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How other people’s stress can kill you — 23 Comments

  1. Joyce, this is a very, VERY important discussion for me, personally.

    I’ve written about a dear friend who is having multiple issues and how HER issues were trying to become MY issues.

    One of the most important things that I learned after the exspath left was the concept of “Shame Core Beliefs.” The book by Bradshaw, “Healing The Shame That Binds You,” speaks to this concept in very strong terms without any psychobabble. It is what it IS, and recognizing it as a true and insidious system of beliefs is the first step in learning detachment without anger or resentment.

    An example of the shame core beliefs was that I had to be a “NICE” person. A “NICE” person accepts everyone as they are, and forgives them. Well, in a dysfunctional childhood environment of alcoholism, this is not true. What it comes down to being is a formulated management system that translates into tolerance of bad behavior, broken promises, and ignoring the gorilla in the living room that’s leaving a shiat on the coffee table.

    SO……….a “NICE” person would no longer be “NICE” if they walked away or detached themselves from another person’s issues. Then, they would become “selfish.” This is also not true. Detachment absent of anger and resentment not only sets a boundary for the friend or associate, but also for ourselves.

    Thanks for the link, too, Joyce. It’s helpful to understand where one’s “stress level” is and where it could possibly take them.

    • Truthy, glad to “see” you back from your vacation….and as always your comments are very “right on”—-we DO take on other’s stress when we get involved in enabling or in their drama.

      My husband used to say about someone who was a stressfull person, “He doesn’t get ulcers, he GIVES them”

      Your example of shame core and also how you were raised to “make everyone ELSE happy at your own expense” is exactly how I was raised. You really explained that well.

      De-stressing ourselves when we have been highly stressed due to trauma and or long term smaller stressors takes TIME and work. It isn’t something that can be accomplished over night.

      There are some things that cannot be RUSHED. You can’t get a baby in one month by getting 9 women pregnant. The same with stress decreases and it takes about 1-3 years after a divorce or death of a spouse as a stressor ALONE…so if your stressors are “bigger” or add up to many more points than the 100 for NORMAL divorce or death of a spouse then it may take much longer to “heal” So giving ourselves TIME is absolutely the MOST important part of healing from stress. Of course you are always going to have some stress, and that’s normal and OK, it won’t killl you….but continual high stress adversely effects everything about us. Mental and physical health.

      • Joyce, I think that shame-core is, for me personally, THE explanation of my personal history. Sure, just about every child has experienced a “shaming” event, but a chronic family dysfunction creates the flawed core beliefs and behaviors, almost in concrete. Don’t feel, don’t talk, don’t think……if we FEEL the dysfunction, it hurts. If we TALK about the dysfunction, we’re dismissed and ridiculed (mom’s SICK, she’s not DRUNK). If we THINK about the dysfunction, we’re rocking the proverbial boat.

        And, you’re spot-on about the stressors of Life – people who are initially “healthy” in their minds can muddle through their experiences and emerge changed, but intact. Those of us who experienced chronic family dysfunction don’t know what “healthy” or “normal” is.

        The friend that I’ve mentioned finally became employed, and she believes that her “depression” was situational. I strongly advised her that it might be a very wise decision to find a trauma specialist and engage in counseling therapy EVEN THOUGH things seem to be on the upswing. For those like me, the upswings are like a pendulum that’s out of control – instead of thinking that things are okay, such an upswing is viewed as THE ANSWER to our prayers, when it’s simply a matter of course. Then, when “Something Happens,” there’s no “normal” understanding that THINGS HAPPEN, and the vortex of drama/trauma/anxiety/depression begins its violent spin to suck us down, again.

        That’s rather what I’ve been examining these past several days, myself. I had an VERY unexpected financial blow and medical conclusions, and I began to feel the desperation, my poverty, my anger, and my anxiety far, far too keenly. This is something that I’ll be addressing with my counselor. How is it that I can find that BALANCE?

