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Coping with shame when we act out on learned behaviors

Old 01-19-2012, 12:03 AM
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Coping with shame when we act out on learned behaviors

I don't know about everyone else, but now that I'm realizing--and have openly acknowledged--some of the depth and detail that my learned behaviors and triggers entail, I am feeling a regular dose of guilt and shame for still reacting with the same behaviors.

Don't get me wrong, I'm putting a lot of effort into *not* reacting to my triggers, but some of them are almost literally invisible to me, as they've come to feel so "natural" and normal.

For example, it's hard for me to stop myself from just making little jabs that are designed to either make people feel guilty or ashamed (so that I can beat them to the punch, of course). They're such subtle little jabs that they've basically been designed to be justified with "oh, I was just noticing this or that"...kind of like people who put you down while "joking around", so that they can say "oh, I was just kidding", etc.
And it's almost always about control, or the need for approval.

I know that I post a lot on here, and sometimes I even feel guilty for that, like I'm hogging the forum or something. But I know that I need help, and this is where I know I can get it.

So...any suggestions on how to give myself positive feedback instead of negative, shaming feedback when I'm not able to magically make all the toxic behavior disappear at once?
I know that this is a process, and will probably be a long and difficult one, and that I should go easy on myself, but if any of you have experienced these feelings in your early recovery (and I'm guessing a lot of you have) and have found ways that have worked for you when dealing with these feelings, please feel free to share your experience!

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Old 01-19-2012, 03:48 AM
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Plath,

You are not hogging the forum, there is plenty of room for you and everyone else to share.

Please go back to the threads before x-mas and look at my positive affirmations exercise.

This exercise has really helped me wash negative feelings out of my head, if you can't find it send me a message.

Hugs,

Bill
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Old 01-19-2012, 03:51 AM
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Hi Plath,

I think it's fantastic that you recognize, even after the fact, that you do these things! That in itself is progress!!

I look at it this way....it took me many, many years to learn these behaviors....it's going to take me a while to unlearn them.

Something that one of our F&F members shared recently is WAIT!

Why
Am
I
Talking?

Before saying a word, stop, think about what you are about to say and why. Is it really necessary for me to say this.....and in this way? I've been trying to use this lately, and it helps!
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Old 01-19-2012, 04:59 AM
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I think that one path to becoming a healthy person is to do what you are doing, self examination.

For many years in my 20's, I was an angry person. I would lash out when I felt threatened or used. I was making myself miserable and was sick and tired of wasting all my energy on a counterproductive emotion.

I went to the library (no interent, when I was young it was the dark age) read every book I could find on anger, took all the little tests and made it my mission to correct this obvious flaw. I did manage to get it under control through self talk and by the use of my subconcious mind. Every night right before I dozed off I would feed my subconcious mind the thought that tomorrow I would not be angry, eventually my concious mind believed the thought and poof my anger had subsided. Now, it's not to say that I never feel angry, I do, but I do not lash out. I gather my self and when ready I respond and then I move on with my day.

Keep working on you, read everything you can about healing yourself, pick one issue, work on it, get it under control and then move on to another. Progress not perfection.

Rome was not built in a day, it all started with one corner stone and was constructed from there, foundation first.

Keep posting, we are here for you!
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Old 01-19-2012, 09:01 AM
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Thank you all, wonderful suggestions!

Bill, I will look for the thread you mentioned.

Our printer is broken, unfortunately...when I was going to other 12 step meetings years back, I would print out nice, affirmative statements with pictures of flowers, sunsets, or what have you, and tack them up around my mirror or computer.

I suppose it's been a while since I've been practicing good emotional self-care, so I'm rusty!

Thanks again!

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Old 01-19-2012, 09:03 AM
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And I just realized that my last therapist gave me a recorder with earphones so that I can record my own voice saying things that are positive, and listen to it whenever...maybe right before I go to bed, etc.
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Old 01-19-2012, 09:49 AM
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Dear Plath,

I can related. When I first looked at the "Laundry List" of ACA traits and could identify with many of them, I thought to myself "OMG, I had no idea I was being such a jerk!"

There were also some of my traits that I actually thought were assets! I was/am a big people pleaser. I'm friendly, positive, and try not to disagree with others. I don't like conflict, so I try not to make waves.

Good, no?

