Friday, February 10, 2017

Intimate Relationships: Start With Self-Examination (Part 1)


Self, Interrupted

The primary and ultimate barrier to your ability to have a successful and stable relationship starts with yourself. Unfortunately, it is nearly universal that individuals (myself a “leader” in this aspect) lack a good relationship with themselves at some point, or many points in their lives.
The causes are most often tied to: abuse, a lack of introspection, focused misplaced on materialism, success trappings, and repeated failure(s) in prior intimate experience(s). Sometimes, all of these are present and interacting – making the process within one’s self an even more difficult trek.

The Fragile King or Queen of Pain

Abuse, in its many forms, leaves you in a state of: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How can I…go on?
With abuse, repression of the events, or creation of a scar that never heals right, are natural defense mechanisms that allow one to forge ahead. To survive, but not thrive. To march on, but not to march through obstacles. Instead, you create a wall – with the words shame, humiliation, blame, fear, sadness, and most prevalent of all – anger – written and built to last forever, if need be.
A fortress of solitude or the castle of whispers that you rule without a corresponding confidence in either its existence, or its necessity. Yet, you rule it nonetheless; because it makes you feel “real” – its tangibility to something you know is real to your life: your pain.
Often too, as an outgrowth of the abuses (or even perceived ones – as neurologists have concluded can exist), a sheer lack of introspection, a focus on item obtainment/attaining success (each a soothing mechanism to one’s bruised psyche), or repeated failures in intimacy will follow, or concurrently arise. A person no longer acts authentically; rather, it is all a well-crafted façade, a way to cope with what ails them.
Reflexively, people that interact with you, aren’t sure about your actual identity. Because while they see you, attempting to be that better person, something real is held back. It’s a perception issue; the amazing human mind can sense the hurt and missing part of what was the total you. This will interfere with successful relationships – and explains the coping mechanisms engaged in.

Alleviating Pain: Remove and Deny the Source

This isn’t your fault at all. But the solution is your ultimate task and is your responsibility: to review, reflect, and bring to closure these deep wounds and bring down the wall. Grief the past and let it go are the answers to seek out. You’ve likely heard this for a very long time from the well-intentioned, and not-so-well intentioned sources.
Potential loves and true friends meant well in advising and should be kept in your life. The easiest identification of true friends: they want your company, not what you have, and are consistent and respectful with others of all classes and walks of life.
But, the very ones that hurt you so much – often, they lack both empathy and a conscience, with their manipulative and self-serving actions and facility with lies. Address this immediately, with no contact, it is ultimately the best, and most realistic solution.
As these predatory influences too have substantial work (urgently and significantly on themselves) to ever prove that they are human, and have a conscience. That of actual, sustained and unforced therapy, brain diagnostics and deep work, proven empathy (elsewhere), and no repeated failures towards you. A two strike rule can apply (only if you decide that is warranted, given the nature of the events). But finally: Never let yourself be invested or dependent on giving any second chances. Actions are greater than any words.

The Personality Disordered

This moves the conversation into abnormal psychology realms – that of typical Cluster B personalities (Anti-Socials, Narcissists, Borderlines and Histrionics) and Psychopaths that have impacted your life with their abuses. It is proven by Drs. Robert Hare and Martha Stout, and a multitude of neurologists, that these disorders are inflexible, and nearly incurable, due to biochemical brain patterns existing; and their equally sustained behaviors.

Traits of Cluster B Personalities and Psychopathy (Hare, et. al.)

Emotional Presentation
Social Presentation
Glibness/ Superficial Charm
Ego Centric/Grandiose
Poor Behavior Control
No Remorse/Guilt
Need Excitement & Create Drama
No Empathy
Lack Responsibility
Deceitfulness & Lying
Early Behavioral Incidents
Shallow Emotions
Anti-social – Outside social norms
Criminally Versatile

Genetics will play a substantial (35-50%) role in the reason for those that have engaged in abuses against your person, violating trust, boundaries and causing stress and duress. Environmental and approved social maladaptive behavior (during their upbringing) furthers embeds, or installs, a toxic program of not being able to treat any other with any respect.
In the case of Borderlines (due to the label being tied predominately to female disordered patients), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), developed by Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, is used to treat the thinking patterns seen in Borderlines: all or nothing reasoning, suicidal ideations, from dysregulation of emotions –as they present with low empathy. Linehan, was diagnosed in her teens with a mental disorder and received chemical treatments prior to 1965.

