Through my work as a social worker and in recent years as a psychotherapist and counselor, I’ve learned that many of the anxieties and complexities within people’s lives relate to their making decisions based on a codependent way of thinking I call detrimental caretaking (DC for short).
Detrimental caretaking leads people to feel anxious, depressed and unhappy—both about themselves and about their relationships—and to experience job difficulties and an endless list of dissatisfactions.
I see a world of women “giving it away,” surrendering their power and fundamental emotional rights as human beings.
Picture a wide, open field that you are required to walk through. You can’t run through it freely, stopping to pick the wildflowers—you are stuck on a path, bound in by thorny bushes and thick vegetation on either side. The catch is, you don’t even see the branches hemming you in; you can only feel them—and therefore, you will quite naturally stay right where you are supposed to. You can’t see that this path is only one among other options that this open field has for you, because you don’t realize that invisible forces are restricting you. This is the path of the Giveaway Girl I write about in my new book, Stop Giving It Away.
Are you a Giveaway Girl?
Yes, you probably are, but it’s not your fault. Women—quite naturally, and most times without even noticing it—frequently give up their wants, desires, energy, power, ideas, time, and dreams, mistaking doing so for being caring and compassionate. It gets to the point that what we give of ourselves feels increasingly out of balance. If you can relate to this, I encourage you to keep reading.
Here are the first five questions from How to Spot the Giveaway Girl in You:
Are you a people pleaser?
Are you not a people pleaser in general, but you tend to be like that in intimate relationships (i.e., you don’t want to rock the boat, make people uncomfortable, etc.)?
Do you tend to put others’ needs before your own?
In general, do you treat people well and expect you will receive the same kindness and consideration from others in return?
Do you give other people the benefit of the doubt?
Many women model their lives after one of the most famous (and most exhausted) female characters of all, Cinderella — not the glass slipper and ball gown Cinderella but the work-her-fingers-to-the-bone-exhausted Cinderella, who desperately needs a vacation and some beauty rest.
You think you are not working as hard as Cinderella?
When was the last time you took the day off because you felt a cold coming on? (I am not talking about lying in bed with a box of tissues and a bag of menthol cough drops because you can’t function. That doesn’t count.)
When was the last time you checked in with your needs and listened to your body’s calls for help? (Upset stomach, lost sleep, anxiety, feeling the stress buzz)
When was the last time you stopped to simply enjoy your day? Notice what’s blooming around you. Claim a peaceful moment, sit and look out into the sky. (Ahh)
When was the last time you rested because it just feels good to be at rest?
In my new book,Stop Giving It Away, I write about a pervasive problem I call Detrimental Caretaking. First know that caretaking in and of itself is not a bad thing.
When it comes to people, some caretaking is a necessary and natural part of life (with children and the elderly, for example). It’s what comes with being a caring, compassionate, responsible person. Caretaking comes from a great place of loving and giving.
We become detrimental caretakers when we:
Take care as a result of unhealthy belief systems. Everything is up to me. Without me, everything will fall apart and nothing will get done. It’s all on me.
Make decisions based on fear, pressure, and the inability to speak up for ourselves and because we can’t set boundaries. If I don’t do this, he or she will be mad at me. He’ll yell at me and make me feel stupid. I’ll be punished in one way or another if I don’t …
Cover and do for people who can and should make decisions and take action for themselves. Someone has to step in—it’s what’s best for everyone. I can’t stand by and let this happen.
Take care of all these things first and at the expense—to the detriment—of ourselves. It’s selfish to put my needs in front of others’ needs. I was taught that’s it’s better to give, no matter what.
Detrimental caretaking occurs in different degrees and can occur in one or all areas of life—home, work, life and love. Detrimental caretaking means you give in (make sacrifices) for the people and circumstances around you. It can feel like something or someone (other than you) is running your life. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I ran into a girlfriend who was complaining about her Eeyore co-worker.
What’s an Eeyore? You may remember from childhood that cute, bedraggled old donkey from Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore was always moaning and complaining. He was determined to not let even a tiny sliver of sunshine into his life. Here’s a YouTube with some of Eeyore’s best quotes. Do you know someone like this?