Then I read something in a recovery book about how exhausting it is to be around people pleasers and how you can never tell how they really feel because they are always trying to get your approval. Ugh!

I went through similar realizations when I truly looked at how I like to be "helpful" (i.e., controlling).

What keeps me from beating myself up too much about these traits is that I realize that they helped keep a little girl safe. Being around alcoholics is dangerous and unpredictable. The stuff that I learned I learned for a reason. It was actually a sane response to an insane environment.

So my ACA traits/character defects/flaws are sort of like old friends that I have outgrown. I try to appreciate all they have done for me, but I'm also trying to give them the message that they are no longer needed.

I've been doing more stepwork and I was actually surprised to learn that many members don't explicitly ask their HP to remove specific shortcomings (step 7). They feel that their HP will remove the traits that he/she sees fit. Interesting.

Keep posting! I'm enjoying the extra activity in the forum.

Warm Regards,

db
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Old 01-19-2012, 10:02 AM
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Thanks for your post. None of us are perfect we all have defects we wouldn't be human if we didn't. We did not learn these behaviors over night and we are not going to lose them overnight.I still have to do a step ten on a daily basis. As long as we recognize them and try to change them then we are doing the best that we can. I know for me when my spiritual journey began it seemed like God opened my eyes to my faults and made it easier for me to recognize them and be able to admit to myself that I am not always right and to take a look at what my real motives are. Do not be so hard on yourself everything happens when it is suppose to happen. It is called growth.
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Old 01-19-2012, 01:21 PM
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While waiting for the printer to work again, do it the old fashioned way. Write it out yourself and draw a little flower on it.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:01 PM
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Plath,

I took them and wrote them on index cards, that way I can carry them around and run through them wherever I am.

And you can add all the smiley faces and flowers you want, I will even send you some pretty stickers from the $ store....

I am so glad you posted this thread, this has been such a difficult thing for me, I was trying to explain to my wife what it was like to grow up in a house where you never ever talked back, never rolled your eyes, always answered yes sir and no sir, you would get your report card and cry on the way home because you knew what getting a C meant for you, my dad still thinks anyone who refuses to employ severe corporal punishment is a liberal-communist-candya$$.

And I look at the difference with my kids, you try to talk to them, rationalize with them, make them understand, my dad never had that problem, it was my way or a severe whipping or worse kicking. You know the whippings were not so bad, at least they did not cause permanant damage, I think of the kickings often, since every time I sit down I have to adjust my memory foam pillow under my damaged tailbone. My mom was like a bomb in the movies, if you jostled it too much it went off, but chances were if you left it alone it would be ok until you got away.

My wife is so much better at talking to our kids than I am, she was a school nurse for 5 years so she just knows how to deal with them, when she goes to school for an event the kids swarm her, huggging her, asking her to come back, many still call and facebook her when they need help with a tough problem.

Anyway I have driven off the road through the ditch and hit a barn, I don't know how I got so off tpoic.

Thanks again for this thread, your stories make me so sad, and yet give me hope, if you can recover, I know I can do it to.
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by dollydo View Post
For many years in my 20's, I was an angry person. I would lash out when I felt threatened or used. I was making myself miserable and was sick and tired of wasting all my energy on a counterproductive emotion.
I also went through this, and although I outwardly tried not to show my anger, by about my late twenties I found a group of people (also alcoholics) who were all about being angry, and I finally started allowing myself to "be angry". I was overcompensating for all of the repressed anger I had, and I'm still struggling with this today. I have absolutely no idea how to express anger, or to deal with triggers that evoke anger for me, in a neutral way.

At this point in my life, I only know how to either sit and fume, festering on how insulted or slighted I feel about people, places, and things, or to outright be rude to people.

It's a process, I know, and I'm catching myself more even as the days pass...
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Old 01-19-2012, 02:37 PM
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Kialua and Bill, I was kind of thinking the same thing! As many faults as she had, my mom was an art major, and taught me how to paint and draw (which I do enjoy doing, if I can keep my son from sticking all my supplies in his mouth, hahah), so maybe I will just start making little pictures with my favorite quotes and sticking them around the house. I used to do stuff like that with my schizophrenic clients, and markers make such things kind of easy.



I know that my in-laws will think I'm a complete namby pamby when they see them posted around the house, but I'm going to start making myself aware of my approval seeking behavior with them, as I highly doubt that the approval will ever sincerely take place. *Insert fuming resentment face here*

Bill, I am also so sad to hear of your experiences as a child. Sometimes people's experiences that they share on here make my heart break for them, their inner child, and the child who experienced those nightmares.

But, like you, these stories also give me hope, as I can see that people who become actively involved in this program have been able to un-learn their dysfunctional behaviors, and therefore live happier, healthier lives.

Life will never be perfect at all times, but I firmly believe that if we learn how to constructively cope with our triggers and learn new ways of acting, rather than reacting, life can only become happier for us, allowing us to enjoy the happy, loving moments that we're given with more trust and less fear.

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Old 01-19-2012, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by dbh View Post
Dear Plath,

I can related. When I first looked at the "Laundry List" of ACA traits and could identify with many of them, I thought to myself "OMG, I had no idea I was being such a jerk!"

There were also some of my traits that I actually thought were assets!

...Then I read something in a recovery book about how exhausting it is to be around people pleasers and how you can never tell how they really feel because they are always trying to get your approval. Ugh!

...The stuff that I learned I learned for a reason. It was actually a sane response to an insane environment.

...So my ACA traits/character defects/flaws are sort of like old friends that I have outgrown. I try to appreciate all they have done for me, but I'm also trying to give them the message that they are no longer needed.
Oh, that makes so much sense, db, and I find these to be unbelievably helpful analogies.
I can go from "people pleasing mode" to "F-You mode" in about a half second.

I know that, especially in my work environments (and, evidently with my mother in-law, who always gives me that subtle, slightly disapproving vibe), the people pleasing thing can be really irritating to others.
I have some patience for it, but I can even get slightly annoyed by that behavior in other people, even though I am entirely capable of acting out on it myself!

A

Anyway, I love the analogy of our learned behaviors being like old friends who we've outgrown.
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Old 01-19-2012, 03:41 PM
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The one thing I do that makes people crazy, is I ask if someone is ok, my wife has gone from saying "yeah I'm fine" to "why do you ask", I finally had to dive into this and I figured out that I was always testing the water, wanting to get the lay of the land every two minutes because I know the other shoe IS GOING TO DROP, I just don't have a clue as to when.
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Old 01-19-2012, 05:23 PM
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Oh man, do I hear that!

I don't necessarily ask people if they're okay, but I picked up my mom's not-so-subtle way of "nonchalantly" asking questions that are designed to figure out if I have something to be suspicious of or angered by, to figure out if someone's "hiding something" from me, or to see if they've done something that I generally disapprove of.

I can see myself doing it, and it's become so obvious even to me in the past that I started calling myself out on it with my husband and apologizing.

It's such a mirror image of my mother's behavior while I was growing up that it's almost absurd to the point of being funny now (except for when I have to fight the urge to do it).

I think I do it a little less now, but I have to often keep myself from asking baited questions in a "nonchalant" manner.

The fact that I dated a guy who lied to me compulsively for ten years before meeting my husband didn't really help any of these behaviors, of course.

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Old 01-21-2012, 03:03 AM
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I have found it is important to be very hard on myself in these areas. I don't want to hurt anyone - there's enough pain and suffering in the world. It been very important for me to be extremely honest with myself.

The behaviors you describe sound like attempts to one-up other people to control and dominate to feel good enough. The solution is God and the 12 steps.

Have you ever thought of doing an Alanon Step Study? If we're thorough in our work we meet God, and He is the only Entity that can give us the approval and love we need, that we were lacking from our childhoods, that we still feel is lacking as adults, so we don't have to steal it from others anymore (which only works temporarily anyway.)

This will take a sincere desire to want to stop hurting other people and do as God wants you to do. Then you will feel truly good.

It is work. But recovery is an awesome journey.
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Old 01-21-2012, 04:57 AM
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I know that I post a lot on here, and sometimes I even feel guilty for that, like I'm hogging the forum or something. But I know that I need help, and this is where I know I can get it.
Hogging the forum? That's like saying you're "hogging the internet". So based on your logic, nobody can use this forum while you're using it? Does this seem rational? (hint: no, it does not).

The wonderful thing about forums like this is that everyone can use it at once, whenever they need to, even if they need to at 2am because their brains are spinning and they can't sleep. I use this forum every chance I get (tho' lately my work hours have prevented me). I usually post when I get up while drinking coffee (thus my typos and weird sentences that make little sense). I also use it at night when I can't get some something out of my head enough to wind down. And I try to give back to the people who have given me so much.

You can't "hog" the forum. People will respond or not respond based upon their choices. You can put something out there and see what happens. Assuming you can "hog" it has an implicit idea that you can control the actions (or inactions) of others. Except you can't. You could post 20 posts a day if you wanted to. People could respond or not, as they wanted to.

Usually, when I see someone posting a lot of posts all at once, I assume that they have either recently found this forum and are so relieved to have someplace where people 'get it' without having to try to explain (and people who grew up healthy will never understand, no matter how hard you try to explain). Or they're going through a very difficult time due to a trigger and are reaching out because they're in desperate need of support.

I place no value judgment on either of those. If you just found the forum, welcome! It's a wonderful place to share, and I'm very happy you found us! It's extremely cathartic to be able to let all those inner thoughts out and get feedback from the "been there, done that" crowd.

If you're in a triggering situation, then we will all be here for you, to support you in what ways we can. Even if all we can do is say "I send you my support, you're not alone." The social isolation of our issues seems to make them significantly worse, so spill your guts here, get lots of support here, and travel the path with others who have traveled it before you.

So...any suggestions on how to give myself positive feedback instead of negative, shaming feedback when I'm not able to magically make all the toxic behavior disappear at once?
I used to use the following: "I am a human. Humans make mistakes. To not make mistakes is to not be human. If I ever met a 'perfect person', they would be creepy. I am not creepy, I make mistakes, there is no fault in being human."

There are a variety of little mantras I use, but this one is the most powerful one for me when I'm beating myself up for something. It's not an excuse to treat everyone poorly all the time, it is a means of getting rid of the negative self talk which does nothing to make the situation better, and may even make it worse.
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Old 01-21-2012, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by GingerM View Post

Assuming you can "hog" it has an implicit idea that you can control the actions (or inactions) of others. Except you can't.
I had never even thought to look at it that way, and it gave me an unexpected feeling of freedom when I read that. Thank you!

I used to post on here years ago in different forums, but ACA has opened up an entire new world of possibilities for me. To see that other people have had the same (or at least similar) experiences to mine, and that they have learned and are learning how to monitor and cope with their behaviors and triggers is such a good feeling!

Your mantra rings true, Ginger (and the part about "I am not creepy" made me laugh). It really is a journey, and definitely better than sitting around in denial.

Phmdyw, I plan to work the 12 steps of ACA, as I've worked the 12 steps in other areas of my life and I know that they work.
I think I will probably order the yellow step-working book, as the red book doesn't really offer any sort of specific outline for how a person might work the steps.

I've never been to an Al-Anon meeting, as the abuse and dysfunction I experienced in my childhood was mostly related to the cycle of abuse that my mother perpetuated from her alcoholic father.

I do pray a lot to a higher power as I'm able to conceive of it. My home life with my husband and child is very spiritual, and I believe that it has been the grace of God (as I understand God) that has allowed my eyes to become open to the behaviors I want to change. If we want to change badly enough, I believe that our higher power helps us to do so.

Thank you all so much for your input!

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Old 02-04-2012, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Plath View Post
So...any suggestions on how to give myself positive feedback instead of negative, shaming feedback when I'm not able to magically make all the toxic behavior disappear at once?
Do you make a point to praise yourself when you DO get it right?

YMMV, but I find speaking to the core of that "shameful" behavior seems to help. Growing up in an alcoholic, dysfunctional home, no doubt there were many times when I got a lesson in shame that made me "stuck" in terms of growing up. So when I find shame overwhelming me for something I've done, I try (via journalling, self-praise, whatever works for you) to speak positive reassurances to myself at that time in my life where there wasn't a better option available. Inner child work, basically.

Then (as someone in the forum said elsewhere), I try to remind myself that at one point in my life this was a sane response to the environment I was living in at the time. So it's okay, cuz I'm still on the dedicated path of helping myself grow up, and catching myself at every step of the journey where I got lost (or shoved off) along the way.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:37 PM
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Plath thanks for thread. I know what you mean. It is learned behavior and I've had little luck in stopping it. The bottom line though is it's a absurd waste of an individuals time. Can't figure out how to stop it.
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