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From the Outside In?
May 12, 2006
3:16 am
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Mardoll
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I am trying to help someone learn better life patterns, and am concerned that I have let myself get sucked into their codependent pattern instead.

How can I know? What should I be looking for?

Do you have any advice for when I should be gently supportive and when I should give a loving kick in the ass?

May 12, 2006
3:36 am
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camra
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can you explain your situation a little better maybe someone can help you.

May 12, 2006
6:14 am
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Mardoll
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Oh dear, that would take rather a lot...

I guess what I was looking for was warning signs that a counselor is being pulled into a co-dependant relationship with their client. I'm looking for information about what Co-Dependancy looks like from the recieving end. But I guess that's too vague?

Okay, well first some background: I have, in the past, been able to help people - often women, almost always with a history of abuse one way or another - develop a stronger, more positive sense of self, and responsibility.

Usually I do this by providing emotional support while they jump through beaurocratic hoops like job faires and making apointments at Planned Parenthood, comparing notes about their experiences, providing reality checks on their logic-trains, and, up to a point, helping them out while they are in the process of changing their situation (giving them a place to sleep for a few months, with the caveat that they don't get a free ride forever).

I'm very clear that there's a point where I'm enabling more than helping if I don't follow through on consequences if they don't get up and take care of themselves instead of waiting around for another mommy or boyfriend to come give them definition, and take control of their lives.

As I put it to the friend I'm currently working with "If you decide the situation you are in cannot work, and you have to jump, your friends WILL catch you if you fall. I promise we won't drop you *unless you refuse to put your feet down and STAND UP* once we catch you."

-------------------------------

Now, the friend I am currently working with was taught the pre-feminist female role model. Her definition of self is derived from the man in her life, and that definition is a series of wifely tasks. Well, a couple of years ago she met someone who fully expected her to have a mind and personality of her own, which started her down a path of trying to figure out who she IS when she isn't defined by her husband. Unfortunately, without much input, she tried to simply mold herself into being what the new guy wanted and that hasn't worked, because he isn't providing her with a definition.

Starting about six months ago, she started hitting some pretty bad walls where she's been finally realizing where she gets a lot of her assumptions from. I've been helping her take those assumptions apart, and take a good look at them, and then try and figure out what she wants to do instead.

The problem is, she will downward spiral so hard sometimes that she gets locked into a worldview that what she has now is all she is allowed to have, and she absoloutely cannot cope with giving it up in favor of something different because she'd be alone, and being alone for any length of time is cause for panic because she doesn't know what to DO when she's alone, and if she doesn't know what to do, whatever she does is guaranteed to be wrong, and and and and...

When she gets like this, if I point out that her emotional reality isn't actually factual she gets really mad at me. But I don't know how else to snap her out of it, so we get drawn into these arguments where she's thinking emotionally, and I'm trying to pull her out of it with logic.

I've tried to suggest she get professional counseling for codependancy, but she can't afford it, and is too scared that strangers won't like her to really even consider it.

So I'm worried I'm not really helping her by continuing to try. It seems like she's making progress and breakthroughs, but sometimes I just get so overwhelmed by her spirals that I can't cope, and it's all downhill from there.

So... how badly am I screwing this up?

May 12, 2006
10:52 am
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Matteo
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I'm not sure how badly you screwing this up, but I don't think this is the issue here. It seems to me like you are more devoted to her progress than she is, otherwise, shouldn't she be posting on this board instead of you? Try to ask yourself what are your motivations behind such great concern for her well-being?

May 12, 2006
12:30 pm
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on my way
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When you tell her that her emotional reality isn't exactly factual, she may be interpreting it as.."you do not care about me, you do not hear me" even though if you asked her, "DO you think I care about you, she would most definitely tell you yes,..but from that point forward you have lost her. She may not hear anything you have to say after that.

Can you take what roadblocks you see with her one at a time and go over them? For example I see fear...big time!

But your counseling with her...do you do the type of counseling where you give people tools, and then most go and use them, and you may never see them again? And this woman is just hanging onto you? If so, you could tell her you are only qualified to give her so much information. But if you decide you want to help her then do so perhaps by helping her understand spirals. They are real. Maybe she is a visual learner...many avenues to explore if you choose to do so. She isn't changing because she is afraid, which is why she is spiraling.

