This is the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
The House that Jack Built is a cute little child’s nursery rhyme. But to me, it is a fabulous allegory for a rather chaotic house. Not to mention a great way to bring to light the idea that our houses are actually WHO WE ARE. And what we place in our houses, what we build our houses upon and who we invite into our houses are all representative of who we are and what we have control over. So… I want you to do this little exercise in visualization today. It has helped me immensely, to remove negative, anxious thoughts from my brain and remember that my head and my heart are my house and I am in control of what I let it. I hope it helps you too, to remove obsessive thoughts of the PoA or to realise who you might be letting in and who might want to keep out.
Imagine your perfect home (and let’s face it, love addicts are GREAT at imagining things that don’t exist!). It can be your all-year-round home, or your vacation property. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you decorate it in the fashion you love best.
Pay attention to every detail. What paintings or objects will you hang on the wall? WHat will the floors look like? The kitchen? The living room? What style makes you happiest? Is your sofa a plush, comfy leather sofa that you can curl up on? Or is it a soft, pillowy sofa that you can sink into? What does your backyard look like? Is there a pool? A lawn? A garden?
Is your home in the mountains? By the sea? In Paris? Overlooking a lake? On the beach? Where in the world is your house?
Remember, you are working on your house all by yourself. No one is able to add any input here. It’s all you. YOU have complete control. And, since YOU ALONE have created this house, it is a SACRED PLACE, a reflection of who you are and what you desire the most. So, it should be totally acceptable and comfortable to you and filled with things that not only make you happy, but make you feel alive. Is there a yoga studio in your home? A sauna or a spa? Can you ride horses? Lounge by a pool? Is there an element of spirituality in your home? What is it? A special room to meditate? What books do you have on your shelves? What music is playing throughout the house?
Once you have created your home, imagine how long it might have taken you do so. Did you find this home through a realtor? Or did you build it from scratch? How much time did it take you to find the right fabric, the right furniture? The right location? The right building materials? The right plumbing? Remember…YOU and only you are in charge of every detail. And while this may seem overwhelming, the end result is that you get everything your way. And you have a place that amazes you and brings you great joy.
Now, imagine your house is finally just as you like it, and you are enjoying your house, doing what you love, and a knock comes at the door. It’s your PoA. And while you are happy to see him, he (or she) comes in and starts doing what he does best…avoiding you, cheating on you, calling you ugly and fat, telling you he doesn’t love you, or conversely, telling you he loves you but then not following through with loving actions, thus, confusing you, and generally DISTURBING THE PEACE THAT YOU HAVE BUILT AROUND YOU.
He also walks around your house with muddy shoes, tells you you made a mistake by spending so much money, tells you he doesn’t like the style of your house and then leaves, slamming the door and trampling over the flowers in your garden.
End of fantasy.
Now, the reality…
The house you built all your life is the YOU you’ve built all your life. It is your heart. It is your brain. It is your spirit. It is essentially YOU. In reality, how did you build your “house”? Does it match up to the fantasy version you just created? Who do you let into your house ( into your heart?) WHo do you allow to occupy your time (in your brain?)? Do you allow anybody into your house? Do you allow people to walk through your house with muddy shoes? Do you allow people in who do not appreciate or at least respect the work and the beauty you built into your house?
Is it a shack or a dream house?
Start to assess who you are as if YOU were a house. Do you need to tear down the old house and rebuild with better materials? Do you even have the materials to build a solid house? If not, where can you get those materials? That might mean educating yourself, learning what dignity means, learning self-control, letting go of fear, learning to love yourself or learning how to be nice to others. Knowledge about healthy living is one of many tools and building materials you need to build well.
What was the foundation built upon? Maybe it’s time to repour the concrete and make a more solid foundation. Are you renting your house out to others? Who’s in there? Why aren’t YOU in possession of your own home? How do others perceive your “house”? Do they think it looks run down? ramshackle? Built with straw? Maybe even built with iron gates and no windows? Do others feel comfortable enough to visit your house? How could you make it more comfortable? What does that entail? The more questions you ask yourself, the more this exercise brings to light a truth about who you are and what you could become if you just take the time to build it.
This past week, I decided to do the unthinkable– come out from hiding and expose myself. No streaking, or anything like that. But I did start a Facebook page for the Lovely Addict and plaster my face all over the place. In reality, it’s not like I haven’t exposed my face before. I’ve posted the up and coming documentary here several times and it’s about to be shown at film festivals any week now, so what’s the difference? I’m not sure.
For one, the documentary clip is tucked away nicely in old threads, so I don’t have look at my own face every time I log in to write something. I can pretend it doesn’t exist. But when you go and hang a sign outside your shop with your face on it, there’s really no escaping the fact that you exist. In that sense, I feel a little naked on Facebook, and it was a pretty nerve-wracking step for me. But two things: in a matter of months, if anything happens with this film, I’ll be “outted” whether I like it or not. And, some of my favorite bloggers (baggagereclaim and confession of a love addict ny) are baring all. If they can do it, so can I.
The trouble is, I walk a fine line. By coming out, I risk embarrassing myself, my friends and my family. I am now more open to criticism and my biggest fear is that people will laugh at me. Ugg. REJECTION! It’s already happen with, dare I say it, my own brothers. I love them dearly but they are very conventional, simple-minded guys, who laugh at others for sport. Then again, they used to laugh at me because I flew off to live in Europe and then both of them ending up either dating or marrying an International girl and flying off to Spain or Ireland themselves.
The bigger joy (and goal) here is that I love to write and that I really am on a mission to inspire worth and value in every woman (or man) who has ever remained in a crappy relationship long past the point of dignity. I also read something somewhere that I never forgot: “Write about what makes others uncomfortable, including yourself, and you stand to make a change.” Love addiction definitely makes me feel uncomfortable. And I know it makes others uncomfortable too.
So…let’s hear it for a little discomfort! And by all means, come visit me and “like” my Facebook page and be uncomfortable with me 🙂
My mother was one of those happy, peaceful, loving women who truly enjoyed children, listened well and was very caring. She had me when she was only 20, so she was a young mother, and very beautiful as well. She was 5’7″, 120 pounds and she had long, straight, jet black hair down to her waist. She was a great dancer, had a beautiful singing voice and learned to play the guitar alongside my father. Together they would sing old folk tunes from Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan or John Denver. She was also incredibly insecure, and believed my father would take care of her. Because of this belief, she followed him all over the country, every time he said we had to pack up and move due to loan sharks chasing after him. She went through many periods of uncertainty in her life as my father was manic depressive and sometimes would not work for months, even years. She thought she had to support him through his drinking, his gambling, his bad business decisions and his criminal activity. And she did. For 20 years. Crying, rocking and back and forth on her bed, thinking she was crazy, feeling out of control, confused and sick. There were many times that I saw her sad face and simply thought she had just turned into a sad person. But that wasn’t the case. What was the case was that she was scared to death to take action for her life.
But when the loan sharks started coming to her door and threatening to take away her children if her husband didn’t pay his debts, she finally said enough and kicked him out of the house and divorced him. But this was a long time in coming because, like I said, she was scared to death. It meant being on her own, getting a job and supporting her children on her own. She didn’t think she could do all that. She thought she was too stupid, uneducated, unprofessional. Who would give her a job? She was just a Mom.
I had a very difficult time with her at this period in my life. I was around 16 when she started working, first as a secretary and then as a part-time press photographer for a county newspaper after having taken a couple classes at a community college for photography. I resented this behavior in her. How dare she not be home when I got home from school. How dare she not have cookies made, or banana bread in the oven waiting for me and my brothers. How dare she go out at night and have fun while we were home alone. How dare she shake the foundation of my life and change it to the point of something unrecognizable. Once, I said to her, “I liked you better when you had no identity and just did stuff for us, not you!”
For many years I floundered. I lost myself in boys. I traveled the globe without purpose. I avoided the reality of who I was. I loved my mother, but I held a grudge against her for taking so much away from me. In my mind, she had become selfish; I miss the old days when she was selfless. Eventually, though, I came around and saw what she did as one of the strongest points in her life. She did become a little selfish, but it gave her a strength that we’d never seen in her and it shook us. But I realized that she didn’t want to change either. She would have liked to keep her head buried in the sand too. Wouldn’t we all. And yet, a funny thing happens when you finally decide (or when the decision to sink or swim is forced upon you) to take control and responsibility of your life…you have no choice but to change and become something at first unrecognizable and then, beautiful.
Since those days (25 years ago) she has become the beautiful woman she is now; happy again, still loving, still giving, still a great listener. Her core goodness still shining through. Still creative and strong at her job (she’s the Editor in Chief now). And loved dearly by a good man that she has been with for almost 20 years. If I had my choice now, I would never want her to be that woman she used to be. That woman is a stranger to me. This however, whether I like it or not, inspired me to be the strong woman I am today. And for that, I love her.
Mothers struggle and suffer for themselves and for their children. And although your kids may not understand why you do what you do now, someday they will. Keep moving forward. Keep creating goodness in yourself. Let your life be an example for your children. They might not thank you now, but they will.
I’m wishing all mothers a happy day of peace and continued recovery.
I know you’re busy, I know you’re stressed! But I’d like to ask you to please take the time to vote on your favorite blog entries at the Lovely Addict. It’s been a new feature for some time, but only a few users are partaking. But the ratings help me to understand which topics are most relevant and what my readers and subscibers would like to hear, so that I can go back to my desk and start typing up a blog feverishly.
Each post has its own voting pole…so, after you read it, give it a star (or five, if you REALLY like it). I appreciate it!
SO much of our suffering is due in great part to simply not having a life, not being busy and occupied, or allowing ourselves to become bored. These are very difficult states to be in when trying to overcome the loss of a PoA. They are also counterproductive to real change. When boredom sets in, things like stalking, chasing, looking at old photos, dwelling on past memories, listening to old music and other similar acts take over and the next thing you know, you’re deep into a mental and emotional vacuum, sucked back into the world of the PoA. Not good. Pointless.
So, this thread (inspired by a member on the forums) is for you to list some of the ways in which you kept busy today and avoided the perils of boredom! Keeping busy, no matter what the focus, helps you HEAL. It replenishes you and stifles the toxicity of boredom. And activities that not only keep you busy, but are also soul strengthening (recovery work, doing art, doing something you love, going to a spa, relaxing) are like water, soil and sunlight to a flower in need of growth.
So…share your list here. And if it’s small, or non-existent, that’s OK. This thread will hopefully help you to become aware of how you spend your time and help you recognize the importance of keeping busy during NC and recovery.
taught a basic writing class,
wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper on an issue we’re having in town,
talked with my mother about our eternal IBS issues (!),
wrote a food blog,
wrote a 200 word Bio for the new LA documentary website
cooked (chicken cutlets, salad and sweet potato fries),
wasted time on Facebook (need to do this less)
took kids to get haircuts and soft pretzels
wrote this post!
Today it was relatively easy to keep busy. Other days, it’s not so easy!
One of the things that always confused me about the “love addict” label was that, despite the fact that I had trouble with men, I had other debilitating issues that had nothing to do with men or dating. For example, even without a guy around I was insecure and slightly paranoid that others didn’t like me. I didn’t have many friends and many of the friends I did have didn’t treat me well. I also had little faith in my ability to complete tasks and sadly, never completed many things. I was a quitter. I had no interests outside of boys (except writing), I was lazy, egocentric, pessimistic, needy, immature, prone to living in a fantasy world, oversensitive, wimpy, somewhat of a bully and I had zero work ethic (i.e. I always got bad grades in high school and took menial jobs after high school where I could call out sick all the time).
I was definitely not what you would call a great catch, that’s for sure.
So where’s the surprise when I went out into the world to look for my “second half,” only to find avoidant, neglectful, pessimistic, egocentric, immature types who didn’t have much to offer? In my mind, I was this perfect goddess who needed no changing, but who frustratingly only dated losers (thus today’s GREAT photo!)
So often, when we give support on the forums, we say things like: You deserve better than that jerk, or You’re worth more than someone who ignores you or treats you badly. And, it’s true. No one deserves to be treated badly. But, chances are you need to do some work on you first, before you begin to attract better quality people.
