A reader sent in some very provocative
questions: I'll do my best to provide some rules of thumb. Dr. Irene
How do we know when it's time to accept or if we
should work to change?
You cannot change something until you accept
that it is. So, if your partner has divorced you against your
will, accept it. Then, apply the
Serenity Prayer that AA has made so popular: (Something like) "God,
grant me the wisdom to change the things I can, accept the things I can't,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
When do we seek professional help and take
If you are suicidal or homicidal, that's
an easy call. You're very sick: get help! But, most people find themselves
in grayer areas. A decision regarding professional help is heavily
influenced by one's culture, value system and knowledge base.
Educate Yourself: More and more,
depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and the like are
thought of as biologically based. Depression is not in your head. It is a
physical illness! Moreover, these are physical illnesses which can be
successfully treated on a biological and cognitive level.
Think about obtaining treatment when
your symptoms get in your way or your life feels out of control.
For example, when you have difficulty getting to work or keeping up with
your days. Has there been a change in your mood/behavior or do people who
know you well see a change?
Consider seeking help if you cry too easily, feel
overwhelmed, anxious, need to isolate, or if life feels somehow unbearable. Is your anger
getting in your way? Do you have big cravings for food or sex or sleep?
Seek treatment if you find the need to self-medicate with alcohol or other
Still not sure? Consider getting a professional opinion
regarding whether or not professional treatment may help you.
When do we accept our feelings as normal, as something that
should be endured and felt until we feel like we can't take it anymore - and
want to die. Until we don't want to talk to anyone and we cry at any
You do not accept such pain as
"normal," especially if the pain lasts more than a couple of
weeks. It is not normal! Get help.
How do we know if we should give up on relationships and accept that
because of our personal issues, we are not capable of being involved in a
relationship? Because of our anger, our depression, our sadness, control,
abandonment issues we just cannot survive in a relationship - and no one
else can cope with it.
Ask yourself how much you want a
relationship. If it is important to you, work on the issues that get in
How do we know if we should keep searching for that one in 10 million
person that might be understanding, patient, caring, compassionate
and willing to accept us with all our behaviors, knowing that there is
something good and worthwhile inside?
Finding a partner is difficult enough.
But, if you are looking for the perfectly understanding partner described
above, who is able to put their own needs aside to see the good inside you
despite the outward behaviors, look inside. You are the only person
in the world that can and should provide this level of self-care for
No matter how wonderful your partner may
be, your partner is human and has needs of their own; it is their job to
tend to meeting thir needs as opposed to putting them aside. Even your
most giving codependent will not be able to sustain a high level of
So, accept that you have a set of
difficulties which make pairing hard for you. But also know that most of
the internal pieces that get in your way - like your anger, sadness,
control and abandonment issues - are things you can change with
motivation and professional help.
How can we know? Bob
Visit Bob's sensitive and
thoughtful webpages, After