Finding joy in life seems hard these days for all too many. There are several reasons for this. For one, the very way some of our daily lives are structured can easily suck the joy out of living. And, if we happen to be in a relationship with a disturbed character or have to deal with such a person on a regular basis, life can indeed get pretty miserable. So, how can folks in circumstances such as these reclaim a sense of joy?
Last week I wrote about the behavioral formula for depression. (See: Helplessness Need Not Become Hopelessness.) Focusing attention on and investing emotional energy in people, places, or things you can’t possibly control is a sure pathway to helplessness. And feelings of helplessness can eventually lead to feeling hopeless. That’s how depression often sets in. That’s its formula. But there’s a behavioral formula for joy, too. Focusing your attention on and investing your emotional energy where you truly have power is inherently vitalizing. And, of course, the one place you have virtually infinite power is over your own behavior. So, while trying to get others to change is frustrating and eventually depressing, taking action on your own behalf is positively energizing.
Taking action on your own behalf – that’s the key to finding joy again! And remaining humbly open to the learning the lessons that inevitably flow from the choices you make is ultimately empowering, although it might not always seem so at the time. Still, patience, faith, and persistent honest self-reckoning, enables us to grow in both awareness and character.
Being the Change
Ghandi famously said that you have to be the change you want to see in the world. And Dr. Martin Luther King both embraced and lived out this philosophy. The message is simple and clear: You have to embody what you want to see others manifest. And you have to do the very thing you want to see done. That’s the way you truly mature emotionally, spiritually, an in character. And it’s also the way the world eventually heals and is converted, one heart at a time.
We humans are notorious complainers. And make no mistake, in our character-impaired times, there’s plenty to complain about. But we haven’t the power to change others. We only have the power to change ourselves. And we’re obliged to do so regardless of what others might do. And when we muster the courage and resolve to better, the effects go beyond us. That’s because we’re all connected. And when one part of a system changes, it necessarily influences and impacts all the others.
Waking Up and Coming Alive
Folks in relationships with disturbed characters eventually wake up to the reality of their circumstances. And most of the time, it’s a rude, painful awakening. Moreover, wresting oneself from a toxic relationship, picking up the pieces, and moving on is a most daunting task. But waking up to yourself is perhaps the most daunting task of all. Knowing yourself – your fears, insecurities, unresolved issues, etc. is challenging indeed. But the rewards that come with it are abundant and definitely worth both the pain and the wait usually involved.
Folks who’ve exited toxic relationships often have much to grieve. That’s because they’ve generally lost a lot, especially in the way of emotional investment. (See: The Slot Machine Syndrome discourse in In Sheep’s Clothing.) But in the end, it does little good to lament what such a relationship may cost you. While the price may have been steep, you can turn it to profit by heeding the lessons the experience afforded you. Of course, most survivors are so angry and hurt they just don’t want to let their ex-partners off the hook. But perhaps the biggest thing you lose in any toxic relationship is yourself. So, letting go of all those things over which you no power anyway and taking action is the surest way to find yourself again. And it’s also the secret to finding joy again.
Disturbed characters generally don’t relinquish the grip they had over you easily. They typically do all they can to keep you ensnared in some way. But you always have the power to refuse to assent to their ploys. I’ll be talking more about that in the coming weeks.
21 thoughts on “Finding Joy by Creating It”
Thanks for this article, Dr. Simon. I’m again amazed at how you fully understand what those who have dealt/lived with CD individuals go through, step by step.
And this should be our goal, to find joy in life again, not continually dwell in the past and live a sad, difficult life.
I remember making bargains and telling myself I would leave on certain dates if things didn’t change or I’d tell myself if I just reacted differently to his behaviour he’d change. That never happened, and I was discarded. I didn’t know it then but he did me the biggest favour. I remarried and we celebrate our 37th anniversary on New Years Day.
Sadly we have a CD in our midst who has destroyed our relationship with a family member.
I read somewhere (it could have been here) that CDs make us betray ourselves and those that love us. It is so true.
I am so grateful for finding peace within myself but I’m also grateful for the knowledge I’ve gained in knowing a CD when I encounter one.
I am currently in a 12 step program and as the serentity prayer states ” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. The program has been helping me to discover the things about me that made me a target for the CD in the first place – I am speaking for myself only, raised in a substance abusing home I was the perfect victim. I recently got a sponsor and told her about my ex cd husband and that he was a narcissist as well as a drug addict. She didn’t understand the difference between a substance abuser and a narc. Substance abusers lie and manipulate and are very self centered as well. Sometimes it is hard to explain the difference because of the similar traits so that someone with no understanding of CD’s can understand it. I just told her he was a con man.
It’s exhausting trying to educate people on a CD. It’s a huge spectrum. I kind of laughed when you narrowed it down to “con man”. People are familiar with what that is.
The serenity prayer you cited is exactly what I did, accepted it, changed myself and educated myself so that it won’t happen again.
You know, if we continue to educate ourselves, support each other, we help ourselves heal, and as long as we keep moving forward in a healthy direction I think there is hope for all of us to heal and live a happy, content – or at the least, tolerable – life.
Shame on them for picking good-hearted, kind, devoted people as their target. That’s their bad.
Let’s not let it happen again, though.
And further, they pick people who are already suffering abuse, as you did, in the home with substance abuse. They can spot their victims so easily. Let’s learn to spot them easily.
I currently follow a 12 step program too. I personally believe that there is a crossover. I think many (not all) addicts are on the spectrum, and the longer they are addicts, the further down the spectrum they go. It comes down to behaviors, attitudes, and character. My brother is an alcoholic. He was raised to believe that boys were superior to girls (entitlement) and he witnessed us girls being treated like servants. We were all severely neglected, he had more attention, but was still neglected. He says that it was horrible the way our father/mother treated us, but still behaves as if he is the king and treats us similarly. (King Baby) He is highly transactional and intentionally tries to get people off balance so he can get his way (he told me this). He can be very charming, but he’s a bully. He also brags that he can pay cash for cars (it’s just sad when he does that)….then tries to cheat his sisters out of part of their inheritance…after he sided and conspired with the person who tried to steal it! (think Trumps relationship with Putin) When I actively fought it (while fighting cancer) and called him on his taking too much of what I was able to recover, he threatened to “beat my scrawny ass”…..I’d say he’s both an alcoholic and a narcissist.
The X husband CDN has had addictive tendencies throughout all the years I’ve known him, i.e. running (several back to back marathons) gambling, buying home movies in mass quantities, buying a huge collection of guns (2 safes full) Adderall, chewed Nicorette gum for years, and sex addiction (prostitutes). I understand what you’re talking about.
Watching the CDN in action is somewhat like watching a movie, play by play. You get to where you can predict their next move, and aren’t so surprised by it.
Yep, sounds like addictive tendencies to me. Wow, did the safes full of guns scare the crap out of you?
It does become somewhat like watching a movie…a horror flick sometimes, Girl, don’t go in there!…play by play. Yes, I do not take their threats as seriously as I used to. The terror and helplessness meter has dialed down considerably now that I’m aware of the fact they are doing it to dominate/control and have worked on my issues. Now, I either call their bluff in business/consumer issues (and do my homework on my rights) and/or ignore them (personal).
With my brother, I do wonder how much is from the trauma/ptsd. But, I still need to protect myself from his abusive behavior.
Who needs 2 safes’ worth of guns? Men who stockpile or collect weapons usually tend to be abusers. Some use their guns to hunt, but even then, maybe 5 different guns ought to suffice anyone’s needs.
I have several experiences with weapons, and guns somehow were less scary than being threatened and chased with a knife. Something about being stabbed to death really bothers a person. Helplessly watching others be threatened with a gun felt horrible, too.
In my experience, threats were “promises” which is exactly what one of the monsters told me, that he doesn’t merely threaten, but rather such are promises of his.
Being held at gunpoint really changes a person. Being held at knifepoint really changes a person. Watching it be done to others also really changes a person.
It feels unreal, afterwards. As in, ‘did that really happen?!’ ‘Have I lost my mind?’ ‘Did I imagine that?’ And the truth is that indeed that all happened and so very, very much more.
Monsters walk among us. Way more monsters than any crime statistics, police reports, social services stats, etc. detail. Way more monsters than anyone wants to admit.
