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Kind Therapy - 6/20/2016

Judy has a history of obsessive compulsive behavior. It is her go-to place during times of severe stress or anxiety. Whenever she feels out of control, this behavior comforts her. It enables her to take control of any stress-producing situation or interaction.

However, there’s a problem: The price of this escape mechanism is that she becomes totally immersed in her own world of obsessive thoughts, which limits her ability to function in her day-to-day world. To be sure, her original stress is concealed or masked by the obsessive world she creates, but that world then becomes a new source of concern to her – one that contributes to her feeling emotionally dysfunctional and mentally ill. In effect, she can’t win for losing.

On the one hand, it’s similar to having a condition for which you are prescribed medication that has a list of side effects of a more frightening and toxic nature than your original problem. On the other, it’s similar to your resorting to excessive eating, drinking, drugging, gambling or becoming dysfunctional.

No matter which behavior you choose to help you avoid facing your demons, you’ll eventually wind up feeling self-defeated and a failure when you either look at your enlarged body image in a mirror, are pulled over for drunken driving, lose money you could ill afford to spend or perform so poorly on your job that you’re fired.

In the past, I would have said the solution is that you learn not to run from your problems by hiding behind alcohol, drugs, gambling, impulsive spending or any other addictive behavior, but instead to face them by running toward them. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds, because it initially increases your level of stress; i.e., the closer you come to recognizing your own reality, the more anxious you get. My premise was that once you discover how you’re broke, you’re either able to change your behavior or, when that’s not feasible, you can learn to accept you for who you are.

That’s still my belief, but today I also would suggest that you need to engage in “Kind Therapy.” At this point you might question, “What in the devil is Kind Therapy? I have never heard of it before” That’s probably true, because it only recently made itself evident to me. Think of it this way: Most of us grew up being taught that the way to live life affectively is to be kind, considerate, obedient or even to subordinate yourself to others. For example, as a child, I recall my mother saying to me, “Be a good boy. Be kind and polite to people and never say or do anything to hurt or embarrass anyone. If a friend comes to your house, break your piece of candy in half and give them the larger piece.” That never quite made sense to me, but I learned how to expertly split most things to the degree that no one ever got a bigger piece.

What my mother never said, however, was “Be kind to yourself or to do things that make you happy, and cause you to like yourself better.” Quite the contrary, what I heard was, “Don’t brag. People will think you have a big head. Don’t argue, and don’t push yourself on others.”

I’m not criticizing my mother. That was all she knew about coping. She was an insecure, inadequate feeling, depressed woman who desperately wanted people to like her. The only problem is that, in her later years, similar to many, excessively kind to other people, she became increasingly critical and resentful toward others who knew how to look out for themselves. To her way of thinking, they were selfish individuals who didn’t care for or appreciated her self-sacrificing behavior. As a result, she lived her life depressed, holding grudges and creatively perceiving herself as rejected by others.

Sadly, all too many people go through the world that way. Judy is a quintessential example of someone who overtly behaves extremely positive to others, but is passively aggressive and very controlling in her relationships without ever realizing the degree to which she causes people to act negatively towards her. In reality, the most critical person in the world of Judy is Judy.

If you relate to, or know of someone who acts in a similar manner, it is imperative to suggest that they learn “Kind Therapy.” It involves they’re learning how to be selfish. They need to be able to openly express their honest desires and to do things for themselves in a positive healthy manner. Another word that can better help you understand this concept is to say that they need to develop a rational self-interest and then implement it by acting in a way that is generous, kind, understanding and forgiving of themselves. It’s not necessarily easy, because change is difficult, and it may well be too much to expect someone to alter behavior overnight that they’re resorted to most their lives.

Also, it’s often difficult to delineate what is being kind or not kind to yourself. For example, if you’re feeling alone and depressed, and you prepare a plate of comfort foods, cornbread, chicken and dumplings or pasta and garlic bread, to feel warm and satisfied, it may be that you are being kind to yourself. But, if you are obese and eat an extra dessert, or purchase a double-scoop ice-cream cone, that isn’t kind; it’s punitive and detrimental to your well-being. So, immediate gratification is not necessarily the answer. You need to take time to understand the consequences of your behavior, long term, to determine if it’s really kind.

Essentially, Kind Therapy involves treating yourself as well, if not even better, than you learned to treat others. It requires that you first recognize you are inherently of worth, just because you’re a sensitive feeling human being. Second, that you needn’t be perfect, because human beings aren’t; and third, that you be able to forgive your shortcomings. It consists of saying what you think, doing what you want and genuinely feel, but not by copping an attitude or having to get even.

Taking these steps will help you, from this day forth, to feel better about you and, as a result, better about others. This will, in turn, aid you to discover that the world you live in can and will be kind to you.

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