        So, shame-core beliefs create a system that invades every aspect of a person’s life. From physical health to emotional health, it’s what I was taught. But, here’s the HOPE about family dysfunction. Even though those faulty beliefs were cast in concrete when we were very young, concrete doesn’t last forever. And, the longer these concrete beliefs are exposed to the “elements” of healing, they are compromised. Then, the sledgehammer of strong and competent counseling therapy is the final blow to shatter the defective concrete beliefs so that they can be REPLACED with sound, strong, and healthy beliefs and boundaries.

        “Doing for others” is a noble endeavor, and is “altruistic” only when I’m healthy, myself. I cannot safely “help” anyone else until I’ve really knocked down all of that defective material and replaced it with better. 😉

  2. Truthy, I’ve been slow answering your above post….been down sick myself, and most likely as a result of the EXTREME stress I let my self get involved with during the Parole Protest Preparation for Patrick’s upcoming parole. I had a complete MELT DOWN…

    Some of the things I learned from this is that while I have learned a great deal through from all the horrible experiences I’ve had, but you know it has taken a TOLL on me physically, emotionally and mentally. STRESS DOES KILL, it produces hormones that crap out our immune systems, literally KILLS brain cells, thus the short term memory problems etc.

    Even if your stress were MAGICALLY removed 100%, your body would still take months or even years to heal from the results of the past stress damage to your body and mind and spirit.

    Just as with some physical injuries you may “heal” but never be the “same” as before….the best we can do is to gain WISDOM that we need to live a balanced and healthy life….wisdom to have the gratitude, acceptance of what is, and altruism…but giving only to others when we have the resources to share. It is true that there are a couple of people I would knowingly die to save their life, but those people are rare and valuable to me, otherwise I will help where I can but I won’t starve myself to feed someone too lazy to work. Those days are DONE. ..

  3. Saw an interesting article today about how talking to others can decrease our stress and pains if we believe the other person has had similar experiences


    I think this is why “talk therapy” works to some extent, and why talking about our problems, even on an on-line blog can help us work through the experiences.

    • Joyce, great article, and very true. The people that “get it” are the ones that listen, nod their heads, and offer empathetic support and encouragement, and it’s what we NEED in the aftermath of betrayal. We NEED that support and encouragement.

    • Not only is it therapeutic as a way to get it off our chest, but it is also therapeutic because as we want to help others, we can say- This is how I handled it, maybe it will work for you. This is how I seen it, how I looked at things and give a different perspective that might make things click for someone else.

      It also gives us the validation that we are not alone in this, we are not the only one who has ever been down that road before. We know that others have made it and it helps us get thru it in our own situation, on our own terms.

      • Phoenix, at the time Patrick was arrested for murder, I felt SO ALONE. I literally locked myself in the house for 3 months…then a friend of mine kept calling me wanting me to go to work for her at a psych hospital and I finally did. My job was to interview the parents of kids being hospitalized for their behavior…sometimes VERY criminal behavior, including one 12 year old that had raped 3 younger children. the 12 year old was 6 ft tall and very much physically a “man” but mentally, unfortunately this kid was a delux version of a bully and I think a budding psychopath. He had no concept that what he had done was WRONG.

        As I sat and listened to these parents pour out their grief, I of course couldn’t share mine with them, but you know I came to realize that Patrick is not the worst psychopath in the world. What he did of course is HORRIBLE, but there are other young people out there doing that and worse and also without consciences. Kids raised in “good” homes who have caring parents whose lives have been wrecked by the behavior of their kids.

        I worked there a year and a half until I almost got killed by one of these little darlings and decided it was time to move on, but I got an education. Unfortunately it was an education that I FLUNKED THE TEST when it came to letting go of Patrick, but that knowledge was still there when the time came that I started to apply those lessons to my own life and my own kid.

        Most, if not all of the kids in that facility from 6 to 18 were diagnosed “conduct disorder” which is what you call a psychopath before he reaches 18. I did learn as I interacted with these kids that they respected IMMEDIATE force, but that was about all. I saw duping delilght in them all, but at the time didn’t recognize it for what it was, but it did make my hair stand on end.

        I truly believe that God sent that job to me to teach me a lesson, as well as let me know that I was not alone. My nursing career has been in various venues from ICU, family medicine, college medicine, psychiatriac in and out patient but every job has taught me a lesson or two that I needed to apply to my own life. Sometimes I “got it” and sometimes I flunked the course but in retrospect, I am applying many of these lessons to my own life NOW at least.