I think there’s many more victims out there, who nobody ever hears from, who live tortured, life-and-death, crazymaking, truly tortured, endlessly traumatized, horrific lives. But victims know they are alone. They know it’s one against so many, as abusers are supported and victims are isolated, demonized, and shunned.
When I see stockpiled weapons, especially if it’s not someone who regularly hunts, traps, etc., I see it as a big red flag.
That being said, I believe practically every woman alive should be armed at all times and carrying at least a handgun. The world is a dangerous, horrible place and women are but prey.
Wow, anonymous. I’m so sorry you were subjected to that deplorable and terrifying treatment and glad you made it through that. I can’t even imagine how terrifying that was. Of course it really changed you, how could it not?!
I think you’re correct about the statistics being wrong. Most victims know they will be re-traumatized by society and the system, and then eventually likely fail to get justice. I used to be naive and thought if I reported it, I would be protected. It all depends on the abuser and the system…and if the victim is lucky enough to have the protection of someone with a lot of power/influence.
A stockpile of weapons is a huge red flag for me too. My abusers have been more physical, emotional, financial and psychological. But I know that they escalate, so I likely got out before it escalated. I imagine some start off at a higher level.
I agree with women arming themselves…first get comfortable with the weapon and idea of it and be willing and able to use it. When it comes down to it you have to be able to pull that trigger. And make sure you aim for the heart or the head. Otherwise, they can come back and sue you! They break in to your home, you shoot them, and they get to sue you. Again the screwed up justice system. I have police officers in my family and they kept reinforcing this.
What’s really messed up is how the perps and abusers will convince all the rest that the victim is the bad one. The victim is too scared to call the police, too scared to reach out. And the abuser goes around everywhere smearing her. And people don’t know all that the abuser did to her. They don’t know how truly evil and dangerous the abuser is.
Good to know the tip about shooting. But I think it’s wise for women to not aim to kill, as men’s institutions (like the court system) don’t look kindly on women who defend themselves and usually charge women with crimes if they dare to engage in self-defense. A woman’s luckiest bet is for it to be a stranger. That’s about the only time a woman has a decent chance of being seen as rightfully engaging in self-defense. Otherwise, the law will come down harsh on her.
Either way, women are faulted no matter what they do or don’t do in this life.
He was never physical abusive during the entire marriage (25+) years. The gun collection was another obsession. But I’ll tell you when he was behaving strangely and when his life spiraled downward, the gun stockpile certainly did frighten me because I felt I didn’t know how deranged his mind was and if it will lead up to him shooting me.
I hope I can post this link. It helped me understand a bit more of” WHAT” I was dealing with.
Sorry, Joey, posting links without the administrator’s review unfortunately often invites unforeseen problems. The link has been removed until everything can be checked. Folks can always use the “contact Dr. Simon feature to ask for an in-advance review of a link they think should be posted.
To my little brother, I wish you a special Merry Christmas and many Blessings in the New Year.
Big Hugs to you
Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and Peace that surpasses all understanding.
May this new year fill your hearts with Joy and laughter.
God Bless you All
To All and BTOV,
Merry Christmas! Hoping all remember the birth of our Lord Jesus. “God with us”. We celebrate his birth again this year.
And no matter what any abuser or character disordered individual has done to you, your soul is still your soul and your relationship with God is something nobody can take from you.
I suspect many of us survivors are Christians and it’s the devil’s army, those of the world, that attack us.
Victims are often some of the most wonderful people. They are usually targeted because they are good people.
Hoping that even if you are spending the holiday alone, remember that God is with you and you are precious.
The Devil seeks to destroy and he is doing a good job of it. However, there are a few.
Hugs and Gods Peace
Merry Christmas, All! I wish you joy, love and peace.
Thank you for the reminder about spending the holiday alone….we are not alone and we are precious.
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Who ever falls for the rubbish of this fool and Troll will be a further VICTIM….., of Narcissistic Abuse.
This Blog is here to be of service to help, not a vehicle to promote LIES,
so ” Be Gone”…. Above let this be a warning to those who are desperate.
Love the language of Be Gone…… and commend the person on this blog who came up with “Be Gone.” So simple and True