Trouble with love addiction is, we don’t want to work on ourselves. And if we do, we want to do it with our PoAs around to keep us company. So, basically here’s the absurdity of what we really want: we want to keep a neglectful, immature, avoidant, unloving guy around (for sex, friendship and love) while we become mature, optimistic, loving, self-sufficient, confident individuals.
We want the impossible; we want the absurd. And that doesn’t happen in real life. One of the hardest things to accept in recovery, one of the things we are most in denial about is that “like attracts like.” That we may be as ugly as our PoAs. That’s horrifying. But it’s one of the most important reason I constantly advise people to stop analyzing the PoA and turn inward. It’s so much easier to analyze the faults and idiosyncrasies of others. Worse, it keeps you perpetually trapped in your own disease of avoiding yourself.
Here’s my unsolicited advice today: Love addiction is the avoidance of the Self. And when you avoid yourself and lose yourself in fantasy over the imagined love of a PoA, you are unable to recognize that YOU are the one that needs changing; you are the one that needs work. Take a good look at you and determine what changes need to be made to make you a better person. Start doing the work of changing today! And like it or not, you probably need to do this work alone. Recovery is a direction that takes you up and out of the hole you are in currently. Ditch the PoA and start climbing. Your life depends upon it.
Take Inventory: Make a list of all your good qualities, and all your bad. Circle the qualities that you can change immediately. Pessimist? Start being aware of the language in your head, the self talk and change the negative to something positive.
I haven’t written in a while and that’s always a good thing. Life has been very peaceful and busy. I finished up the semester the first week of May (grad school and teaching) and then had NOTHING to do, so I signed up for the Summer Writers Conference in mid-June. I also booked a trip to Spain. Me, D and my two kids are going over the summer. The kids will be attending a one-week intensive Spanish language camp (over night!) and D and I will be traveling to the south of Spain for six days. We’re staying in Cordoba for a night, Granada two night and Vejer for two also, then coming back to Madrid to pick up the boys. He’ll go back to the States and I will spend another week with my kids and in-laws. Lastly, we’ll be staying with my brother and his wife at the beach, end of August. Very busy summer!
But most importantly is that I have been training for a triathlon. This is a huge challenge to me, but I have to do it. And D is hugely supportive as he decided to join me and train for his own marathon. I love sharing a healthy goal with someone. It has been such a huge fulfilling experience. And I have grown to love and respect him even more.
We are still not living together, though we talk about it and plan for it. It is in our future, but when I don’t know. Thing is, I am perfectly content living alone. He comes over 3-4 times a week anyway, so it’s not like we don’t see each other enough. In fact, it’s just the right amount of time to spend with someone and I sometimes worry that living together will change this beautiful life we now have. He worries about the same sometimes, but thinks we’ll be fine. I hope so. This is probably what makes me most nervous about the future. Change! Especially since I’ve found such peace.
But, moving forward is inevitable. And I must embrace the challenge. We’ve come so close and so far in a year and four months. I must be willing to face the changes that come if I am (we are) to grow.
I recently came across Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development and I found it extremely applicable to how and why we have become love addicts and more so, how we can follow a clearer path to a better sense of self and healing. I’m sure many of us can take a look at these stages and say “yes! I fell apart on several of these important stages and went the poorly managed route!” But that’s not the point of this reading. The point is to see what stages you did not develop well and try to redevelop them. For example, in my own experience I deal with a lot of guilt issues, self doubt and feeling that I am not capable of achieving certain (rather realistic) goals. According to Erikson, I need to work on taking more initiative so that I can build confidence in this area and thus, grow and mature more healthily.
Hope this helps someone out there!
What is Psychosocial Development?
Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Much like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages. Unlike Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan.
One of the main elements of Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory is the develoment of ego identity.1 Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction. According to Erikson, our ego identity is constantly changing due to new experience and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others. In addition to ego identity, Erikson also believed that a sense of competence also motivates behaviors and actions. Each stage in Erikson’s theory is concerned with becoming competent in an area of life. If the stage is handled well, the person will feel a sense of mastery, which he sometimes referred to as ego strength or ego quality.2 If the stage is managed poorly, the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy.
