Balanced lives require a certain amount of vigilance – what recent jargon refers to as “mindfulness” and thirty years ago was packaged as “self-awareness” – but regardless of the label, it comes down to paying attention.
However, paying attention doesn’t get you very far if you don’t do anything with the information you are squirreling away.
“I know I should…,” repeated several times, is the mantra of those who’ve paid attention enough to have collected the data, but have failed to implement change based on the accumulated information.
When most of us think about “assertiveness” we visualize changes in our interactions with other. We may consider the scale that runs from “passive,” to “passive- aggressive” (self-medicating) to “aggressive,” passing right over the “assertive” as something that barely enters into consciousness, or is felt to be too scary to dwell on.
It’s true that “stepping up” for ourselves can be difficult since we have no way of predicting how others will respond. We know they don’t even notice passive responses since what is there to notice? Passive-aggressive self-medicating elicits predictable responses but these may be gratifying in a “gotcha” sense, to irrelevant as you have moved into your alcohol fuel protective “bubble” that nothing can penetrate.
Sometimes we also mistake assertive for aggressive, which is how it can feel to those of us raised to be “nice.” But there is a considerable difference between hostile, controlling, intimidating, aggression, and boundary setting, clear speaking, assertiveness.
It’s still hard to start applying this to your interactions with others. I suggest a couple of possible strategies. The first is to start with small issues – things as little as where to go to or have for dinner. Actually stating a preference rather than automatically acceding to another’s. The same with going out to a movie, play, concert, etc. Giving your preferences as having equal value to anyone else’s.
Another less threatening, and less common, approach is to become more assertive with yourself. This is, in practice, where most of us with self-medication problems – whether alcohol, food, drugs, or the internet and so on – most need to step-up and learn to talk back to ourselves.
As an example: when’s the last time you headed off to do something that you know would lead to problems, did you actually take the time to sit down and talk yourself out of it? Or call someone and ask them to help you talk yourself out of going ahead?
Many of our former clients have said how useful it’s been to have had our voices take up residence in their heads to the degree that they can hear us whenever they are about to engage in choices they know will result in heading down that track towards where they already know the bridge is out.
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can postpone indefinitely!”
We’ve just cruised past Halloween, the biggest “adult” drinking holiday of the year.
Do you remember when Halloween was about kids, and trick-or-treating? About families carving pumpkins? About chocolate binges?
Yes, these activities do still exist, and some folks still engage with their families, and there are still community festivals here and there.
But more often than not, with those who make up our readership and client populations, the day is devoted to “adults” drunken parties as we kick off the big run that has now started and will likely continue through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl and Ground Hog Day until we have successfully postponed growing up for another year.
If you’re really lucky, you can postpone getting a life, real relationships, actual friends, and engaging in interesting and significant activities until you’ve died.
I guess that’s the definition of a “winner?” One who has escaped life without actually living one?
If you think maybe there is a little bit of you that might like to try living while you still can, why not talk to us about this urge, instead of bowing down to the urges you have turned into avoidant habits?
After all, if it turns out you don’t like getting a life, you know how to return to not having one. But don’t wait too long. Life is a limited time opportunity.