ALso do you pray? Does she? You may also try praying with her.

I am not a counselor, but I can see your heart in this situation.. and in regard to your thread title...From the Outside In, my belief is that from the Inside out is what works best.

Best of luck to you, I would love to hear how all of this turns out for you and for her. I suppose if you wanted too, you could direct her to this website, it has helped so many people with the codependnecy issues, but you would have to send the Site Coordinator an email and ask her to delete this one of yours of course so that she would not see it.

omw

May 12, 2006
3:23 pm
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Mardoll
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Those are really good questions!

Okay, yes, I guess I did know that her ears turn off when she's spiraling. So I need to find a way to turn them back on?

Yes, she's terrified, and she knows it! But part of the problem is that she's afraid of being afraid! There are things she won't do because when she does them she gets scared. I look at that and go "Um... of what?"

Most of her answers come down to not having any definition of self that doens't start from "belonging".

Yes, we both pray and do a lot of spiritual work - We're in Clergy Training now, actually and this is probably part of the self-work she needs to do before she can really graduate into the next round of work.

I'm helping her because... well first of all, because I'm one of the few people who has actually been paying attention to the situation since it started that she trusts at all. Second of all, she's my friend. Third of all, I'm rather fond of helping people - why else would I be becoming Clergy?

May 12, 2006
3:47 pm
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on my way
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Hi Mardoll,
Well if she is in clergy training she is 1/2 way there...what about reminding her where her Source lies? Who is she going to believe? What God says about her or what she believes to be true? She will be helped if she can come to the conclusion that she has to make a choice....as hard as it is. OR actually, you know, it sounds like she can make a choice but then she spirals. She can't depend on herself here, do you think? Does 'faith' mean anything to her? Because as long she waits to FEEL it, as feelings can be so fleeting, she may not be able to move forward. Factually, she belongs. What about asking her to make a list of things that belong to her, any groups of friends she is a part of, and of course, it looks as if she belongs to a family. She is very feeling based, so you could also operate from that, as in "How does that make you feel"..then determine which avenue to go, or just listen? Maybe it all boils down to what she beleives, and who she beleives in. If she is in the clergy, it will benefit her and others to have faith not in herself, but in what gifts God has given her. Then she may need to daily offer this up to God.

WOW,,,hmmm. This is what I would do anyway.
omw

May 12, 2006
5:30 pm
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Mardoll
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"Because as long she waits to FEEL it, as feelings can be so fleeting, she may not be able to move forward."

That's exactly what I have been realizing - I hope I can make her understand it.

Yes, faith means something, but faith in self is harder sometimes than faith in the Divine.

May 12, 2006
5:52 pm
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on my way
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Tell her as long she thinks this way that you cannot help her. Part of her learning this for herself sounds as if she has to experience the pain. And then when she has decided she is finished and wants to try a factual method, then she will begin her road to healing.

I too am going to be studying to be a counselor soon through school. And I know for me, one of the most difficult things that I will need to learn is not to be or play God to someone. Some people just have to fall before they get up, and as a counselor I suppose the wisdom comes in knowing when to allow them to fall.

You sound as if you are a very good counselor. Maybe you have done your part. Ask God to show you if there is anyting else he has to show you in regard to your friend. If not then perhaps you have an answer as to your role in this.

prayers, wisdom and hugs your way,
omw

May 16, 2006
9:02 pm
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Mardoll
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"Ask God to show you if there is anyting else he has to show you in regard to your friend. If not then perhaps you have an answer as to your role in this."

*sigh* You know, you'd think I'd have thought of that, but maybe I've been afraid of the answer. I feel like I promised to help her get to certain points, and I know a couple of major markers for what's ahead of her that I feel obliged to stick around for.

But I never promised to be the only person helping her - I guess there's no reason I can't take more of a background position until she actually reaches those markers, and then step forward to help her set up the events associated with them?