Here are a few Eeyore quotes:
“If it is a good morning, which I doubt…”
“End of the road, nothing to do, and no hope of things getting better…”
Anne the Eeyore
This co-worker, lets call her Anne, is someone who is incredibly annoying to her co-workers. Anne is always complaining, sees nothing positive in her life, and no matter how much help she is offered, she never does anything differently. She complains about her obesity but buys the Big Gulp Fruit Punch at the 7 Eleven every day. (We all do the self-sabotage thing!)
She hates her job but never polishes her resume or tries to do anything different. Anne has been told a zillion times to seek professional treatment for her depression, to get nutritional counseling, and has been offered the support of a ton of people. Anne doesn’t budge.
Eeyores are hard to understand. Why do they choose the Eeyore mindset over anything else?
Well, one reason could be that there are real upsides to victimhood. That’s right. It isn’t as bad as it looks on the outside to be an Eeyore. Here are four reasons some people have trouble leaving the Eeyore life behind:
1. You can feel sorry for yourself.
You can feel as if you are the one who has been wronged and taken advantage of. You can wallow in self-pity. In a weird way, self-pity can feel good. Yes, and this can be addicting, soothing, and can feed a need.
2. It is hard to get out there and take risks.
Heck, it took me a ton of courage just to get up the nerve to write this blog. “What if I suck? What if people don’t like me? What if I fail?” I hate facing these fears and trudging forward. It isn’t comfortable. Sometimes, I wanna’ crawl behind a rock or at least under my puffy comforter and not do any of the hard stuff. I get it.
3. You won’t fail.
If you don’t try, you won’t fail. Believe it or not, some Eeyores are major perfectionists who find it difficult to be imperfect, therefore, they don’t even try. This black or white thinking puts them in the black before they have even taken their first step.
4. Some people don’t know they can choose something different.
Some people believe how they are is just how they are. They don’t know that changed attitudes and changed beliefs can positively impact one’s emotions and one’s life. 12 Step programs and cognitive behavioral therapy can do wonders to change one’s beliefs about their power to find happiness in the world. The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns is a powerful resource to begin this journey.
Pity Parties Are Alright!
Having a pity party and feeling really bad is absolutely all right. We need this sometimes. It is a part of the human condition, especially when we are feeling great loss, sadness, hurt, or grief. Self-pity can be soothing and useful; however, when we don’t have healthier ways to cope and don’t feel empowered, we can get to where we stay in this mode instead of attempting to change our circumstances.
The problem with too much self-pity is that it is a rut that gets deeper with the time and effort you put into it.
Never ending self- pity is hard for other people to deal with, too. Self-pity, like any other bad habit, can be broken. If you are someone who can’t stop the self-pity, turn that negative energy around and use it to accomplish something. An individual counselor, 12-step group, or coach can help.
There comes a time in our lives to stop the self-pity.
Giveaway Girls can find it hard to let go. The good news is, we all have choices and we can live our lives in whatever way we choose. No matter how bad the circumstances, we always have choices.
Are you afraid of getting divorced? I understand. Society places so much value on staying married. There is pressure there.
Some of that pressure is good, it keeps people from taking marriage too lightly. (Except for Kim Kardashian. )
However, there are those on the other end of the spectrum who need to get divorced but don’t, because they are too scared. I understand that side too.
Divorce is stressful. Facing the unknown and facing fears head-on is tough. However, there are upsides to divorce.
As a relationship therapist with 20+ years experience, I have gone through this with many clients and friends. Here are some benefits and upsides to divorce that I have seen and learned:
1. Divorce pain is temporary. It will pass. Staying married in an unhealthy relationship will last longer than the temporary pain of a divorce. Sometimes it is good to pull the old bandage off so that you can heal and move on with your life.
2. Just because society tells you that something is “bad” doesn’t mean it is. After all, caffeine was considered dangerous at one time. Now they are saying if you drink enough of it, you won’t get cancer. Slaves used to be considered okay. The list of societally endorsed mistakes is long.
