REBT for Loss of Family

REBT Self-Help Form

What is the situation that you are upset about?
Answer: Realized it wasn’t my families behavior: the abandonment by my mother, her downloading my care onto siblings, their resentment over becoming my parents, their guilt, and forced obligation and subsequent abandonment, that cused my lifelong feeling of hurt, it was how I looked at it that caused the major sting.

What are the unhealthy negative emotions that you are experiencing?
Answer: Hurt, shame, rage, jealousy, depression, anxiety.

What self-defeating behaviors would you like to change?
Answer: Withdrawal and avoiding social contact, procrastination, in the past I used drugs, I was unassertive for years, exercise avoidance and emotional eating as well.

What demand are you making about the situation?
Answer: I must perform well and win the love and approval of my siblings who see me as a source of guilt and obligation, or else I am an unworthy inadequate person. They should do the right thing and help me.
Dispute: Why must I? Where is the evidence that I am a no good shit. Where is it written that others should anything?
Rational Belief: There is no evidence. Nowhere is it written. I highly prefer they act loving and sane but they don’t have too.

In what way are you awfulizing about the situation?
Answer: It’s awful to be so abandoned
Dispute: How is it awful? Am I dying from this?
Rational Belief: I am not dying from this being on my own and solving my own problems.

What are you saying to yourself about the situation that indicates low frustration tolerance?
Answer: I’m so lost and alone, I can’t stand it.
Dispute: Where is the evidence that I can’t stand it.
Rational Belief: There is no evidence. I am standing it so I will stand it. Ive been standing it all my life so I’m really good at standing it. Mostly by focusing on my various satisfactions.

What beliefs show that you are rating people instead of rating their actions?
Answer: My siblings are a waste of space.
Dispute: Does a bad act make them bad people?
Rational Belief: No, they had no choice, used by a narcissist mother, emotionally incested, victims of guilt and obligation.

How are you overgeneralizing about the situation?
Answer: I’ll never have family to visit and care for me.
Dispute: Just because I prefer family to visit me does that mean I must have that?
Rational Belief: Not at all. I will figure ways to fill my time, by practising unconditional self acceptance, making art chatting with people that care for me, màking new friends and restarting old friendships. Make my own family.

What are your new healthy negative emotions?
Answer: I feel sad and disappointed about their choices and concerned.

What are your new self-helping behaviors?
Answer: Talking to strangers, asking for what I want. Exercising, Eating healthily. Tackling unpleasant tasks without needless delay.

Warning: This form should not be considered a substitute for individualized treatment with a mental health professional. If you are seeing a counselor or a therapist, it is recommended that you print this page and discuss your responses with him or her.
Designed by Will Ross © 2006

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One Simple Line

“Mother And Child Reunion”

Paul Simon

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

I just can’t believe It’s so
Though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

But I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
When the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a moment away

These lyrics in my head today, this A.M. as I awoke.

A yearning in my soul for a nurturing parent, due to a lung cancered father and an unavailable toxic narcissist mother.

So. An orphan.

So. These feelings come up in times of trouble (apologies to the Beatles) and no mother Mary comes to me. An old ancient program of a habit of mind that leads to dependence of all kinds. I should have a parent, I should have family to care for me.

There is no reason why I should anything. I highly prefer to be cared for but I don’t have to.

Instead, I’ve searched the libraries of the world knowledge till I found one simple line of hope, nurturing, and self care: If it is to be, it’s up to me – Albert Ellis. ( )

So. The mother and child reunion is me nurturing me. It’s only a motion away to reasonably independent self care. If I need assistance then I need it, like a doctor or a mechanic or a cane and a walker. I’m not going to make myself crazy over this current event.

There is always some event.

Best to simply accept myself without condition of parents, lovers, and friends who come and go, because people die; all relationships have a life cycle.

Best to shore up my relationship with me; a lasting caring one that is always with me and will never leave me.

Then if I yearn for friends, be friendly, if I yearn for love be loving.

Especially to me.

The Art of Being Alone

It is ironic that in order to learn to be alone, I thought I had to first learn to be with people. This involved meeting them. A prospect equally as scary as not meeting them. I was stuck.

This social anxiety was my inheritance. My Mom, a single parent, bequeathed other things to my other siblings, but I got a lifelong crippling fear of asking for what I wanted from people. Things like communication, companionship, and sex. Of course the root was fear of being rejected and being alone. This involved a fair amount of mind reading and predicting the future. My conclusions were never tested so I was never to discover just how inaccurate they were.

Until one day after Barb Will swept in and out of my life, and consequently I was suffering the devastation from a scorched earth narcissist, the end of an engagement, the end of my music community that came and went with her, my primary friendships that sided with her due to her smear campaign, I found myself with lots of time on my hands. And a book called Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. He became my doctor to heal my lifelong anxiety and pain.

