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Many people talk about perfection as a positive thing that creates positive outcomes. Some professions, such as some forms of medicine or engineering, talk about perfection as an important component in their fields.

What is interesting is that, in our personal lives, when we strive for perfection we are guaranteed to fail. This seems like a contradiction because many of us believe and attempt to live our lives in such a way as to look like the perfect family. When families attempt to live in perfection, they might look good on the outside but be experiencing many unresolved feelings on the inside. They may also look like a great family on the outside and demonstrate different unhealthy patterns, addictions, and/or abuse behind closed doors.

When we pretend to be perfect, emotional tension builds within that eventually can create many problems. The emotional tension is related to the imperfections life offers that continually have us fail in anything we attempt to be perfect in.

We learn to strive for perfection at a young age in attempts to please our parents and other authority figures in our life. As children, the first time we do something that gets positive attention from our parents or adult figures, we attempt to do it again to get more attention. What typically happens is that the parents initially recognize children for their accomplishment. As time continues, less recognition is given for the behavior because it is expected. To receive more positive attention, children recognize they will need to do more or do something even better to get the attention they desire.

This pattern of attempting to do better or more to get the recognition we desire from our parents creates the pattern of perfection. As time goes on, children will continue to do more and more to get that crumb of attention they desire. Eventually they receive no more attention, yet the pattern of anticipation that some form of positive recognition will be given creates the need to continue to do more and be even better. With attempts to continue improving being made with little or no recognition, anxiety from the lack of success and the tension of the perfection increases.

When the need to be perfect becomes great, obsessiveness and compulsiveness might increase. The obsessiveness might be associated with something like cleaning the house twice a day or making sure that everything in the closet is organized and hung with a certain amount of space between each garment. A compulsive behavior associated with perfection might be a person who continually is organizing things or picking things up.

While perfectionism can have some positive qualities, it can also have negative qualities. One common drawback is having no time for fun or life because the perfectionistic patterns consume too much time and create an emotional heaviness within ones self and in relationships.

To reduce the anxiety and tension from the need for perfection, it may help to learn to recognize appropriate limits that can be acceptable. When posed with the question of what an acceptable limit might be, a perfectionistic person might say anything less than 110% is unacceptable. This response already places the person at a disadvantage, since no one can give more than 100% and most people cannot consistently give 100% to anything.

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Did you watch the first debate between the Presidential candidates? I saw only the last ten minutes. The messages I heard didn’t seem new or surprising, given each candidate’s position. What I found interesting, though, was their body language.

In the portion of the debate that I saw, President Obama looked serious and his body language seemed to match his words. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, had a forced smile and looked much more stressed. His body language seemed incongruent with his message.

It’s no secret that candidates are well coached before a debate on what to say and how to direct the discussion. This coaching can do a lot to help them frame their words to support their positions as strongly as possible. To some extent, coaching can also help them tone down or shift their body language.

Yet the messages communicated by someone’s body language never totally disappear. Our words can be carefully chosen to show us in the way we want to be perceived. We can use words to manipulate, to hide our true feelings, and to just plain lie. Yet our body language never lies.

For this reason, if you are looking for information to help you decide which Presidential candidate to vote for, you might want to watch the upcoming debates carefully. Don’t just listen to the words, but focus on the candidates’ body language. Notice whether it is congruent with what they say. The words may be telling us whatever the candidates think we want to hear. The body language will be telling us the truth.

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Has anyone ever told you to be more positive and optimistic? Maybe you’ve tried exercises meant to help you become more optimistic, like creating a list of 20 positive characteristics and telling them to yourself every day.

Exercises like this may be fruitful. Yet when I have felt down, these exercises seemed too much like work and were ineffective in bringing up my optimism. If anything, this forced optimism irritated me.

Our emotional history, trauma, not being validated, and not being heard, are all contributors to a pessimistic attitude. The core and essence of who we are always tends to be optimistic. When we allow ourselves to work through our emotional issues that create a pessimistic attitude and get to our emotional core, we naturally become more optimistic.

When we are willing to go deep enough and connect with our emotional truth, our outlook and perceptions start to naturally shift to a more positive, optimistic state of being. This does not mean that we are always happy, joyous, and free with our optimism. What it does mean is that we have the opportunity to live life in emotional honesty, which is naturally more realistic and optimistic.

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We just received the first snowfall of the season. While it was not a lot of snow that fell, it was beautiful. Liz and I like to walk our dogs every day in the hills. As we were driving to our favorite spot for walking the dogs, we could not help but notice and appreciate how beautiful the Black Hills of South Dakota are with the snow. The clouds were hanging low so that you could  see the tops of some of the hills, yet the middle was hidden. At the same time the sun was just  starting to rise and with the crisp air, it allowed all the colors to be accentuated. While it was chilly this morning, the beauty made the experience well worth it. This is one reason I appreciate where I live.

