Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Self Defeating Behavior and New Year's Resolutions

I was reading blog by Suzanne Johnson about writing goals for the New Year. Her blog can be found at Write in the Shadows. I am horrible at making or keeping New Year’s Resolutions. Right about January 15th all my resolutions are in the trash. Yep, I don’t even make it to February. However, what caught my eye about Suzanne’s blog was the phrase Self Defeating Behaviors.
According to psychwiki.com “ self-defeating behavior is the idea that sometimes people knowingly do things that will cause them to fail or bring trouble. It is just it is defined as "any deliberate or intentional behavior that has clear, definitely or probably negative effects, self, or on the self’s projects.”

Wikipedia has a page discussing a “Self-defeating personality disorder”. These pages discuss self-destructive behaviors ranging from procrastination to smoking to alcoholism to over-eating and as far as suicide.

For my conversation, and I believe Suzanne’s as well, self-defeating behaviors are the little things we do to sabotage our lives. She mentioned obsessively checking her email instead of writing. That’s the kind of thing I want to address.

For a full year I did little more than care for Ken and play an online video game, Wizards101. It’s a great family oriented fun game. However, spending 8 hours a day playing it is not good. Why did I do that when I could have been writing, interacting with others or any number of things? It was my way of coping. Ken had just had congestive heart failure on top of his condition caused by stroke. Everyone from doctors to nurses to family were convinced he was about to be dead – at any moment. I shut down. I took care of him but my muse left and my creative juices dried up.

Just recently I grabbed my girdle and pulled up my stockings and looked at what was happening. Ken was still alive but I was doing like the witch in Wizard of Oz. I was melting. Not from being splashed by water but by curling up into a little emotional ball.

There was an adult cartoon many moons ago, I don’t remember the name of it, that had a scene of a creature who began eating its own tail. It continued eating until it finished and “poof” the critter was gone because it ate itself all up.

That is what self-destructive behaviors do. Whether it is as serious as suicide, or doing drugs and alcohol, or whether it is as silly as playing a video game for too long. And whether it is a true personality disorder or simply a way to survive, it is what we do when we practice them – we begin eating our own tail and just keep eating until “poof” we disappear. No, we don’t do like the cartoon character and literally disappear but we do vanish from living life.
One of the sites I found about Self-Destructive Behaviors gave an excellent remedy. The article “How to Overcome Self-Defeating Behavior” by Merriment on eHow . The first instruction was what caught my eye:

“First thing we need to do to overcome self defeat is to take responsibility for our own lives and our outcomes. Let go of blaming other people, circumstances, fate, or even luck for your problems and your choices; to do so is self-defeating because it releases you from taking responsibility for your own thoughts and behaviors. No matter what goes on in our lives, or what others do around us or even advise us to do, whatever actions and choices we make are ultimately our own.”

Mark Goulston, MD stated in the article Secrets of Defeating Self-Defeating Behavior for Bottom Line Secrets

“What's the best way to stop defeating ourselves? Learn to reflect instead of react. The next time you're faced with the consequences of negative behavior, take out an index card and write down your answer to this question -- "If I could do this over again, what would I have done differently?" Carry the card with you, and look at it the next time you are tempted to do the same dumb thing.”

Self-Defeating, Self-Destructive behaviors are complex and can’t be overcome with a sentence. I do believe that we have to be self-aware and take responsibility for ourselves. We have to reflect, to think. We need to reach out. When we devour too much of ourselves, we need to remember what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “It takes a village.”  The statement she used referred to raising children. We, as adults, as teenagers, all ages, need to stop thinking we are alone. When we find we are in danger of disappearing , we need to reach out to someone to help us see what we are doing and to help us take responsibility for our actions. Me – I actually reached out to Ken. It was getting hard to walk, hard to turn him. I was losing strength because I wasn’t using my muscles. I was sitting and playing video games. I realized if I continued I would not be able to take care of him.

I still play Wizards101. I love the game. It’s fun. But I take responsibility and I don’t play for long periods at a time. I also exercise. Not because I enjoy exercise but because I know if I don’t I will gnaw on my tail even more. I am back writing again too. I can’t speak to anyone else’s behavior. All I know is that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to examine my life and take responsibility and stop destroying and defeating myself.

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