In each stage, Erikson believed people experience a conflict that serves as a turning point in development. In Erikson’s view, these conflicts are centered on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality. During these times, the potential for personal growth is high, but so is the potential for failure.
Psychosocial Stage 1 – Trust vs. Mistrust
The first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development occurs between birth and one year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life.2
Because an infant is utterly dependent, the development of trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers.
If a child successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent, emotionally unavailable, or rejecting contribute to feelings of mistrust in the children they care for. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.
Psychosocial Stage 2 – Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
The second stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development takes place during early childhood and is focused on children developing a greater sense of personal control.2
Like Freud, Erikson believed that toilet training was a vital part of this process. However, Erikson’s reasoning was quite different then that of Freud’s. Erikson believe that learning to control one’s body functions leads to a feeling of control and a sense of independence.
Other important events include gaining more control over food choices, toy preferences, and clothing selection.
Children who successfully complete this stage feel secure and confident, while those who do not are left with a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt.
Psychosocial Stage 3 – Initiative vs. Guilt
During the preschool years, children begin to assert their power and control over the world through directing play and other social interaction.
Children who are successful at this stage feel capable and able to lead others. Those who fail to acquire these skills are left with a sense of guilt, self-doubt and lack of initiative.3
Psychosocial Stage 4 – Industry vs. Inferiority
This stage covers the early school years from approximately age 5 to 11.
Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities.
Children who are encouraged and commended by parents and teachers develop a feeling of competence and belief in their skills. Those who receive little or no encouragement from parents, teachers, or peers will doubt their ability to be successful.
Psychosocial Stage 5 – Identity vs. Confusion
During adolescence, children are exploring their independence and developing a sense of self.
Those who receive proper encouragement and reinforcement through personal exploration will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. Those who remain unsure of their beliefs and desires will insecure and confused about themselves and the future.
Psychosocial Stage 6 – Intimacy vs. Isolation
This stage covers the period of early adulthood when people are exploring personal relationships.
Erikson believed it was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other people. Those who are successful at this step will develop relationships that are committed and secure.
Remember that each step builds on skills learned in previous steps. Erikson believed that a strong sense of personal identity was important to developing intimate relationships. Studies have demonstrated that those with a poor sense of self tend to have less committed relationships and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Psychosocial Stage 7 – Generativity vs. Stagnation
During adulthood, we continue to build our lives, focusing on our career and family.
Those who are successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community. Those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world.
Psychosocial Stage 8 – Integrity vs. Despair
This phase occurs during old age and is focused on reflecting back on life.
Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair.
Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.
More About Erikson and Psychosocial Stages
1 Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.
2 Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
3 Carver, C.S. & Scheir, M.F. (2000). Perspectives on Personality. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
This morning in my yoga class the teacher was talking about the importance of balance and how your mind, not just your physical body, needs to work extremely hard to achieve physical balance.
Of course, I applied this thinking to love addiction. The truth is, as love addicts, we are acutely off balance. Anyone with a disease of psychological disorder is. In order for us to achieve natural balance we end up going after our polar opposite in a mate and then clinging on to them, past all dignity, so as to maintain some sense of balance. This is not quite recovery, but rather, addiction at its worst.
In order to achieve real balance in life, and thus become healthy, it is immensely important to use our brains and FOCUS on our recovery. “Slips” happen naturally- they balance out the pain we feel on the inside and temporarily make us feel whole again. And yet, slipping, among other unhealthy behaviors of a love addict, is counterproductive to healing and recovery. Healthy living comes from focusing and maintaining a right way of living, which takes greater effort. Slipping is easy.
True balance comes from a shift or change in what feel “natural,” or “safe.” In yoga, when you do the Warrior pose, it doesn’t feel natural at all. At least at first. But the more you train your mind to accept the balance and the difficulty of the pose, the more natural it feels and the better balanced you become.
Bottom line: if you leave your recovery up to what feels good and natural (physical self and emotional self), you will have a far more difficult recovery than if you train your mind to work towards balance.