Taking out the Trash
July 04, 2011, at 12:07 PM
I've found the concept of "As outside, so inside (and vice versa)" to be very important in my personal recovery. Some of the mysteries of why things are the way they are in my head were answered by this simple hypothesis, and it certainly helps affect why we need to behave the way we need to internally in order to get along in life externally.
When your relationships inside are a mess, you can't help but either to be attracted to messy relationships outside or to create them. It's like we want our inside and outside to mirror each other, whether we consciously realize it or not. When we're fighting and jockeying for power inside, we're going to do it on the outside. When we're insecure and needy and whiny inside, we're going to do that outside too.
Thus to have a healthier life you would resolve or clear out bad influences in your life and make way for good interactions, both inside and out, to whatever extent possible. If your internal relationships are safe and secure you're going to try to create the same types of relationships outside.
One thing I have never had luck with, however, is forcing people out of the system. As a matter of fact, we can't even seem to leave the system voluntarily. Those who have attempted to leave in any way come back eventually. We can go into deep hibernation, such that we can't detect someone, but they can also come back. What that means to me is that attempting to evict someone inside for bad behavior is in many ways a cop-out. At least this is true for me, your system may be quite different. What this forces me to do is actually deal with and resolve relationships that are going poorly, rehabilitate those inside who are angry or hurt and thus tempted to hurt others.
The tools we use for internal behavior modification are usually to make it so attractive to behave in alignment with our rules that people eventually cave in and agree to do so. We dangle the rewards and the acceptance and love, and we forgive until we're blue in the face, we keep resetting the playing field, we attempt to use as little coercion as possible until we wear them out. It's almost a game of who is more stubborn versus who has the better deal. It can be time-consuming, and you have to have a number of people who are very compliant with the rules and still doing just fine. However, it's the only way to effect lasting change. Coercion is faster, but it does not last.
External relationships are another story. I just said coercion is faster but it doesn't last -- guess what, the same thing happens out-of-your-body. It's much harder to control or affect the behavior of people outside your body. So when you have the same naughty-behavior or worse yet dangerous-situation with external people it's very difficult to do anything about what they're doing. All the "play nice and tell them the rules" in the world isn't going to help. The problem is, we set the rules inside our body -- but society, culture, law, and other factors set the rules outside our body.
So where do we govern behaviors with those outside our body? Boundaries. Developing boundaries is serious business and deserves a post in and of itself -- but for now I want to remind you that you almost always can change whether you interact someone or not. Most of the time, the law grants you the right to distance yourself from others -- you have to take a stand to exercise that right. You can fire your therapist, take your guardians to court, leave or divorce an abusive spouse, move away, etc. There's almost always a non-reactive way to distance yourself from someone who is hurting you, whether or not they mean to do so. If you are in need of assistance to distance yourself from people who are causing you problems, you may call a local help line, your local disabilities services agencies, a battered women's shelter, youth services coordinator, suicide hotline, the local police department (but only 911 in a life-or-death emergency), some areas have information lines like 211, 311, 411, etc. Almost any non-profit agency will at least attempt to point you in the right direction. You might get a little dizzy from the runaround, but it's better than being stuck in a very bad situation.
I know there are situations where the people in authority are part of the problem. If you know they are, reach out to someone else. If the church is the problem, try getting help from the police. If the police and church are a problem, try a local disability services agency, a church of another denomination, a state-wide law enforcement agency, or department of social services. There's no end of people who might be able to help you, even if you have to seek out assistance in the nearest city when you're in a tight-knit suburb.
We all have to "battle our inner demons" but keep in mind that either you invited them, you made them what they are, or they are a part of you. No matter how you paint it, they're here for a reason. Make it a civilized battle of what attitude is the one that wins rather than trying to hurt each other. A bad attitude is junk -- and deserves to be thrown out with the trash. But people are not junk.
And because the things you do inside affect what you do outside and vice versa -- punishing your internal or external perpetrators means punishing yourself. Distance yourself from external perpetrators, and realize your internal ones are probably going to be your best allies in forming healthy boundaries, and enlist their services.