It wasn’t until much later that I read Getting Rid of Crazy, by Dr. Tara Palmatier, that I learned to recognize the Barb Wills in my life, the personalities that prey on lonely men who have yet to develop the assertive skills to ask clearly for communication, companionship, and sex.

Dr. Burns, a cognitive therapist, one of the first in the medical community to adopt the work of Dr. Albert Ellis, ( suggested through his book that I first spend 6 months alone.

Huh? Is this guy nuts? Impossible! Yadda Yadda Yadda.

I really didn’t have an option as it turned out, I was alone anyway, so I entered his programme of what turned out to be, self care, self nurturing.

Then the light turned on. After six months of making myself nice meals (would you invite your best friend over, feed him a hot dog and call him a loser?) buying myself flowers, and examining my self defeating thoughts, I began to see the consequences of my inheritance and what to do about it. Being my own best friend became a reality instead of a cliche.

Talk to strangers and ask for what you want, yes, but feed yourself good food and good thoughts first. Dispute anything you tell yourself where the consequence is depression, anxiety, shame, embarrassment, hurt, guilt, and rage.

Sadness, annoyance, concern, regret, and disappointment when something shitty happens is motivating, however, because something shitty happened so you should feel shitty, and want to do something about it, especially acceptance. Shltty things happen to nice people and nice things happen to shitty people, accept, accept, accept.

Fair enough.

What good did I make of my horror of an upbringing? I learned that I could work hard. It is the only way to get anything. Wow

The guilty conscience of the survivor (apologies to George Toles) or How to Take the Major Sting out of Loss.

My father died when I was two, a coal miner, of lung cancer or black lung as it is still known today. My mother was from Newfoundland and was subjected to its national sport, sexual abuse, at an early age.

Consequently she had the responsibility of raising 4 small kids and not the slightest idea of empathy, somehow being both a narcissist as well as a professional victim.

So I raised myself in the library, my fathers were Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, a scientist and an engineer, both devout atheists.

But we were on welfare in the 50’s and 60’s in a very conservative city, Calgary, Alberta, subjected to soon to be internalized public scorn, for ‘living off’ others.

Mom never got off the couch; she sat there smoking in her menstrual aroma, until it killed her at age 60, agoraphobic to the end, terrorized by everything. Her narcissism and the emotional incesting of her kids was dutifully passed on, and adopted, to the next generation and the next, seemingly endlessly.

How did it miss me, how did I get empathy? I sought sanctuary in the library from the emotional abuse of my parent, the physical abuse of my brother, a particularly nasty piece of work, and the perennial abandoment of my sister (Lucy pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown kicks it comes to mind).

I learned from books like Black Beauty and my personal hero, Huckleberry Finn. Asimov and Heinlein were no slouches at caring for their fellow man either, they showed me how to do it, by osmosis, I suppose. Asimov wrote over 100 medical textbooks if memory serves, was a doctor and cancer researcher along with his wife, and revolutionized science fiction for relaxation.

So. Fast forward some 40 years later and I am the type of person that is sought out by predators of the narcissist variety. That is, unassertive and caring. The perfect target.

I was glomed onto by a woman who had 95% chance of getting the disease Huntingtons, a horrible brain disease, progressive and terminal. She did all the usual narcissist things over our 10 year relationship, including manipulation by F.O.G.: fear, obligation and guilt. The sex was good to start with but withholding it is a helluva time tested manipulation.

So as frustration became overwhelming and I started to demand, finally, a healthy relationship, she did stage 2 and 3 of the narcissist relationship, overvalued, undervalued, dumped.

Just then my oldest brother died of brain cancer and my best friend of skin cancer.

So. I bet you are telling yourself you can’t stand it. This was from Dwayne Johnston the emergency family therapist I was referred to at the hospital. I had been crying for six months. Turns out tears are tears of frustration, generally. Who knew. Well, Dwayne knew, it was his business to know. So I didn’t have to ask how he knew I was just glad he did.

Finally, after a ‘journey’ of faith healers aka religious psychiatrists and clergy here I met someone who wasn’t babbling inanities about ‘my purpose’ and the purpose of loss.

“When you are telling yourself you can’t stand it, you are calling yourself a loser, the major sting of loss. Evidence shows you have been standing it not only in this relationship but in all your family relationships all your life. Someone had to be functional to make it work and that someone was you. High tolerance of frustration is success in any endeavor. Besides when you say you can’t stand something it means you are going to die from it. Are you dead? Hmmm?”

Now I was laughing. No I’m not dead. Well quit telling yourself things that aren’t true that make you feel shitty. Shitty equals guilty, depressed, anxious, embarrassed, and ashamed. When you see, based on evidence, that the names you are calling yourself aren’t true, those shitty consequences disappear.