3. The same people judging you negatively for getting a divorce are probably part of the Miserable & Married crowd. There are plenty of those. Happy, contented and healthy people don’t go around judging and condemning other people.
Are you involved with a controlling person or know what it’s like, dealing with a controlling person?
Do you want to know how to handle a controlling person?
Are you confused and wondering why are people so controlling?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Patricia Evans has written a book that will help.
Controlling People is the first book to show what is really wrong with “controllers.” These are the people who define their partner, make unilateral decisions, give orders, try to silence their partner, and who treat their partner more harshly and with more anger than anyone else. Patricia Evans presents a new paradigm that explains what is wrong with the abuser.
People are looking for help for how to handle controllers.
My friend, let’s call her Tara, recently got diagnosed with cancer. Her friends hooked her up with the MealTrain. While she heals, Tara can have warm, healthy and nutritious meals delivered to her door. Tara told me she was surprised at how good it felt to get this support, love and care, without even asking.
I used to be an anti-support person. Somehow, I felt like I wanted to handle everything myself. It seemed easier. Ask for help from others? Why? They might say “no.” Support wasn’t something we talked about at my house anyway. I knew it was healthy for other people to get support. But me? Nah.
Where does that come from? This discomfort about asking others for support?
I know from working with clients and seeing my friends’ relationships that seeking support and accepting it is hard for many people. Why is that? I think it is a conglomeration of factors. First, our culture is one of self-sufficiency. The whole idea of capitalism is based on a model of survival of the fittest, top dog wins.
I think that looking for the perfect guy is like looking for the perfect home—doesn’t exist. Men and women alike have their good and not-so-good attributes. Even the best have bad days once in a while. However, the good men I know show the following characteristics:
Good men are loving, caring, and compassionate.
Good men don’t need to control you or anything else.
Good men express themselves respectfully.
Good men are good listeners.
Good men admire and respect their partner.
Good men keep their word and follow through.
Good men take care of themselves while balancing the needs of those around them.
Good men share responsibilities with their partner.
Good men spend time with their kids.
Good men have insight into their emotional life, and they work on this to continue learning and
Good men make decisions based on the principles of their highest self.
Good men they have challenges, they work through them.
Good men wrong, they admit it, make amends and try to do it differently next time.
Good men are open-hearted, supportive, encouraging and positive.
When I was a teenager, my friend, let’s call her Gina, was placed in a psychiatric hospital for a short time because she was having thoughts of harming her mother.
People saw Gina as troubled. Yet, I had been over to her house many times and her drunk, wasted mom would yell at her, demean her, treat her like crap, and torture her with a cackling laugh when her daughter asked to do things like go with me to McDonald’s. Her father did nothing to help. I am guessing this went on for years before Gina reached her breaking point. She was promiscuous and got in loads of trouble.
Gina was coping with a severely dysfunctional family situation.
When a parent has an addiction, the people around that person adapt. Roles commonly develop in response to or as a way of coping with the frustration, tension, insecurity and instability created by the substance abuser. These same roles can develop with any other severe family trauma too—if a parent suffers from a mental illness, for example.
If you have dealt with the substance abuse, addiction or mental illness of a loved one or friend, see if you recognize any of these roles:
1. The Scapegoats. These are the family members who, in response to distress, choose to pursue self-destructive activities themselves. Rather than addressing the real problem (the parent’s addiction or illness), the family punishes this person, “the problem child,” and unfairly blames him or her for all the bad things going on. Gina was The Scapegoat.
Poor Anne lost her head to her ornery husband. I hear he was a TOTAL narcissist.
I hate my husband.
The response to these four little (or big) words has been huge. This means there are a lot of women out there who are hating their hubbies. (I am sure the guys are feeling some bad vibes too … If Dateline is any indication).
First, let me say that it is normal for many people to go through periods of extreme tension in their marriages/partnerships. Hate is a strong word, and some couples never get to that point. However, extreme anger is part of the human condition. We do tend to show not only our best parts but also our darkest parts to those we are paired up with, especially if we are with them over a long period of time.
Here are some examples of really “hatey couples” in history and in more recent pop culture: