Webinar presenter Duane Bowers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Change and Acceptance: Why We Succeed, Why We Fail. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Can you tell me about self-sabotage and why that occurs?
Duane Bowers: I think it goes back to the idea of what are my emotions, what is the emotion behind the change. It also has to do with what are my morals and values, and what I believe about myself. So, if I was raised in an environment where I was told all my life that I would never succeed, I’d never amount to anything and I started to believe it as a kid. I may not have that in my consciousness, but it certainly is in my subconsciousness. I know a lot of people struggle with that where they don’t have the self-confidence or believe that they can be successful. That’s a stronger emotion for them than the will to achieve even though it’s subconscious. I think, very often, the self-sabotaging is a result of that, that we set ourselves up to fail because we believe, very strongly, that we don’t deserve to succeed or that we can’t succeed or that we’re not valuable enough to succeed. That’s a really good question because we have to look at that image I had of all of those different layers of change that have to happen. So, let’s say I want to lose weight, but I don’t feel I’m attractive. I don’t feel anybody would ever want me. I don’t feel I don’t believe that I will ever have a decent relationship. Well, if those feelings are strong enough and those beliefs are strong enough, I’m going to self-sabotage. I’m going to cause myself to relapse. I’m going to cause myself to not succeed. Again, we must look at all parts of ourselves when we are struggling to change. So, what would happen would be you would have someone who, in that case, let’s say it’s weight reduction, who has tried a couple of times and failed. They may need to go to some counseling and figure out, is there more going on here than I just can’t stop eating? Is there more going on? Is there something in my belief system that’s stopping me? I hope that answered the question.
Audience Question: Some people confuse acceptance with giving ourselves permission to continue allowing unhealthy things about ourselves to stay as it is and she would like to know how do you distinguish between the two?
Duane Bowers: Well, if you are not trying to change and you’re not trying to protest, I think what you’re doing then, is just walking away. Acceptance can be about something negative. I mean, you can accept something negative, not fight it, not try to change it, and not walk away from it. You can accept negativity. Maybe, in that case, you have accepted that behavior, whatever it is. It’s interesting that you bring that up. Really. When you go through a 12-step program, you actually have to accept the fact that you’re an addict or alcoholic because up until that point you probably denied it. So, part of the change process is accepting things the way they are. I’m way off base on this, Sorry. I’m still not real clear on the question but I think you can accept things that are negative. Acceptance doesn’t have to all be positive. I can accept my negative behavior, not fight it, not try to change it, and not walk away from it. I wish I could get examples, so I know what you’re talking about. My head isn’t wrapping around. I’m sorry, Aaron. I’m not doing very well.
Audience Question: Duane, I know. It’s a tough question. I mean, when I read it, I started realizing that it is a challenging question, and asking you to respond without having really time to reflect on it or understanding the scenarios, I totally get it.
Duane Bowers: I’m going to say my e-mail was on the front slide if you all have the slides. I would certainly entertain a conversation, an e-mail conversation with that person about that so I could get more clarity on the question if they wanted to do that.
Audience Question: What is emotionally and physically happening when you extinguish one negative behavior but adopt another negative one? Is there any way to stop this from happening?
Duane Bowers: So that’s like giving up one addiction for another. I think what that is is that you’re not understanding what the negative behavior is doing for you. So, there’s an old theory that you don’t ever stop. You never end an addiction. You just treat it for one that’s more acceptable to society. It’s probably true, in my case, too. I gave up drugs and alcohol, but I am a coffee freak. So that’s my addiction now. It’s more acceptable to society. I think that the problem there is that I haven’t looked at, why am I doing the negative behavior? What is the benefit I am getting from the negative behavior? If the benefit is it’s making me not deal with my feelings or it’s allowed me to not have to deal with a certain situation or whatever and then I change to another negative behavior that allows me to do the same thing, I haven’t really changed much except the way I deal with the symptom. I’m not dealing with the problem. So, what I’m suggesting is that it’s a matter of looking at why do I have the negative behavior? What’s causing me to do this? If you’re talking about addiction, what am I hiding from? What is it I’m trying to get away from? What is it that I’m trying to avoid with a better feeling with the addiction or with the negative behavior, than dealing with that thing itself? I’m picking up another behavior that allows me to hide from it rather than deal with it directly. I think that’s what she’s alluding to here and that could be overweight, that could be any number of things. What is it that is causing me to do this? I think one way that we can know that there’s more to it is if we tried 2 or 3 times to change behavior, and we keep going back to another negative one. Then we know that there’s something more going on than just I need to change this but I need to look at why do I do this in the first place and deal with that so that I don’t have to have that negative behavior to try to cope with it. You know, negative behaviors are just coping mechanisms. They’re just coping mechanisms that are dysfunctional. So, why do I keep using dysfunctional coping mechanisms when I should be going back to what is the cause and deal with the cause then I won’t need these coping mechanisms, hope that touched it.
Audience Question: How do we apply those acceptance process questions with regards to loss, death, and grieving? Or is it something else entirely?
Duane Bowers: Good, good question. Loss is part of acceptance like I said before. If what you’re trying to accept is the fact that you lost someone to say, death and accepting that. I think if you follow that first definition – certainly when you look at all the models of grieving, acceptance is some part of all those models. If you look at those models, I’m thinking about in many of the models, there’s the idea of lashing out. If you look at attachment theory, which is the basis of all grief models, there’s the searching behavior and then there’s the lashing out that’s trying to change it, that’s trying to protest it. So, we do go through those things before we accept the loss. I think if you look at all the models of grieving, they are there to help us kind of guide us toward being able to accept it. I think in grieving, we must acknowledge that we’re going to go through those other things before we get to a point of accepting the fact that this loved one is no longer in our life. William Worden has a model of grief that basically says that one of the steps, that he gives us is that we start to recognize that the person is no longer here physically, so we start to establish a new relationship with them. We try to figure out how can we still stay connected with their legacy or with them? What can we find to keep them still present with us even though physically they’re not with us? I think that’s part of that acceptance is that we, instead of protesting, instead of fighting it, we sort of say, okay, they’re no longer here physically. I have this sense, that they’re looking over me. That sort of thing tends to be the way that one of the steps toward accepting, that a loved one is no longer here, we find a new way to recognize them. We may believe that they’re playing little jokes on us. Some people think that they’re around playing a little joke on them or that that bird that lands on the windowsill every day, that must be my husband coming to check on me. You know, we find little ways to see them continuing as we are moving toward acceptance and I’m blathering, sorry. It’s just a train of thought that I was having. I think grieving is a process of acceptance and all of the grief models actually help us move toward that place of accepting that they’re no longer physically present in our lives.
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