Negative motivation

Joey Garcia

I am 39-year-old, never-married, childless female who is an adult child of two alcoholics (an ACA). I am once again having to look at my ACA tendencies. I can only bury my tendencies for so long. Then something triggers my lousy coping skills, and here we go again. I am tired of just surviving!

Oops, there goes that all-or-nothing thinking. I wish I could recognize that I am more than “just surviving.” I keep reminding myself to be grateful for my house, job, car, etc. It works for a while, and then I focus on what I do not have in my life. What advice do you have?

Get ready for radical change. One possible reason that you fixate on what you don’t have is because you’re ready to transform some area of your life. The problem is that you have trained your brain to believe that the best motivation is negative. So you obsess about what is wrong in order to motivate movement toward a goal that you are afraid to admit is important to you. That method is far too indirect.

Try being more truthful. One way to begin is to imagine what you want in your life. For example, you might want better friendships. The negative version of that would be “I need new friends” or “My friends don’t appreciate me.” The positive approach would be to investigate all of the qualities and behaviors that you would consider fine examples of friendship. Then you would begin to incorporate those qualities and behaviors into how you treat yourself and how you treat your friends. You also would own all your projections. If you believe that a real friend would never keep you waiting, then you would choose to be on time, always. That includes when you plan downtime for yourself.

I appreciate your desire to possess an attitude of gratitude. Consider this: It’s difficult to be grateful for anything if you think you deserve more. If you think that what you have is not enough, you have not employed your ability to create a brilliant life (see above). Engaging yourself in the process of self-realization will keep you focused inside yourself. That means you will be too busy to be in God’s business, which is where you are if you think what you have is not enough.

My boyfriend doesn’t know how to fight fairly. We recently had our first fight, and he refused to take responsibility for anything he did. Then he left the room. Later, when we talked about it, I told him that he behaved like an only child. How can I help him to understand that his behavior is unacceptable?

By not retaliating with slams disguised as facts. Anyone, regardless of number of siblings, birth order or lack of siblings, can be difficult. Comprende? I suggest that you stop trying to take care of him during and after an argument. If you’re naming his behavior as “only child,” you likely have an investment in mothering him. Stop.

Next, don’t tolerate behavior that is abusive. No matter how wonderful he is otherwise, leave the relationship.

If that’s not the issue, leave the room when he acts out, while promising to return to talk when both of you have cooled off. If he continues to avoid responsibility for his behavior, it’s an invitation to look at your own. What is your part in initiating the fracas? Some couples have an intense need for adrenaline and get it by arguing a lot. Some people pretend the need for an apology for something they’re overly sensitive about and should get over. After your self-examination, you’ll be clearer about whether this man is right for you.

Meditation of the week
A friend once applied for a job she was certain she would receive but didn’t. She was crushed and sobbed relentlessly until her 7-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, don’t be upset. There are people in this world who don’t even have clean drinking water.” Do you need to put your troubles in perspective?

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