Then he gave me a website to learn to be my own therapist, and now I’m giving it to you.

Mining for Gold

Very anxious in early waking hours.

Thinking about where I will live.

The single men’s hostel comes to mind and then panic.

Reminds of last time I was in transition.

I was taught that as soon as soon as I started to assess my resources I began to feel better.

He helped, Dwayne Johnston the family therapist, he laughed at my fear of living in the single mens hostel. He pointed out that I have a lot going for me.

This is still true.

Every time I get involved with someone who uses me then dumps me, ( currently it’s my sister a serial dumpster) because I ask for what I want, I then get anxious from agreeing with them.

That is how I end up looking at myself.. negatively…and creating my anxiety. Consequence of self downing.

It is simply not accurate..

My home is in storage waiting for me.

I am healing.

I have an income waiting for me.

I don’t have an instant answer to the short term.

Nowhere is it written that I should.

I can stand this frustration.

Because I am standing it.

I have more options than the hostel.

It is taking time to heal and find a better place to live.

Why is that so terrible.

It’s not.

Deal with it as best I can,

Then ignore it and focus on a more satisfying future.


Pairs of Opposites are really the same Thing

Yesterday my stuff went into storage. I went into hospital with a stroke two months ago. It’s going to be awhile before I can get a place and operate it and pay for it.

What is crucial is how I look at it.

Self defeating or self helping.

The facts are, this isn’t awful or terrible. Awful or terrible means I will die from this. This is a hassle. I have to do workouts every day to recover. I work out every day anyway, I like it.

I live at the hospital because this is the best place to recover. I have no choice about that but I have choice in how I look at it. Some people at the hospital will never think, speak or eat again after a stroke. I only have to walk and use my righr arm and hand again. They say this will happen, it is happening.

My cat has a good home. Is it awful that I gave up my cat or is it good that even sick with a stroke I found him a good home? The truth is I miss my cat and I’m glad I don’t have the responsibilities. I miss my car and my household and I’m relieved to be free of the responsibilities.

So it comes in pairs.

I’m experiencing recovery from a stroke. I feel sad that it happened and determined to get better.

Sitting here having coffee and writing. Is it so terrible?

I, as an artist, got re-validated (in reality I’m always a professional artist with formal qualifications) by professional colleagues and it came along with this stroke. Funny how that happens.

I had felt estranged from the art community due to some smear campaigns by narcissists, ex’s and alcoholics mostly but I saw them as having influence in my professional community. The cognitive distortion is that a smear campaign spreads like wildfire. The truth is that people have free will and the power of choice, they make up their own minds. Anyway, I thought my career was over but I continued to make work and exhibit on the net. I was convinced that everyone hated me now. When I had my stroke I asked for help from a community aid program for professional artists, thinking they would find ways to disqualify me. I was convinced of it in fact. When they immediately called a jury to assess my work and my c.v., then immediately gave me the grant, it went a long way to heal a very major part of my life.

Likewise an internet friend, Cliff Eyland, a prof teaching art at U of Manitoba, heard of my plight and bought a piece of my art in support of me.

So having a stroke wiped out my old pain about career and community and I kickstarted  my new life. Healing as I go.

Funny how that happens.

Spotting the Spots

So Ellis says people and things from the past don’t have the power to create a depression.  Only what I think about them can do that.

OK. So my sister shows up. Behaves the way narcissists often do, i.e. looking and sounding reliable but isn’t, so she should be that way, because she is, and I’m disappointed and depressed.

Seems irrational to want a leopard to change its spots. I mean I accept that it is a leopard.

The problem with a narcissist is that they hide their spots. And their claws. They manipulate with fear, obligation and guilt, which at the very least feels icky and at the worst is abusive and usually devastating.

So the self downing, leading to depression, starts there. I should have known better.  Why should I? They are experts at hiding their spots. There is no reason why I should.

I must be liked and do well, spot the spots immediately, or else I am a shit. She must not be the way she is or she is a shit. Life must be convenient, like not living in a wheelchair in hospital or I can’t stand it.

OK those are current events and not ghosts from the past at all.

Well the evidence is, she should be that way because she is that way.

How soon do I have to spot the spots to ‘do well ? A day, a week, or a month? I spotted it when I spotted it. That is what counts not some arbitrary perfectionist notion of how I should be.

Is there any evidence that I can’t stand being in a wheelchair and recovering? I have been standing it, I am standing it, so I will stand it.

So no longer depressed or ashamed but sad and disappointed, I make plans to move and ask friends to help. Computer friends and audio friends to handle equipment. Strong friends to handle moving. Talking to strangers and asking for what I want, help without shame.