  4. Truthy, I agree we definnitly FEEL A NEED for validation, but unfortunately too many times we get NONE…and that’s where learning to validate yourself is important.

    I used to (believe it or not) be so “open minded” that I let my brains fall out. If someone was unhappy with me I automatically assumed I had done something “wrong.”

    I tried to appease them many times. Didn’t work. LOL

    When you have been abused and you leave after years…people look “down” on you and wonder why you were so stupid WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST LEAVE, IDIOT? well of course victims who stay and not idiots…many are trauma bonded, and the abusers keep us in such a spin cycle we can’t see the forest for the trees.

    But we can comfort each other without enabling, we can support each other without enabling, and there are many many ways we can finally over come. Each step, each thing we learn helps us.

    There’s an old saying or “smart arse remark” (your choice) which says “Your poor planning is an emergency for me WHY???” We do not have to allow other people to mooch off of us, abuse our hospitality, or treat us poorly…we have choices and learning to make good ones helps us respect OURSELVES as well as respecting others who deserve respect.

    • Joyce, you are so spot-on. A Social Services case-worker once actually said to me, “If it was SO bad, then why didn’t you just leave?” I was not only shocked, but outraged that an “educated” and “trained” case-worker would pose such a question that I was dumbstruck.

      Helping someone who has a clear intention to help themselves has become easier for me to recognize now that I’ve begun to practicing listening and observing. When a person’s assertions don’t jibe with their actions, then I call it what it is, and walk away. Whether a person is just toxic, or whether they are full-blown psychopath, I’m not dancing that waltz, anymore.

  5. It is frustrating to social workers too…I’ve worked with abused women professionally and was always FRUSTRATED that they wouldn’t leave and stay gone…or if they left one abuser they would quickly find another. Actually, I felt “superior” to them because I WOULD NEVER have allowed my husband to break my arm and then gone back tohim and dropped all charges.

    In fact though, I was DOING THE SAME THING with Patrick. I allowed him to abuse me and then gave him another chance. I allowed him to break the law, the worst law, murder, and then tried to “rehab” him.

    Now, I realize that no one can “help” us or get us to see the truth, we must SEE it for ourselves and be willing to act on it. Some people are never able to see the truth.

    I wish I would have seen it sooner, but you know, the thing is that we each see it AT THE TIME we are ready to accept it.

    Right now if I saw a “ghost” in my house, I would not believe it was true. I would think I was hallucinating or having a drug reaction to some of my medication, but I would not believe a “ghost” was real. I think sometimes we are that way when the REAL TRUTH appears in our lives, we JUST CAN’T MAKE OURSELVES BELIEVE IT IS REAL, because it is outside of the INGRAINED BELIEF SYSTEM under which we operate.

    My ingrained belief system is that “ghosts” are not real, so therefore if I did see one, I would have to come up with 1,000 reasons why it could not be true, including to decide I must be crazy.

    Same thing with “seeing” the offending behaviors, we just cannot believe they are “real” and we work hard to find something that “explains” them, even up to and including that WE must be “insane” to “see” them.

    (Head shaking h ere)

    Yea, cog/dis does explain what we are going through…seeing evidence of A but refusing to believe it is true because it conflicts with our belief system of B.

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “you cant give up on him, he’s your sonnnnnn” Well, yes, I can, because I no longer make excuses why the thing I see is not true. I’m not insane. He is toxic. He is not going to change no matter how I want him to.

    • Joyce, thank you for posting these articles about stress. This has been quite a challenge for me because living in a state of constant anxiety has been the “norm” throughout my lifetime. I didn’t know that I was living in such a damaging state, and I also had no idea that there was relief.

      There is, indeed, relief from anxiety and stress, even when it’s “righteous” as in the passing of a loved one. Allowing the feelings to flow – the anger, the sadness, the disbelief, etc – and to acknowledge those feelings as REAL and not things to be dismissed is SO important. Then, practicing the techniques to calm myself is essential to reducing the anxiety, and to find a balance and center for those feelings.

