Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lindsay Lohan Paradox

The Lindsay Lohan Paradox Steve Truitt, CHt. NLP Practitioner, Personal Success Coach I opened my news source to discover that again Lindsay Lohan had been arrested for assault due to an altercation in a nightclub at 4 in the morning. After multiple arrests, countless chances to redeem herself and hours of community service and un-tolled months of probation, she has found herself back in a legal and public relations morass that will continue to solidify her reputation as a person out of control. Without burying the lead, I’ll just spit it out… Lindsay Lohan is in trouble because she is committed to being in trouble. As a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (The science of how the mind talks to itself and sees the world as a result) I have not only encountered hundreds of cases with similar patterns as Ms. Lohan’s, but have myself struggled early on with a paradigm personal failures in which I was never able to understand why I was trapped. How many times have you said this: “If I only had ___________________ then I’d be happy”? You could fill that blank in with just about anything and it would have meaning to you. A lot I imagine. We all believe that changing that one thing that’s getting in our way will bring about a happier life if only we could change it. But the fixation on happiness is a phenomenon best described in the sentence we all have uttered at one time or another: “This Isn’t It.” In my own life I have struggled with consciously wanting one thing, but unconsciously achieving another. The best example of this for me would be my relationships. By the time I reached 38 years old I was as yet unmarried, but deeply wanting to be in a loving, committed relationship that would lead to marriage and children.
Consciously I had spent years working on myself to become the best husband I could be. I attended seminars, learned from women in successful relationships what they wanted and needed from a man, and pointed myself in the direction of these positive habits so that when I met my true love, I would jump right in and be the best husband ever. But relationship after relationship turned out badly. I either picked someone I never respected or appreciated, or hyper-focused my attention on someone who was emotionally unattainable. Several times when I had a good woman by my side I would do something to sabotage it and eventually drive her away. One day I was at a party and met a guy who seemed like me but older – he was in fact 50 years old. We got to talking and I asked him if he was married. He paused a moment, looked down, and whispered sullenly “No, I’ve never been married.” Something about his face and tone, seemed to portray ME in the future, and his apparent regret got to me. “That’s going to be you,” I thought to myself, “50 years old and alone, no wife, no children, no legacy.” I was terrified at the thought that not only was it possible that I could end up that way, but that I was present enough to know myself at that point and understand that I was actually driving myself down that exact road. It was a watershed moment for me – the “ah ha” moment we all talk about. The awakening. That awakening was enough for me seek out the reasons behind my perpetual bachelorhood and not only get to the bottom of it, but change it. I sought out a talented coach trained in the same disciplines in which I am now trained and we went to work. The first thing I had to realize was I wasn’t destined to be single, I was committed to it. That was a hard pill to swallow! How could I be committed to being the thing that was making me so unhappy? It just didn’t make sense! “But you are committed to it,” my coach said, “otherwise you would have something else in your life.” He was right, it was a simple concept that I tried to make complicated because I was afraid to admit the truth of it. Once I faced it, it all became so clear for me. (Which by the way is why I now am a Personal Success Coach – simply because the results were so empowering for me, I chose to share it with the world!) Everything you have in your life right now you’re committed to. This is a fact. I realized through intense work, introspection, NLP exercises, and Timeline Therapy™ that my need for a relationship was a ‘fix’ for my parents’ terrible marriage that was at best turbulent 24-7. I grew up wanting consciously to have a better relationship than my parents did, but was driven by the unconscious belief (based on proven results right in front of me) that relationships = pain. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you believe deep down that relationships are painful then it makes sense to seek out the best you can find to ‘fix’ that problem. Or you become the one who creates the pain, driving yourself back into the ditch of your unconscious belief because that is the core thought from which you proceed. My breakthrough was so unexpected and so mind blowing, it completely changed how I saw myself as an individual and a person in a relationship and in this world. Once I got clear that I would not be the same partner and parent I witnessed in my own family, (mainly because I am so different than my parents by nature), I knew that I deserved to have that kind of love in my life. I was lit up, free! For the first time in my life I realized I was worth being loved
after years of telling myself behind my own back that no one could ever love someone who had the potential to destroy a family. Before I even had a chance to try, I had unconsciously convinced myself that I would ruin my marriage and kids and so I steered away from healthy relationships and toward toxic ones – all the time wondering why I couldn’t find true, lasting love in my life – blaming everyone else for my issue, never looking just over my shoulder for the answer which was right there. Once my coaching was complete, It took one phone call to a friend I had ignored for years because I knew she represented a ‘successful’ relationship to get me on the right track. She introduced me to my wife and we are still married today having just celebrated our 8th anniversary. We have two healthy and beautiful daughters and that demon I was so afraid of being to my family has never, and will never show up – because he was never there. But here is the rub: As a young person you are instructed by your surroundings to see yourself a certain way. Difficult, selfish, or out of control parents will always imprint on a child a toxic belief system that the child then carries on her own into adulthood. If, for example, a child is neglected by self-absorbed, narcissistic parents, and then used by those parents to expand their own perceived importance by pushing that young child into celebrity status – especially one where great success results from it, the child will benefit from the fame and fortune for sure, but likely suffer greatly under the unconscious negative belief that she is indeed a pawn and not worth the accolades showered upon her. Control over her thoughts, choices, and behaviors is never fully established and a sense of mistrust for her own instincts and feelings develops. In short, when you get hit by a truck at an early age, you either become the truck, or you stay the victim. Lindsay Lohan became the truck, do not mistake her for the victim. In order to wrest control away from a world perceived as always manipulating her, she takes matters into her own hands. She acts out, gets in trouble, gets in more trouble and so on and so on until the negative attention she is convinced she deserves becomes the only thing she understands, and the cycle continues. Observers may ask “How can someone who has it all throw it all away like that?” The answer is simple; Lindsay does not have it all. Money and fame have come easily to her and were extensions of her parents’ will for her – these were not constructs of her own ambitions and therefore she will sabotage the success she gains as a result because deep down she believes unconsciously that she doesn’t deserve it – she deserves worse. So she gets in fights, drives drunk, shop lifts, does drugs, rebels over and over and over to prove to the world – a world who wants to love her because she’s talented and famous – that she is indeed much less than is perceived, and not worth of that love. It’s her chance to finally be right. It’s her chance to let everyone know how she sees herself. It’s the one thing she believes she has control over. She has all the attention she could ever want, but she needs the world to attend to her true self – the self who destructs, proving to the world that they got her wrong, that she’s not worth all their love. And all of this is going on inside her head and nowhere else. Some call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, that if you believe you don’t deserve love, attention, success, or a sense of purpose in your life, then no matter how much the world tries to hand you that positivity, you will instruct the world in how you truly see yourself, and eventually the world will agree prompting you to then conclude: “See, I knew it, I am a loser and I now have proof!” And who among us doesn’t love to be right about our own vision of the world? This is our control – the one thing we can always control is our view of the world and how we instruct the world to see us. And this is where the paradox is revealed: Lindsay, a beautiful, talented, famous movie star who seemingly has it all is committed to being in trouble because that’s how she chooses to instruct the world to see her. It’s what she believes she’s truly worth. And as responsible, reactive citizens we obey… the media posts her troubles with the law and drugs and we buy into the picture of a spoiled, selfish kid acting irresponsibly. The headlines scream “More trouble for Lohan, how can someone who has so much be in so much trouble?” We’re taking the bait and she’s reeling us in. It’s not logical, and it’s not sensible, but it is how Ms. Lohan wants us to see her. She’s getting the attention she’s always wanted, and it’s in a form she believes deep down, way down in the darkness of her unconscious, she deserves. But it’s not unchangeable, she can change. You can change. I know because I did. True paradigm shifts in self awareness come when we are able to look deep into the dark basement of our minds, flip on the lights, and rummage through the old boxes we taped up all those years ago. You never know, with a thorough search, you could be surprised what you find down there. But the first thing that has to happen is you’ve got to understand that you’ve been living your life, making decisions that a child cooked up decades ago – you’re still operating on that original decision about yourself. This is why we get to a point and say to ourselves, “This isn’t the way my life was supposed to be… THIS ISN’T IT!” Here’s a real headline: This IS it. And until you realize that what you want isn’t always what you’re committed to, whatever it is for you… will stay it. Be your best, Steve

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Learning About our Childhood from our Children

Several weeks ago I noticed a marked shift in my behavior and reactions. To bottom line it: I was losing it a lot with my children. As all parents know, children will test your resolve on a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minutely (is that a word?) basis. As the child of severely toxic parents, it was imperative in my run-up to parenthood that I learn to do my best to not lose my cool with my kids. That’s not to say I don’t believe in discipline, teaching manners and respect and personal responsibility. I insist on it. But I’ve also had to work very hard at not being the impatient, often intolerant father my father was for me and my siblings. As every parent also knows, there is no preparation for the constant onslaught of demands children make upon you and the frustration a parent in this day and age can feel trying to serve both pupil and master. My youngest, who turns 4 this year, is best described as a blender with the top off. At any given moment she can be screaming her head off, dancing with a huge grin on her face, telling her older sister she’s adopted, or hugging me and my wife and telling us in the sweetest voice possible, “I love you guys...thanks for breakfast.” And we never know what we’re going to get or when. The other night she was in a particularly difficult mood. It was hard to discern what was really bothering her, but she was so frustrated over something that didn’t go her way she threw herself to the ground, began tearing at her clothes, pulling at her hair and smacking her own face. As best I could, I tried to calm her down and get her focused on something else...a book she loved, her blanky, anything! Nothing worked. After about 30 minutes of full-on 110% tantrum, she turned up the volume and began an attack on her sister. First she told her she didn’t love her and that she was mean, then she scratched her face and left deep welts on her cheeks. My oldest daughter is a sanguine, sweet, calm person and simply took the abuse knowing that to do otherwise would cause more upset for all of us. But for me, I had enough. I picked up my little Tasmanian Devil suddenly, carried her upstairs, put her in her room and slammed and locked her door and left her there for the rest of the night without dinner, without a bath or without brushing her teeth. As someone who prides himself on always being his best, I was at that moment certainly not. And it wasn’t because of how I reacted to my daughter; it was the feelings I was feeling along with the reaction. I was resentful, and for the first time in her young life, I simply didn’t want to be around my daughter, nor did I care about her feelings in that moment. That feeling -- or more accurately, that lack of feeling for my baby -- frightened me. I knew something was up and I had to find out what. Resentment has been my Achilles heel since I was a boy. As a sensitive kid who always seemed to be the brunt of abuse, teasing, bullying, or sheer neglect, I regularly battled the pain associated with the incongruity of being a good person and getting negative feedback despite it. I’ve worked very hard in my life to eliminate the triggers that cause the feelings of resentment, but lately, in the last several months, I noticed that resentment was getting the better of me in more places than just my home. I was experiencing it with clients, with my parents, and with my brother as well. Something was up and it was time to take a look under the hood. I took a long walk around my neighborhood one early morning and just allowed whatever thoughts or feelings I had at the time to pass by me. After about two miles on foot, I still hadn’t discovered what it was that was getting to me, so I went home, showered, got dressed and went to my office to work on a new project I was researching -- about family dynamics and the roles each person plays in a dysfunctional family. And that’s when I discovered it. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I found this interesting quote in a write-up about codependency: What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child -- the family hero role -- who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child (the scapegoat) is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family. In my family dynamic I was the family hero, the quiet one who stayed out of trouble to spare my mother more pain as she dealt constantly with my squeaky wheel brother. The phrase emotionally dishonest and out of touch with himself shocked me! I needed to figure this out because now I was really confused. After all, I have spent 25 years of my life challenging myself to live an honest life of openness and integrity, and now I’m reading that I’ve been out of touch? To understand why I had such outrage, you need to know more about my family. My brother, who is now a successful sober business man living in Westport, CT with his wife and two children, had rough beginnings. His severe dyslexia and hyperactivity disorder steered him into an early life of acting out and dropping out which led to drug use, alcoholism, and other destructive and narcissistic behaviors. I was regularly the brunt of his alcohol-fueled rages often being roused out of my bed late at night because he came home drunk (at 15) and wanted to sleep there, sometimes teased, sometimes physically abused, often humiliated by my brother’s incessant pranks and careless insults. As the youngest in a family torn apart by alcoholism, abuse (both mental and physical) and a broken family dynamic which can best be described as "Every Man For Himself", I looked to my brother to be my strength in the chaos of those early days, but he was so wrapped up in his own pain he never saw the damage he was doing to himself, my mother or me. Being the quiet, introverted one meant not being a problem for my mom, I kept my feelings, aspirations, pain, and self esteem locked up and learned to cope by living in a world where fantasies and unrealistic expectations gave me hope of an escape. The biggest example of how I simply wasn’t living in the world everyone else was showed itself when I auditioned for the school play Carnival. There were two parts that I was up for. One was Paul, the brooding misunderstood puppeteer with a limp and low self esteem, and the other was Marco The Magnificent, a dynamic, womanizing magician who steals the girl from Paul, breaks hearts while he wields a sword and a cape and an “F-you” grin. Obviously I wanted to play Paul, the depressed puppeteer, but the director insisted that I audition for Marco as well. I told the director –- in fact, I insisted –- that I play Paul, but despite my connection with the character, the director cast me as Marco and I was baffled. Throughout rehearsals I hemmed and hawed and played the character as small as possible until opening night I was so upset about playing this character –- a person I couldn’t possibly connect with – I wound up in the bathroom throwing up an hour before curtain. The director pulled me aside and told me, “I’ve been waiting for Marco to find you, and I’m concerned that he won’t make it tonight.” I was surprised. “Don’t you mean me finding Marco?” I asked. “No, Marco knows who he is but you don’t,” he said, “Do you know why I cast you as Marco?” “Because I wanted Paul?” I said sarcastically. “No,” he answered, “Because you ARE Marco! You don’t even know it.” This was the answer I wasn’t expecting to hear. He went on: “One day you’re going to see that Paul chooses to be sad, he’s a victim of his circumstances. But Marco – who may have a similar or even worst past – chooses to believe in his own power. He doesn’t listen to his past, he creates his NOW and he does it powerfully.” I had never been spoken to in that way by anyone. Up until that point in my life I believed that the best way for me to get along in the world was to keep my head down, stay out of everyone's way, and suffer in silence a lost life that would never amount to more than an apology for being in the way. In that moment, I didn't just hear the director's words, I felt them. For the first time in my life I realized that I had a choice to do, be, and feel something different than I thought I should - that I could be better than I thought I was allowed to be. It was an awakening for me - one of the first kick's in the ass in my life that would lead to more and more discovery of who I was meant to be. The experience with playing Marco was one of the several kickstarts to my empowerment journey that I have been on for over two decades. And despite my never-ending search for the Marco in me, I find that now and then I can still be blindsided by frustration over things that I don’t even understand -– like my resentment over my daughter’s behavior. But it was the article I read that opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of myself. I realized that the good boy I was trying to be as a kid seemed to only receive pain and disappointment, and that my brother’s behavior was given attention and eventually help despite the pain he caused those who got in his path. Watching my younger daughter scream, throw a tantrum and scratch my other daughter’s face triggered the resentment I have carried from my own experiences. Watching my two kids interact, I saw my brother acting out and hurting me all over again right in front of my face 30 years later, and out of pure rage I punished my squeaky wheel child when all she needed was understanding, while at the same time ignoring my quieter, gentle child when all she needed was a kiss to make it better. I understand so clearly now the difficulty my mother endured trying to raise the two of us, how hard it is to split favor between two very different kids with very different needs, how simply reacting to behavior instead of understanding it and working with it can inflame the situation, and how past experiences often cause us to ‘fix’ presenting problems in the now, despite the fact that the now may not need fixing at all. Parents teach us so much about the world, but the first lesson always comes from the instinctual reaction we give to our kids to make a bad situation better. Some of us are quiet or reserved, some of us yell, some know just the right balance. But in all cases our kids are watching to see how they fit into the mix. For me, as the family hero, I believed that my pain and disassociation with reality was real and that a fix for it was to hide my greatness. Much like the puppeteer Paul, I did a disappearing act into fantasy land to survive the real world just outside. And despite 25 years of work on myself, in some ways I feel like I’m just now emerging from the fog of that original dysfunction. Not by my own design necessarily, but out of circumstances over which I have no control; mishaps which force me to open old wounds to make sure there’s no lingering infection, like watching my kids as if I were watching a film of my own life 30 years earlier. I’m also learning this year that I don’t always have to like my life to love it, and understanding that allows me to be a human being, to make mistakes, and to forgive myself for the lessons I still have to learn. Luckily for me, to my children I am Marco The Magnificent. And I intend to earn that title every day by bringing a little magic to both of them.