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Have you ever attended a social event and found yourself eating food or drinking a beverage, even though you didn’t want to? Maybe the host offered, and you didn’t want to appear rude or ungrateful. Perhaps a friend urged you to ‘lighten up and have one more drink.’

Believe it or not, this situation is actually a form of codependency. What does that mean? Codependency occurs when an individual places the needs of others above their own needs. As a result, the individual begins to develop deep feelings of resentment and discomfort.

Codependency can occur in a number of ways. Today’s blog will focus on the idea of Financial Codependency. Just as any other form, Financial Codependency happens when an individual places the financial needs of everyone else before their own financial needs.

Financial Codependency often puts the individual in fiscally harmful positions. For example, let’s say an individual was involved in an auto accident. That person files an insurance claim, and finds the insurance company will only pay a reduced amount. Believing they have no power to challenge the claim, they simply accept that the amount is what they deserve. The same is true for service contracts and lease agreements. Many people sign documents because they assume they have no other choice, and don’t realize they have the legal right to modify the contract. By placing the financial needs of others before their own needs, they develop feelings of deep-seated resentment.

Financial Codependency can also lead to relationship obstacles, whether between parents and their children, spouses, or other family and friends. In some cases, a parent might be giving money to their grown children. They are placing their child’s needs above their own, while also creating a feeling of ‘you owe me.’ This is not healthy for parent or child, and anger can emerge.

Becoming aware of Financial Codependency is the first and most important piece in overcoming it. Work can then be done to explore the deeper emotional causes behind the Financial Codependency.

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Last week’s blog addressed the ways Financial Codependency can affect an individual’s personal life. Today’s blog will explore Financial Codependency in the business world. Codependency occurs when a person places the needs of others above their own needs. This aspect of behavior is developed during childhood, and remains with individuals in every facet of adult life. Thus, Financial Codependency can present critical challenges in a professional setting.

If a business person is in charge of making decisions that impact the bottom line, surely they must be free from Financial Codependency, right? Not so. All too often, the business sphere is affected by the same issues that can be found in personal life, and Financial Codependency is one of them.

The ways Financial Codependency occurs in the business world are many. For instance, a business owner may feel pressured to offer undue discounts, thus devaluing their service. They may write things off, when in fact they don’t need to. Another common scenario is a business person who keeps a problem employee on staff because they don’t believe they have any other choice. As an unworthy individual eats into the bottom line, management may begin to grow frustrated or resentful.

Financial Codependency occurs in the business world when one person places the emotional needs of others on themselves. Maybe a staff member approaches them with stories of ‘I can’t afford the things I need for my family.’ The business owner might feel a need to take care of that person, neglecting financial responsibility to their company’s success.

In a professional setting, it can help to partner with others who have different emotional beliefs about money. Financial Codependency can then be somewhat counteracted. By accepting and identifying Financial Codependency in the business place, work can be done to resolve the deeper emotional issues behind it.

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Do you feel responsible for everything that happens, even to other people? Do you try and fix the problems of others, and feel guilty when you can’t? You may be codependent, which can be especially troubling when managing finances. By placing the financial needs of others above your own financial needs, intense feelings of resentment can develop.

The previous two blogs have addressed Financial Codependency in personal life and the business world. Since the first step in overcoming Financial Codependency is identifying it, here are some key signs that signal financial codependency.

  • Do you give excessively to others? Financial codependents are often lavish gift givers, spending much more money than what is reasonable. In addition, financial codependents may be supporting the lifestyle of family or friends, such as a parent who continues to give money to a grown child.
  • Do you become involved with other people’s problems? If you find yourself dropping everything to take care of the finances of others, you may be financially codependent.
  • Do you continually pay for things? Whether it’s a trip, a dinner, or an event, financial codependents have trouble saying ‘no’ and waste money on things that aren’t really important to them.
  • Do you only focus on what makes others happy, and never yourself? Many codependents devote much of their time and finances on things that make others happy. They may not even recognize the things that make themselves happy.
  • Do you repeatedly bail others out? If you find yourself continually coming to the rescue of others after they’re in a financial tight spot, this could be a red flag.
  • Do you constantly give others ‘one more chance’? One more chance always leads to another and another and another. This behavior is how the financially codependent cycle continues.

By identifying the signs of Financial Codependency, you can take the necessary steps to resolve the underlying emotional issues behind it.

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For many people, the term “codependency” means negative behaviors like caretaking and enabling. These excessive attempts to take responsibility for and control others are common codependent patterns.