May 17, 2006
1:08 am
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free2choose
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Mardoll, u said:

"Yes, she's terrified, and she knows it! But part of the problem is that she's afraid of being afraid! There are things she won't do because when she does them she gets scared. I look at that and go "Um... of what?""

and also:

" When she gets like this, if I point out that her emotional reality isn't actually factual she gets really mad at me. But I don't know how else to snap her out of it, so we get drawn into these arguments where she's thinking emotionally, and I'm trying to pull her out of it with logic"

I have to tell you, I have PTSD, depression and anxiety.

I have often experienced the negative downward spiral that you are talking about. I have also been paralyzed with fear.

I want to say, instead of argueing with her and basically telling her that her fear is irrational, or illogical, why not try actuall validating her feelings.

I know first hand, that when I am in the brink of that pit of dispair, the feelings do FEEL real, and when someone attempts to tell me that I am over-reacting, or being irrational, that just pisses me off, leaves me feeling invalidated, and destroys my trust and willingness to be vulnerable with that person again.

Validate her feelings, no matter how unreal they are to you, because to her, they are very real!! Try to understand, and have compassion for her, for the struggle she is having. Compassion soothes, calms, brings a person back to where they can HEAR again. Because she can't hear you above the "voices" in her head screaming, she can't hear you above her own instincts of "fight or flight". But comappion and understanding in the chaos may help to soothe her into a place of submission, where, once calm, she will be able to hear and think more rationally.

Alot of this too is about control. When she is afraid, she may feel vulnerable, out of control. When you say she is "afraid of being afraid", I think it is more that she is afraid of feeling out of control. When healing, we must take steps forward in faith, change is awkward and foreign, and often feels very unstable. It is this that she fears, and it is this fear of change, of the unkown which blocks her from moving forward. This again must be dealt with with compassion and understanding.

Yet, sometimes, it is just tough love. We can not will another person into change, no matter how much we may want it for them. For her, if the present situation that she is in is more tolerable than the fear she feels of change, then she willstay where she is comfortable, even if it hurts and is chaos. Often the chaos we know is much more tolerable than the chaos we fear because it is unknown.

I understand you want to motivate change in her, because it is what you want for her, and probably, it is what she needs. However, truly lasting change is often only brought about by SELF motivation, and often this motivation is only realised when the pain of the present is greater than the fear of the unkown. When a person has NO OTHER choice but to move. You can not do that for her, she must decide when she is at that point! It sounds as if she is not.

Some people respond to firm reality check counseling. For some, that is much too harsh, and feels like abuse. For some, the better route is compassion and nurtureing. It sounds as if she needs nurture rather than ass kicking. But it also sounds as if you need to allow her space to hit her bottom. Let her fall.

When counseling people, it is hard not to want to be the savior, the know it all, the fixer. It is a big ego boost. But truly HELPING people, is not about us...it is about them. Leave the ego at home. Let her fix herself. And if she refuses, or she is not ready....all you can do is wait untill she is, because forcing the issue is not healthy for either of you.

Leave her in God's hands.

Good luck.

Erica

May 17, 2006
1:37 am
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Mardoll
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"Try to understand, and have compassion for her, for the struggle she is having."

Understanding I may lack, but I don't *think* I'm short on the compassion bit. I admit, I don't understand how it will help her be less afraid if I tell her that she should, indeed, be scared. So I have to assume that you mean "validate" in some other way.

As for the motivation to change - she is who insists that she is motivated to change. But she locks up at the point of trying to determine what to change TO. She gets as far as what she has not being ok, but can't figure out what would be better, or how to get there. That's most of what I'm trying to help her figure out, and most of where we end up locked up. Because I will ask her questions intended to get her to think about her options, and instead she insists that she HAS none, and all I can say is "You DO have options, even if you can't see them from here right now."

Lately we've been trying to find resources for Codependancy counseling and other such things, but trusting a stranger with this stuff is really hard for her, because she's of the generation that was taught to hide anything "wrong" with them.

I don't *think* it's a question of Ego. I've been through several rounds with several people, and I know damned well there's nothing I can do to force somebody to change "for their own good". I do a lot more asking than telling - admittedly, they're leading questions, but they're still intended to get you to do your own thinking, rather than handing you the answers that work for me and expecting them to work for you.

If anything, I think she needs more help than I am qualified to give her, but I don't know how to extract myself without hurting her even more.

My current plan is, as I said, to help her find professional help she can afford and trust, and otherwise to back off and just be there when the time comes for the event planning surrounding the goals she's currently working on - to celebrate her progress, etc.

May 17, 2006
2:38 am
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free2choose
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By validation, I mean not telling her that her feelings are illogical or unreal. You said:

"I don't understand how it will help her be less afraid if I tell her that she should, indeed, be scared."

I did not mean that you should tell the that she SHOULD be scared, I meant validate that you see WHY she may be scared, have compassion for her feelings of fear, possibly help her get to the ROOT of the fears.

The point is not to get her to BE less afraid, but to NOT ALLOW the fear she feels to Paralyze her into inaction. To do this, she must first have her fears validated as real, then be helped to find the root cause of the fears so that she can better understand tham and see them more realistically. Only when she can at least SEE (be aware of) her fears REALISTICALLY, even if not realistically feel them (at the "wattage" that is appropriate), only then will she be able to move through them into change...

Remind her, "True courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act regardless of the fear." Remind her she is brave, she is courageaus, she is strong. SHe sounds like a person who will respond much more to bieng "Built up" with praise and compassion, rather than criticism, which may come off feeling like abuse even if that is not the intention.

------------------

I did not mean to imply that you are egotistical, only that you are human. By your own admission, you seen to have a firm grasp on the knowledge that this woman may need more than you alone can give her. That is good!!

Where I live, there is often psycotherapy offered by non-profit organizations at a sliding fee scale. I went there before I could afford the therapy I now have, and it was an excellent place to start. maybe looking into something of this sort would be helpfull.

Good luck! And WELCOME, by the way. I am enjoying the chat with you in both these threads.

Respectfully,
Free2Choose

May 17, 2006
6:03 am
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Mardoll
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Oh crap, I just lost a whole big long thing because my mouse has an easy-trigger back button where I don't want it. *sigh*

I'll start over.

May 17, 2006
6:13 am
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Mardoll
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"validate that you see WHY she may be scared, have compassion for her feelings of fear, possibly help her get to the ROOT of the fears."

I generally do work with her on finding the roots of things - a lot of times by helping her find where she has tied two concepts together that are not actually the same thing. (e.g. Not getting what you want does not mean you should not have asked. Not getting what you want from ME does not mean you cannot have it from someone else.)

I try to validate her feelings, but I admit sometimes I get fed up when I feel manipulated by her patterns - sometimes I just feel like I'm being put into a position where I'm obliged to give the "right" answer, instead of telling the truth as I understand it, and I find that totally unacceptable.

Unfortunately, that probably means I'm not doing as good a job of being validating as she may need.

"Remind her, "True courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act regardless of the fear.""

That I do with increasing frequency. Sometimes it helps a little. I also try to give her examples of when I have been very scared of something, and how stubbornly moving forward despite the fear was part of the solution to my problem. Again, this only helps a little. Mostly my efforts to empathise with her seem to have added up to her thinking that I'm wonderful and she could never possibly be as wonderful as me.

I have a very strong dislike of being used as a ruler for somebody else to beat themselves or me when they don't percieve themselves as measuring up. Unfortunately I haven't yet figured out how to prevent it. That sounds egotistical - it's not meant to be. I've simply noticed that when folks use me as a ruler, they're fine with it as long as they feel I'm the "smaller" one, but if I'm bigger they use it as an indication either that they suck, or that I am out to get them somehow.

"there is often psycotherapy offered by non-profit organizations at a sliding fee scale."

Yep, we're looking into it. However, many of those organizations have limited understandings of alternative lifestyles, sexuality, and religions, which raises some difficulties in finding applicable services.

June 1, 2006
12:48 am
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Mardoll
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GAH! I give up. I've tried backing off, and now she gets angry with me for not being available to give her everything she thinks she needs from me.

It's driving me nuts that if she can't get exactly what she thinks she needs from a specific source, she assumes there is no way to get anything she needs in any way. She can't get outside her box. It's all or nothing, and I'm the all right now, and it's not ok with me.

I've explained to her that you can't dig silver out of a copper mine no matter how hard you try, and that it's not the copper mine's fault for not being a silver mine, nor the miner's fault for wanting silver. The miner simply needs to be willing to look for a silver mine, damnit!

She understood the metaphor, but can't get out of the idea that she can't trust strangers, and the few people she trusts won't (not can't, won't) give her what she needs, so she must suck for wanting it.

A couple days ago she went off on me for neglecting her, and then appologized for being in my way, because she understands that I don't have time for her anymore.

First of all, from her tone, "I'm sorry" meant "You should be sorry", which I didn't appreciate at all. Second of all, if she really understood that I didn't have time that weekend, because of work, she wouldn't have taken it so personally, and gone off on me *while I was still working*.

Finally she appologized for failing me because her self-work isn't working fast enough, and I'm who was helping her.

I reiterated that she needs more help than I am capable of giving her, and that she hadn't failed me, because I'm not who needed to benefit from her work. If she failed anyone, she only failed herself, and it's not like she can't keep trying, eh?

But I just can't do this. I know what it looks like to not be making the assumptions she's making, and I see the assumptions she's making, but I have no idea how to help her progress from one to the other, and because I was trying to help, she latched onto me to solve all her problems, thereby completely missing the point.

GAH! I'm exhausted, I'm angry, and I don't know what to do. She doesn't have money for counseling, her insurance won't pay unless her husband agrees to go into group counseling with her, and he won't cooperate, and apparently all the available resources she can find either "won't work" or "aren't available to her" and while she'll give me specific examples of ones that are clearly too expensive to be available, I don't know what her criteria are for rejecting anything that isn't a best friend or lover just rescuing her from her lack of self.

June 1, 2006
3:55 pm
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Mardoll
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I think I know part of the mistake. I've done it before, so I feel kinda stupid for repeating it...

I shouldn't ever tell my friends, no matter how much I love them, that I can't imagine them sucking badly enough to drive me away. They take it as a challenge, or something, to prove that yes, they CAN find ways to drive me away. I think it must have something to do with needing their fears validated.

My concern is, if they can't get past the fear that their usual, perfectly reasonable behaviors mean they suck horribly and nobody will love them, how can they open up enough to work on themselves and heal?

There must be some kind of middle ground, some way to help them open up without opening myself up to their need to PROVE their negative self-image is true.

June 13, 2006
6:37 pm
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Mardoll
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Okay, I'm just not doing very well today. I snapped at her. I know I shouldn't have, but I just lost my temper.

She finally got up the guts to break up with someone I'm very close to. He and I both think it's a very healthy move for her to have gotten up the courage, but now he's in a place where he needs to figure out what he actually wants and needs out of his relationship with her - be it friendship, or whatever.

And she's jumping to all kinds of conclusions about everything. Any time she doesn't hear something actively good, she assumes the worst. So now she's saying how he's a liar and must be enjoying her being in pain because he isn't rushing to solve the problem immediately instead of taking the time he needs to think.

I know she needs sympathy, but I can't just stand there and watch her make these horrible assumptions that aren't based on anything real when I know better. And yet I know that it's not my job to communicate with him for her, or with her for him, and that it's probably a bad thing that I've been as involved as I am.

Being the most proactive of the three of us, I'm arranging for mediation with a counselor, but that's two whole weeks away, and in the meantime every day that goes by is like a ticking time bomb on her sense of what's going on.

It's like she assumes we have all the answers and are simply choosing to withold them to watch her squirm. It doesn't occur to her that we have our own issues to deal with, that we may not know all the answers (I say "we" because I'm heavily involved, and because she does similar things to me - and I imagine all her other relationships).

I know she has ADHD, and that one day seems like an eternity to her, but I'm so tired of watching her tear herself apart based on phantoms, fears, and pain because she doesn't understand the idea that there are things outside her fears, and some things you just have to wait for.

I feel like if we don't reassure her at least daily, preferably several times a day that there are *still* no monsters hiding in the shadows, she assumes our silence means that the monsters have arrived.

And I just can't keep up.

*sigh* At least she finally got a therapist for the personal stuff! And we're getting a counselor to help us get a clearer picture of the relationship stuff.

June 13, 2006
6:47 pm
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on my way
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Wow...in the middle on this one.

I have a friend who has a daughter who just is not learning and keeps making the same mistakes all over again, and then steps back and wonders what happened "to her", and then involves everyone else in her drama. I advised her mother to let her go and deal with her own mess. As a mother it is hard for her because there is now a grandchild involved as well. So she would like to kick her daughter to the curb but the baby makes a difference, and she can't.

It is harder when emotionally involved. These must both also be dear friends of yours?

June 13, 2006
7:00 pm
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Mardoll
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She's one of my closest friends. He's my secondary lover - and formerly her secondary as well. That's why the counseling issue is "we" not "they" - the three of are going to see a Polyamory-friendly relationships counselor that I know.

We're are all three of us close - like family. For a while I used to view them as parents (which just complicates the whole emotional aspect for me). Both she and her teenaged daughter view me as a sister. For reasons that are obvious in retrospect, he certainly never viewed me as a daughter - I've already mostly resolved my own knee-jerk reactions to ending up sleeping with somebody I used to view as a father-figure. Freud can shove it.

*sighs* I try to leave out the details of our relationship, because so many people respond to that part with "Well obviously the issue is that you were trying to have more than one romance at the same time when everbody knows that's not ok" when that has very little to do with the problem at either her or his end, and the manner in which it's a problem at my end has so much more to do with symbolism and memories than it has to do with the moral value and ethics of polyamory.

June 26, 2006
3:14 am
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Mardoll
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Gah. I keep flip-flopping between being angry with her and being ashamed of myself.

It seems like she'll only do things to take care of herself if somebody else orders her to, at which point if it doesn't show signs of improvement immediately, she behaves as though she's angry with them that they haven't fixed it.

If I ask her, she certainly isn't angry with anyone - if anything, she's frustrated with *herself*. But the tone of voice, the expression on her face reads as accussing, and no matter how many times we go over this, I can't get past it.

I keep getting frustrated at her apparent inability to take a step back and think clearly about things. When I think about it myself, I recognise that she doesn't really know how - she wasn't really taught that ever. All anyone ever wanted of her was that she hide her feelings and stay out of the way, so it's very confusing and upsetting to have somebody want her to express herself, to open up to healing, and then get frustrated with her for not being able to keep a rational backburner going.

Honestly, I wonder what made me think she ever HAD that particular kind of thought processes running. I was raised to think like an engineer, but that doesn't mean everybody is.

*sigh* We go in for mediation on Wednesday, and I can't remember anymore what we wanted to solve because everything has fallen apart since then.

June 26, 2006
2:45 pm
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Mardoll

I do not know anything about you or your past.

I just wanted to add that you seem to be emotionally very involved in all that's about her and her and she does this.

For me it seems your thoughts are controlled by her. What she does and what she says and how she reacts.

Can you see where I am going?

What about YOU.

How do you see yourself emotionally??

Garfield

June 26, 2006
4:48 pm
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Mardoll
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*laughs* Did you read the rest of the thread, or just my most recent post?

Outside of dealing with this particular friend, I'm actually doing pretty well. The issue here was that I was trying to help a specific person with some issues she's having, and am hitting the end of my rope on the subject.

In general, though, life is pretty good. My love life is wonderful AND reasonably stable, I'm doing well in school, I'm making good progress towards ordination, and though the last couple weeks were high stress from a lot of not-quite-constructive criticism, this week I had a lot of those same critics come back and clarify that in context I'm actually doing very well.

It's the summer, so I'm at the hight of good in my Seasonal Depression which wasn't so bad this year anyway thanks to being in NRE (New Relationship Energy).

The downside currently is that I could still use some serious lessons in Home Economics, I'm about 80-90 lbs overweight which really IS starting to bother me, and just now I have a truely wretched sunburn from forgetting my sunscreen while I stayed out in the wind and sun at the Marina for a couple hours yesterday.

The fact that things are going well in general is why the difficulties with this particular friendship stand out.

*Shrugs* If you have specific questions about my life, I can answer them, but I'm not sure what you're looking for.

June 29, 2006
5:04 am
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Mardoll
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Whew!

The counseling session went really well. I have seriously renewed hope for things working out to some satisfactory measure.

June 29, 2006
11:49 am
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on my way
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That is good news!!

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