DBT Therapy Foundational Pillars

§  Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware (in the present)
§  Distress Tolerance: tolerate pain in difficult situations, not to change it or distort it
§  Interpersonal Effectiveness: ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
§  Emotion Regulation: change emotions that you want to change
This said, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed that those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have lowered brain activity in regions important for empathy. (August 2015 Psych Central post by Rick Nauert, PhD.)
So, not all hope is lost. But, also beware.
Fighting against the above high-conflict seeking disorders, this author knows how hard this path is. The identifiable traits of those disorders listed above have been routinely experienced from one’s closest relatives through to romantic interests to one-off friends.
An entire book could be written on these experiences and years wasted trying to come to grips with violations and poor responses had in those “relationships.” Maybe, such will also be cathartic.
But, at the heart of those chapters on the whys of those interactions – lay another label, Codependency – the often transferred traits of the truly disordered onto unwitting, but no longer completely, healthy people. A few tell-tale signs of being in such a dynamic:
§  Having difficulty making decisions in a relationship
§  Having difficulty identifying your feelings
§  Having difficulty communicating in a relationship
§  Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself
§  Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem
§  Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
§  Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost
§  Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
Beth Gilbert, January 2016,

Codependency Personality Disorder Traits

  • Caretaking
  • Low self-worth
  • Repression
  • Obsession
  • Controlling
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Dependency
  • Lack of Trust
  • Poor Communication
  • Weak Boundaries
  • Sexual Problems

As a result, many years can pile up on regrets, bargaining with ghosts, and the phantoms of what-ifs. The finding of ways to avoid that which you really want – or substituting that with a lesser ideal, a common codependent trait. The hiding away from others or even incapacitation in having just simple conversations becomes a rule, not an exception. Finding adverse outlets into drugs or alcohol accompany this behavior. This behavior is a way to dull pain, avoid responsibility for your life, and makes matters only worse, never dealing with the root causes of your problem.

The New Self

Even when you accept this required, recovery journey and cross that bridge from the hurt castle (and set fire to all of it), thus also peeling away that scab that covered up a bruised inner self, the fresh air hurts still on that raw revealed wound. You will feel too exposed. Naked. Alone. A fraud again, at first.

And well, so you have another trek ahead – to finding out who you really are. Or more importantly, who you want to be now.

This is alone makes discovering who you are, and loving that flawed person, the most important goal you have in your life. Not to be ever narcissistic about it, the currently modern social media daily showing off sessions, but rather: quietly able to stand your own presence, your thoughts, and the times, when, your brain doesn’t provide immediate answers to your relationship questions.

Instead, to be quite blunt, the learning the how: of a human being – one without a cell phone, computer, email or TV for days – that doesn’t require stimulation from everything going on, out there. To dream about simple things, and ambitions, tied to a real outcome of developing yourself, a little at a time.

This is at the root of you. Before the recent industrial and internet ages, didn’t people get by with a few books, a simple fire, a reoccurring chore, and a shared trek with another (or others) in making their lives special? While we “love” our possessions and connectivity, this has just filled needlessly a space between us – that used to serve a different, and very useful function. That breath of air, time, and silence slowly went away in just the last 150 years.

Get back to that bit of finding yourself able to be, at peace, without.
(Side Note: the growth of psychology has intertwined with the industrial and internet ages. Not to say disorder and psychopathy didn’t exist prior to 1865. The “crazy houses” then, didn’t know what they didn’t know. Also, the last thirty-five years show a trend.)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Five Year Mission Complete: Boldly, But Not Always As Such

Cancer and Taking Actions (2010-2011)

Five years have elapsed since I made the decision to take action and leave a difficult situation. November 2010 was a crossroads, not only for myself, but most unfortunately, my mother, Donna. Renal cell carcinoma reoccurred and metastasized to her brain, leaving her with only a few months to live. A day before Thanksgiving, while millions of others would sit down and break bread, my mother was in emergency brain surgery to remove a mass on her brain stem. I waited at UIC Medical Center throughout that fateful day.

At that particular moment, the family situation in my life was constant conflict and struggle. My aunt was at the very crux of that – as she and my mom shared a century old home that was falling apart, in foreclosure, and full of pets (at one time, 15). I was ghost employing for my mother, as a newspaper carrier delivering 350 papers nightly – providing needed income to sustain extreme financial neglect on both their parts. I too had been unable, and later, rather accepting of not being able to find a good job due to a felony conviction in 2001, and a short prison sentence thereafter. But I had spent several years doing self-improvement and writing a book, and my feelings had adapted from self-pity to seeking ways to move on. Meanwhile, my aunt had always been difficult – due to severe and unresolved childhood issues – and so, my mother was the glue and the buffer in this family dynamic that was now evaporating right before my eyes.

I had given up on discussing options with my aunt. My mother’s care was paramount – and the home she had wasn’t going to provide any hope of recovery. So, after my aunt made several suicidal statements and struck my mom (at least that was what my mom expressed to me in her altered state), I had no choice but to leave my aunt and care for my mother.

It was late November – I had $500 to my name, and a car that didn’t work – an 88’ Grand Marquis with a heater core failure. I took Power of Attorney over my mother’s affairs which gave me authority to take a vehicle from my aunt (a 99’ Camry with payments on it) to continue the delivery route. I left for a Days Inn for a week; subsequently moving over to a Value Inn for $225/week. My mother was out of post-op, and began her arduous trek from Veterans’ Home, to multiple hospitals, to our Value Inn room, and finally, a hospice over the course of the next 7 months of her remaining life.
This was the most difficult experience of my life – trying to care for my mom, and support us on a paperboy’s delivery fees. I applied for her Social Security and received enough to pay for my mother’s funeral services, and little more. I worried about money constantly, though improved the resources six fold before my mother’s passing. I dealt with the largest institutions in America: the IRS (my mother messed up her taxes in 2008 – early onset dementia likely the reason); JPMorganChase; Social Security; the Veteran’s Administration; Sallie Mae (an old parent loan – and the nastiest of this lot.)

My mother went through radiation treatment at University Illinois at Chicago; got 2nd and 3rd opinions from Loyola and Northwestern. We drove up to Chicago over 30 times during the course of the next few months from Northwest Indiana. My mother had overnight stays at St. Elizabeth’s in Lafayette (after a perceived attempt at suicide while at the Veteran’s Home –the staff push me to take her out the home in December, when I was scrambling around to secure a host of other things) and St. Anthony’s in Crown Point.

In short, this was both freeing in terms of decision making, and trying in terms of barriers to resources and time. I did this without personal help – only the medical staffs or others met on that route provided me with a solace that I could make it. My mother though was a trooper. For all the changes, and odd places, and unimaginable loneliness when in hospitals, she kept on fighting. Her dementia and mental state was severely compromised – she was no longer the mom I’d known for nearly forty years – but there was a fighter there, and I was thankful for all the time I spent alongside her. She became a new friend that I knew…wasn’t long for this world.

Post Mom & Purdue (2011-2012)

After my mom’s passing, I had choices to make. I decided on going back to school in West Lafayette, Indiana. I needed a break from reality – and school isn’t reality. I had graduated with an industrial engineering degree in 1996, but it had been a decade since I held a job as an IE. My life no longer was that title or that daily grind. I signed up for another undergraduate – and obtained financial aid.

I moved into a very prison-like dorm room (see video) in early October 2011. I soon watched my mother’s last asset, that Camry, be repossessed. (The note remaining on the car - $3000 – was more than it was worth; and I could register the car without transfer of title, meaning, I had to pay it off.) So, started my Purdue University adventure.

Gimme Shelter

I achieved a 3.87 taking Economics prerequisites that spring. That was the highest semester GPA at Purdue by a full letter grade. Even with grade inflation, I was proud. Yet, I wasn’t really going far on that route as I soon discovered…

After a summer of painting dorm rooms, busting plaster, and other upkeep jobs at Purdue Village, I started the fall of 2012 with the full bore of 18 credits of classes in Economics and an undergraduate Constitutional Law class thrown in. About one month in, I received an out-of-the-blue call tied to a recent resume update from Butler America. They had a contract IE job for TRW at $45/hour but with an underdetermined length: 3 weeks or 3 months, no telling. I jumped at the opportunity – as finances were still front and center. Yet, as I was still enrolled at Purdue, this would become another fork in the road.

Valparaiso & ZF TRW (2013-2015)

My other job during the summer was studying for the GMAT. I knew two undergraduate degrees aren’t worth much as a MBA would be. My intent, if I could afford it, was to get in to Krannert’s MBA program as it has always been a leader in operations management, my industrial engineering focus. Yet, financial realities and timing made the choice to garner admission to Valparaiso an easier and quicker route.

I took the GMAT, scored only a 620, meaning I was about 30-50 points below an upper tier admission. However, Valparaiso University admits fairly pedestrian GMAT scores. But my GPA – 2.07 before my readmission to Purdue – was always going to be a question mark. So, I put together my application – and they admitted me for 2013.

My contract with TRW ran out about a month after I started an MBA. To my credit, I had saved a bunch of money – enough to survive on, and supplement with student loans from Valparaiso’s attendance. I worked hard on doing well in all my MBA classes. Yet, it wasn’t that demanding – as it turned out. Certainly, anyone can achieve work hard enough to do the work I did there. Meanwhile, I finished my book, and published it in August 2014 to little fanfare. But I know I did it – and dedicated it to my mother.

In mid-2014, I got a follow up call from TRW about an industrial engineering position available. So, I took the interview and accepted the position. Since that time, I have worked on facility improvements, layouts, labor routings, bills, and lean events as they come about. It’s challenging, at times; rewarding, at least from my financial perspective.I have moved to a better apartment, a real one, bought a car, set up a routine in the West Lafayette area. I still need to accomplish more – more focus and time spent on specific items, but in taking risks and jumping at opportunity, I think there is hope always.


The Next Five Years (2016-2021)

This five year plan will be focused on health and relationships. I spent the last five years tied to financial health, formal educational self-improvement, and career reestablishment. But finding good people to be apart of and improving my physical health is to be the focal point as those things have been backburnered for too long. Being bold, trying to go where I haven't found myself before, is the objective. It won't be easy - as you get older it is harder to form the type of relationships that are going to last. As they say, some are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime...