We see many couples attend our program at The Bridge to Recovery (albeit at separate times). Unresolved childhood trauma can cause a multitude of issues in a relationship, and in this article originally published in March 2011, co-founder Carol Cannon wrote about misery addiction.
Did you, as a child, ever pray "Please God, make my eyes (ears, nose, feet, hips) larger/smaller by tonight—or tomorrow morning at the very latest"?
That, of course, is not the way change occurs. We have to wait—and sometimes we have to work—for the miracle of growth and change. We have to pay the price, which may involve treating our deficits medically, orthodontally, or psychologically. Self-improvement can be costly as well as uncomfortable.
Sick people often pray for instant healing because miracles are usually not as painful or costly as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. So, we hope for miracles, but we also do our part. We seek the best medical experts, the most effective types of therapy.
Last month in this column, I described a negaholic named Arthur. He and his wife tried their best to handle the problem, but they were unsuccessful because their definition of the problem was flawed. Edna thought he was the problem, and he thought she was the problem. They didn't know that Arthur was addicted to misery. Edna was technically an addict too because she was obsessed with care taking and controlling her spouse. They both embodied the problem: addiction.
Arthur's impaired mental filter system caused him to misinterpret people's words and actions and then overreact to them, which, in turn, fed his misery. Edna unwittingly shamed him when he did so, which only made matters worse. Because neither recognized his/her own behavior as compulsive, they became preoccupied with trying to modify each other's defects of character. This created a never-ending power struggle.
Edna and Arthur remonstrated with one another, they prayed for miracles: "Please God change my partner by tonight—or morning." Edna offered Arthur suggestions, books, tapes, and videos designed to show him what was wrong with him. It was no use. As an addict, he couldn't have changed even if he had understood what was wrong! Edna began to act out her frustration passive-aggressively. Writhing in self-pity, Arthur insisted that Edna had failed him as a wife because she hadn't built his ego and given him self-esteem. He became infuriated, and his rage escalated into violence, which Edna refused to tolerate.
While both are in counseling at the moment, their relationship is in gridlock. Burdened with psychological baggage from childhood, they have been struggling for fifteen years to beat historical odds they didn't even know existed. They have not been privy to the truth about themselves. They aren’t aware of who they are, what they do, or how they relate to others. They are oblivious to their social/emotional deficits. They need specialized help in order to face themselves and their handicaps. It will take focused effort for them to unlearn long-established habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving and to replace them with healthier relationship habits.
Divine Power is an integral part of the healing process, but God generally can't/won't/doesn't fix people's social and emotional deficiencies instantly any more than He does visual or hearing deficits. Corrective measures must be taken! Arthur needs the social equivalent of corrective lenses and hearing aids to help him see, hear, and interpret the words and actions of others more accurately. He needs major surgery to clean out his clogged mental filters. Because Edna defines herself and her worth on the basis of her ability to control the uncontrollable, she needs a pacemaker as it were—something to slow her down and help her regain her own identity.
Both Edna and Arthur were emotionally undernourished as children. They need nurturance and guidance from viable sources so they can stop trying to siphon self-esteem and satisfaction from each other. There is hope for these two folks as individuals and as a couple if they take steps to get the necessary help. They will grow and change, but it won't happen overnight, and it won't happen in a vacuum. It will require appropriate human aid, which is the means by which
God performs many miracles.
Carol Cannon, Co-Founder of The Bridge to Recovery
ILLUSTRATION BY DANIEL PAPE/JCG
• Originally published in Signs of the Times
www.pacificpress.com/signs • March 2001
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