Codependency can also be disguised with what initially seems to be positive behavior. Albert, for example, enjoyed sports and was pushed at a young age to participate in baseball, football, and basketball. He was good at all these sports but excelled in baseball as a pitcher. Many people knew him because of the sports he was in, and he was widely expected to get a college baseball scholarship. He received a great deal of positive recognition for his athletic skills from others, including his parents.

From the outside, all this praise and recognition would certainly seem positive. Yet all through childhood, Albert was praised for what he did but not given any emotional connection and attention for who he was. No one recognized his inner loneliness and sense of rejection. He learned to hide his loneliness in the busyness and recognition of sports, and also by putting on an arrogant front for others to see.

Because Albert didn’t receive positive emotional attention and connection as a child, he developed codependency. He acted out his form of codependency in just the opposite way that a caretaking person would. Rather than trying harder and harder to connect in order to get crumbs of positive attention, he gave up on attempting to please others at all. All the positive attention he did get came from his athletic performance, so he learned not to care what others thought of him when he was not on the field. As he grew older, he started believing he could do whatever he wanted and that there would be no negative consequences for his behavior. Because of the status that came with his athletic skills, all too often there were no consequences.

Being praised only for his accomplishments taught Albert that his athletic ability was all people cared about. At a deep emotional level, he felt inadequate and like a failure. His outer achievements and apparent confidence were the ways he hid his true feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. Despite his apparent success, he was living with painful codependency.

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When we hear the term “addiction,” we usually think of alcoholism or drugs. Yet these are only two of many addictions that we may use to hide our feelings.

Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions, in part because it is legal, widely used, and readily available. We can also become addicted to a variety of other substances. These include illegal drugs, prescription medications, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, and pain relievers.

We can also become addicted to behaviors that serve to medicate and mask our feelings. Television is a common one. Gambling is another. Some other addictive behaviors include shopping, sex, reading, video games, Internet browsing, hobbies, saving, day trading, work, exercise, and physically risky activities like surfing or rock climbing.

Whether a given behavior or substance is an addiction isn’t so much about what the behavior or substance is as it is about how much we engage in it and why. Anything that is taken to extremes in order to distract us from feelings and relationships can be an addiction.

When we’re addicted, we have a sense of anxiety or panic if we don’t have a supply of the substance or can’t engage in the behavior. Feeling anxious if there’s no alcohol in the house is no different than feeling anxious because there’s no casino within reach or because you’ve sprained your ankle and are unable to exercise.

Another clue to whether anything is an addiction is whether we feel compelled to hide it. If we need to be secretive or lie about how much we drink, how much time we spend on the Internet, or how often we shop, these are patterns that can be associated with an addiction.

Some addictions, like work and exercise, are socially acceptable and even encouraged. Others, like alcohol and drugs, are not. Yet the important issue isn’t whether the activity or substance itself is good or bad. What matters is the answers to these questions:

“Does this have a negative impact on me, the people around me and on my environment?”

“Does this keep me stuck and separate me from other people and from my own feelings?”

If the answers are “Yes,” the behavior or substance may be an addiction.

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When Walt started telling stories, even his close friends sometimes rolled their eyes. No matter what the topic of conversation was, Walt claimed to know something about it. He always had to top other people’s stories. If his tales could be believed, Walt had met more famous people, solved more difficult problems, made more clever investments, and succeeded in more business ventures than ought to be possible in one person’s lifetime.

It seemed just a little odd that Walt was spending his retirement years in a mobile home park, working as a part-time janitor.

Except, of course, there was nothing odd about it, because very few of Walt’s stories were true. The codependent pattern he had developed to hide his fears and his belief that he wasn’t good enough was lying. His constant need to impress people was his attempt to feel good enough.

Most of us aren’t quite as obvious about it as Walt, but all of us who have learned codependent patterns have learned to lie. As children, when we are told that we are not scared or that there is nothing to cry about, we are being taught to hide our true feelings. When we shut down our true feelings, we’re typically rewarded with comments like, “That’s a good boy/girl,” “What a cute smile,” or “You’re so strong for not crying.” This teaches us to lie.

Most of us aren’t consciously aware that we are lying because the feelings are deep in the subconscious, hidden even from ourselves. Yet being taught to hide our true feelings creates a foundation for our lives that is built on lies. Dishonesty is an inherent part of codependency.

This lying often takes subtle forms. We lie when we pretend to agree with opinions we don’t support because we are afraid to say what we really believe. We lie when we try to look good on the outside so people won’t see how fearful or worthless we may feel on the inside. We lie when we pretend things are okay when they are not. We lie when we cover up for alcoholics, abusers, or other family members whose codependency is creating pain for themselves and others. We lie when we spend our lives trying to be the person we think other people need us to be. We lie when we hold back our tears that want to come out.

Above all, we lie to ourselves when we accept the negative messages about ourselves that have taught us to believe we are worthless.