps us from realistically dealing with our problems. So, we are trapped between the proverbial “rock and a hard spot.”  Do we face reality and confront/experience anxiety—-or do we hang on to our denial and keep expecting different results?

Working a twelve step program gives people tools they can use to avoid the trap of denial. One woman stated in her story of recovery (Crossing the River of Denial in Alcoholics Anonymous , 4th Ed., 2001, p. 334), “For almost twenty three years I had done something nearly every day of my life to change reality to one degree or another….” .  Thus, this woman used alcohol to help her deny her reality. She continued to drink in spite of adverse consequences until she stopped denying she was an alcoholic. The rest of “her story” describes how she worked AAs steps and started experiencing reality differently:

“So, here I am, sober. Successful. Serene. just a few of the gifts of the program for surrendering, suiting up, and showing up for life every day. Good days and bad days, reality is a wild ride, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” (Alcoholics Anonymous , 4th Ed., 2001, p. 337).

These two quotes from AA’s “Big Book” illustrate how different one’s experience of reality is once denial no longer distorts it. Reading the “Book Book” has convinced me the only way I can combat the force of denial in by life is by working the 12 step program it describes. If I accept that compulsive self-destructive behaviors only worsen my problems and, choose, instead, to practice the steps of recovery, then I am living in the solution to my problems rather than in the illusion that allows my problems to escalate.

I am interested in reading your comments about the concept of denial and what part it plays in your life. Please share your comments. Thanks!