      For me, personally, I never allowed myself to FEEL……..I always fought to keep my feelings hidden because I didn’t want to be vulnerable. Knowing that I don’t have to appear hard, tough, or mean has been a tremendous relief!!! I can just “be” as I am, and learning to manage things has been quite an experience.

  6. Zen we all must learn or we must repeat the same dysfunctional behavior until we do learn and ACT on that knowledge. Unfortunately way too many people either don’t learn or dont ACT on what they have learned. My OUT sight was good but my INsight was poor, and though I KNEW, none-the-less I failed to APPLY what I knew or act on it foor most of my life.

    Internalizing what we learn is important in getting to where we ACT on what we have learned.

    Short term, denial is a normal and good part of grief/stress but long term it eats us alive because we must use so much energy to maintain that denial in the face of the facts.

    Staying with someone who abuses you and being in denial that they are NOT going to change requires a lot of energy and stress. I;m not throwing stones at anyone else as I did it myself TO myself for decades.

    Understanding why I did it is only a small part of recovery. Therapy helped with that some, but examining my belief system was also a big part of it. When we act on MYTHs as truths it keeps us stuck.

    • Joyce, I completely agree……and, where I am concerned, I don’t believe that I would ever have progressed to any degree without counseling therapy. My counselor was able to “see” what I was not. And, it wasn’t necessarily that I was in so much denial, anymore – heck, that was the ONE thing that I refused to entertain! LOL

      But, there were aspects of my personality that were a direct result of dysfunction and one example was my negative language. I don’t mean language that was negative in relation to myself – I mean negative language about EVERYTHING. Everything was bad. Everything was horrible. Everything was doom, gloom, and despair. And, this language was so pervasive that it colored my entire world as a dark and dreadful place to be.

      Another was my pretense at being hard, tough, and made of steel. Well, this was a “learned” behavior that I adopted long, long, LONG ago under the mistaken belief that “bad” people wouldn’t be apt to approach me. Well…..”bad” people weren’t fearful of my pretenses, and “good” people just turned the other way.

      So, it’s an every-day-effort to continue managing these issues. And, the truth may not be as appealing as the myths, but most of the mythology might have just continued had I not had a good, solid professional to help me to “see” some of the things that I needed to work on.

  7. Zen, it is a shame that many people have such a negative idea about therapy as there appear to be. I’ve BEEN a therapist, and yet, I needed a therapist. My outsight was great but my IN-sight was very poor and therapy helped me apply what I knew to myself. It was only then I could start making progress in my own healing. Of course a therapist doesn’t fix your problems, but they give you the TOOLS to fix them yourself.

    Many people do not have the tools (emotional tools) to correctly assess the stresses in their lives so that they can see them objectively not through the “glass darkly” of ideas that are simply MYTHS. Recently President Obama stated “Everyone deserves a second chance” as he released and pardoned dozens of criminals whose crimes included selling drugs and weapons charges as well. Within a couple of weeks one of them killed a woman.

    NO, in my opinion some people do not, do NOT, deserve a second chance. These men were all doing life for their crimes, so these men were not some kid selling an ounce of marijuana but hardened criminals moving large amounts of hard drugs.

    But the BELIEF that “everyone deserves a second chance” is a MYTH that too many people seem to believe. There are other myths as well such as “There is good in everyone” etc. Unfortunately there are those who have given themselves over to a reprobate mind who just don’t care about anyone except themselves.

    “He’s such a sweet guy…when he isn’t killing people” could have been said about many serial killers like John Wayne Gacy for example. A PRETENSE of being a “nice guy” is not the same as the truth. My son Patrick can FAKE the “nice guy” image when he wants to, but the truth is that he is NOT a “nice guy.”

    Recently a local judge here was convicted of bribery and sent to prison for ten years (the maximum sentence) and after he was sentenced, the judge told him ” you (as a judge) taking a bribe is worse for society than the drug dealer on the street”

    The convicted judge’s lawyer in an interview after the sentencing said “He’s a good man and doesn’t deserve this harsh sentence, he just made this one MISTAKE.” I almost laughed out loud at that comment. It was not a MISTAKE, but a deliberate CHOICE to accept $50,000 to reduce a judgment the jury had made against a man for 5 million to one million.

    Of course this crooked judge is not the only crooked public servant making back door deals, there are many men and women in office who follow this path. Maybe they are not killing someone like my son did, but justice is perverted and lives ruined or hurt by their actions.

    We as individuals and as a society must recognize these people for what they are, whether they are stealing,, killing, accepting bribes or whatever their crime is and accept that they are doing EVIL and making bad CHOICES (not “mistakes”) and that many of them do NOT deserve second chances.

    • Joyce, I agree 100%, and it’s taken me some time to come to accept the fact that some people are degenerate and will remain so for the rest of their lives. Is it sad? Absolutely, it’s sad because it’s a waste, on every level. Is it mean” NO, it isn’t “mean” to accept this fact – “acceptance” isn’t malicious and is entirely neutral. Am I a bad person for believing this? NO, I’m not a “bad” person for understanding that this fact cannot be negotiated. A “bad” person would use the facts for their own malicious purposes.

      Therapy still has a stigma and it’s a dreadful shame. However, specifically for myself, to ADMIT and acknowledge that I needed help was to admit to “being a failure,” or being “imperfect.” If I needed help, there was something “wrong” with me, so I pretended that I had everything “under control” and that I was tough, strong, and hard. This was ingrained behavior, period. And, it took some time to sort it out. I had to learn how to be quite and listen. I had to learn that mistakes are “okay.” I had to learn that BEING “okay” was good enough. And, I’m still learning every day.

      The stress of perfectionism and pretense takes on a life of its own, as far as I’m concerned. That stress becomes an entity that is always hungry, always demanding, and always in my face. Once I sorted that out, I became increasingly able to empathize and feel compassion for another person’s plight, but I didn’t have to make THEIR problems into MINE. It took a long, long time to get there, and I still have to work on that because taking on someone else’s stress and issues meant (in my very warped mind) that I CARED about that person and accepting THEIR issues was a clear demonstration that I did, indeed, care. Well, that’s nonsense! I can care deeply about someone without taking on their trauma and making it my own!

      Yep……….there’s so much to learn and I am comfortable being on this learning curve and my healing path.

      • Well, Zen you have touched on several key points I think. The perfectionism in that I always had to know the right answer, and that I had the “power” to “save” Patrick from himself. I shake my head now, and the admission that I had better out-sight than insight was also a big problem for me.

        I was embarrassed that I could not be perfect, that I needed help when I had always been the helper. LOL My own narcissistic bent about my own abilities was a big problem for me. I was totally SHAME I was not perfect, that I didn’t have all the answers and that I could not save my son.

        • Joyce, the longer I’m directly involved in my healing journey, the more I’m able to correlate everything that I believed and acted upon with my family dysfunction, and it seems to be an across-the-board thing with these dreadful beliefs. If I was able to make things “perfect,” then I wouldn’t be abandoned, hurt, humiliated, or shamed. Instead, I would be praised, appreciated, LOVED, and accepted. Well…….yeah.

          In my support group, we talk at great length about the perfectionism and letting things go. I always had to “have the answers,” even when the subject was 100% unfamiliar to me. I’m slowly, slowly getting OUT of that loop and I’m okay with learning as I go.

          AND, I’m more balanced as time goes on. Amazing………..

  8. I used to think that healing was a destination and when I reached it I would be OK, but I realize now it is a journey that will continue I hope the rest of my life. I think just as when we are learning to walk we fall a lot,but as we practice and gain our balance it is easier to stay upright…though frankly lately I’ve fallen (physically) and old women do not need to fall! LOL

    But even though my latest physical fall has left some disability in my broken hand that isn’t going to go away, I’ve come to accept that disability and go on. It isn’t the end of the world!

    Acceptance of things I cannot change is coming easier to me now and though something may throw me for a loop initially, the loop (spin cycle) doesn’t last long and I regain my emotional balance.

    Sure I still realistically fear my son’s release (or whatever new thing he dreams up) but I can’t live in TERROR about it or he is controlling my life. I will take realistic precautions and then let the terror go on its way.

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