Living Life My Way

My contribution to The Seeker’s Dungeon “From Darkness to Light” event went live today. You can read it at:

Recovering from Over-Doing

Two years ago, in a The Seeker’s Dungeon prompt, Sreejit asked us to fill in the blank in this sentence: “I am a Recovering _________.” There was no doubt in my mind what my behavior would be. If I was at a 12 Step meeting, I would say: “Hi! I am Karuna, and I am a recovering over-doer.”

As I thought about how I would present this topic, I decided to create a new mental health disorder. My fictitious disorder is called “Being versus Doing Disorder.”

The “Being vs Doing disorder” is on a continuum where the center, a balance between being and doing, is the healthy portion of the continuum. The more someone moves to either end of the continuum, the more likely it is they will have dysfunction in their lives.

When I think of the over-being end of the continuum I think of non-productivity, passivity, and lack of motivation. I don’t know as much about that part of the spectrum since I have almost no personal experience there. I have seen it at work in some of my psychotherapy clients and friends though.

Over-doing has many facets. It commonly begins in childhood when the only or main way to get positive attention from parents is to do impressive things. It also develops when parents criticize their children anytime they are relaxing or are doing things the parents consider nonproductive.

As a result, adults with an over-doing disorder may be seeking validation and praise for what they accomplish. An over-doer is also likely to be a rescuer. As such, they do things they aren’t asked to do and are likely to do things they don’t want to do. In addition, they do more than their share of the work that needs to be done and do things for other people that they could do for themselves. Those with this “disorder’ are likely to over-commit and seem incapable of being still.

Over-doing has been a major characteristic of my adult life. At one point, I was raising two children, working three jobs, doing my personal therapy and studying for a PhD. During my therapy, I realized I didn’t want a PhD, I was just seeking attention from the father, who had disowned me. I stopped my schooling but was still overdoing. Before long, I began to experience extreme exhaustion and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

With CFS, I was in survival mode and it was impossible for me to do as much as I had been doing, although I still tried to. When it began dissipating after five years, I went back to over doing. There is no doubt that a part of me believed it was only acceptable for me to stop if I was sick. Eventually I developed high blood pressure and other physical problems.

I reached a point where I had to cut back on all of my commitments. Nowadays, I am putting my emphasis on doing the things I want to do, and am saying no to many requests. I still have trouble with “simply being” but I no longer am into major over-doing. I hope some day I will be much closer to the center of the being-doing continuum.

At one point, I realized a behavior that really fueled my over-doing disorder was the desire to be “in the know.” That put me in the place of being asked for information that I didn’t want to share, which then created stress, whether I shared it or not. As I continue to slow down, I am finding myself holder of less information. I am loving responding to requests with “I’m not in that loop anymore. You will have to ask someone else.”

I learned many skills during my over-doing years. When friends of mine were in a life and death crises, I stepped in to help immediately. There is a time and place for those skills, but it takes discrimination to use them correctly. In that instance, I have no doubt that my choices were appropriate.

I am very committed to my recovery from over-doing. While I may find myself immersed in the old behaviors from time to time, I don’t think I will ever be drawn so deep into them again. I see what I am doing much sooner and and change course when needed.

In evaluating myself on the scale found in Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters, I find I am in generally in Chapter 4 or 5.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Every time I walk around an invitation to over-do or avoid putting myself in the situation where I know I am going to be tempted, I consider my choice worthy of celebration! I am truly moving towards a life of balance.

Do you have a “Being vs Doing” disorder? Where do you fall on the continuum? How does it disrupt your life?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This post was originally published on April 12, 2015

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: Wrapping Up (Jan 2017)

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Every year, as my trip to Amritapuri is winding down I think of a statement I read decades ago in a book by Malidoma, an African shaman who lives most of the year in the U.S. In the book, Of Water and the Spirit, Malidoma commented that he goes to Africa every year to learn from his elders and detox from Western civilization.

I resonated with that statement when I first read it, and I still do. For me, being with Amma, especially in India, is like taking a vacuum cleaner to my whole system. While the living and learning experiences may be difficult at times, I always see my growth when I return to Seattle. I am softer, healthier, and more able to handle the challenges that life sends my way.

When I went to India the first time, I loved it. In fact, during my first three visits, I cried every time I thought about leaving. Then there was a period, that lasted for at least five years, when I had a love-hate relationship with India. The heat and the never ending physical and emotional challenges were difficult for me to cope with. I felt on overload most of the time. Even then, though, I had a deep internal sense that it was very important for me to take that annual trip. I often used the metaphor, to myself and others, that it was like going to a doctor knowing the treatment would be painful.

Thankfully, that period passed, and for a long time now I have eagerly anticipated my yearly trip. I know that every visit will be filled with learning and adventure and that the challenges that come to me will help me grow.

It is my experience that being with Amma, whether it is in India or the U.S., increases the frequency and intensity of the life lessons that come my way, along with the ability to work through them at a faster rate. When I’m in the middle of an emotional roller coaster, the growly declaration that “this is going to be the last time I’m going to do this” inevitably goes through my mind. At least now I know that the thought is just a thought, and it will pass. I fully believe that it is important for me to continue going to Amritapuri each year, and that those visits will cleanse my mind and body, and feed my soul.

As I was preparing to leave Amritapuri this year, it occurred to me that once I retire I can go to the ashram whenever I want to go, and stay as long as I want to stay.

I almost always travel to Amritapuri in November and December, the busiest time of the year; a time when my son and daughter’s lives are filled with creating the Christmas play on top of their regular seva responsibilities. While I love seeing the play and being involved in play preparation, I am also faced with the reality that I can’t spend as much time with my adult children as I want to. When I retire, will I go to India at a different time of the year? Am I willing to miss the play in order to spend more time with my kids? Will I go earlier and stay longer? Will I go twice a year even though that would mean facing jet lag twice? I know those questions will be answered as my life unfolds.

For the last few years, I have felt an increasing desire to do panchakarma, an Ayurvedic therapy that provides deep cleansing and detoxification. Panchakarma was one of those things that I used to say I would “Never” do, but since I discovered that my high blood pressure and high cholesterol would eliminate several of the procedures I’m resistant to doing, I have felt more inclined to consider it. I have no doubt that the treatments would be in my best interest and the people I know who have done it have loved it. Maybe I would too.

If I do panchakarma, I would want to do it in Amritapuri, but I’m still resistant. I know the protocol involves staying out of the sun, rain, and wind and that I would be expected to keep the fan off in my room and to avoid other places with fans. That’s a big deal, considering I’d be in India. I also would be expected to refrain from doing seva, napping, writing, or reading. There are many dietary restrictions as well. Am I willing to make those commitments for most or all of my trip?

My biggest resistance is to the activity restrictions. As an over-doer I am stumped by how I would fill my time if I avoided doing all of the items on that list. Am I willing to give up blogging, working in the gardens, taking Tai Chi, and the other things I love doing in Amritapuri? What WOULD I do? Would I spend those weeks staring at a wall?

No doubt, I would be confronting all the garbage that is inside my mind. I would also be confronting my reluctance to simply “BE.” Am I willing to do that?

So, as I wrap up this year’s trip to Amritapuri, my mind is filled with questions. It is also filled with gratitude for all I experienced on this trip, and excitement as I look forward to discovering where the next steps in my life will take me.

 

Photo Credit: Amritapuri Facebook Page

Recovering from Over-Doing

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In this week’s Dungeon Prompt, Sreejit asks us to fill in the blank in this sentence:  “I am a Recovering _________.” There was no doubt in my mind what the behavior would be for me. Using the Alcoholics Anonymous introduction, I will say: “Hi!  I am Karuna, and I am a recovering over-doer.”

As I thought about how I would present this topic, I decided to create a new disorder. My fictitious disorder is called “Being versus Doing Disorder.”

The Being vs Doing disorder is on a continuum where the center, a balance between being and doing, is the healthy portion of the continuum. The more someone moves to either end of the continuum, the more likely it is they will have dysfunction in their lives.

When I think of the over-being end of the continuum I think of non-productivity, passivity, and lack of motivation. I don’t know as much about that part of the spectrum since I have almost no personal experience there. I have seen it at work in clients and friends though.

Over-doing has many facets. It commonly begins in childhood when the only or main way to get positive attention from parents is to do impressive things. It also develops when parents criticize their children anytime they are relaxing or are doing things the parents consider nonproductive.

As a result, adults with an over-doing disorder may be seeking validation and praise for what they accomplish. An over-doer is also likely to be a rescuer. As such, they do things they aren’t asked to do and are likely to do things they don’t want to do. In addition, they do more than their share of the work that needs to be done and do things for other people that they could do for themselves. Those with this “disorder’ are likely to over-commit and seem incapable of being still.

Over-doing has been a major characteristic of my adult life. At one point, I was raising two children, working three jobs, doing my personal therapy and in school studying for a PhD.   During my therapy, I realized I didn’t want a PhD, I was just seeking attention from the father, who had disowned me.  I stopped my schooling but was still overdoing. Before long, I began to experience extreme exhaustion and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

With CFS, I was in survival mode and it was impossible for me to do as much as I had been doing, although I still tried to.  When it began dissipating after five years, I went back to over doing. There is no doubt that a part of me believed it was only acceptable for me to stop if I was sick.  Eventually I developed high blood pressure and other physical problems.

I reached a point where I had to cut back on all of my commitments. Nowadays, I am putting my emphasis on doing the things I want to do, and am saying no to many requests.  I still have trouble with “simply being” but I no longer am into major over-doing.   I hope some day I will be much closer to the center of the being-doing continuum.

I have realized a behavior that really fueled my over-doing disorder was the desire to be “in the know.” That puts me in the place of being asked for information that I don’t want to share, which then creates stress, whether I share it or not. As I continue to slow down, I am finding myself holder of less information. I am loving responding to requests with “I’m not in that loop anymore. You will have to ask someone else.”

I learned many skills during my over-doing years.  Last week friends of mine were in a life and death crisis and I stepped in to help immediately.  There is a time and place for those skills, but it takes discrimination to use them correctly.  In that instance, I have no doubt that my choices were appropriate.

I am very committed to my recovery from over-doing. While I may find myself immersed in the old behaviors from time to time, I don’t think I will ever be drawn so deep into them again. I see what I am doing  much sooner and and change course when needed.

In evaluating myself on the scale found in Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters, I find I am in generally in Chapter 4 or 5.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

 

Every time I walk around an invitation to over-do or avoid putting myself in the situation where I know I am going to be tempted, I consider my choice worthy of celebration!  I am truly movig towards a life of balance.

 

Do you have a “Being vs Doing” disorder? Where do you fall on the continuum? How does it disrupt your life? Do you consider yourself in recovery?