Thursday, September 17, 2009

Throw Off Your Crutches

Last night, my friend Ben and I sat talking into the early morning about his life, his loves and his prospects for work. Let's say that Ben's life is in transition. Ben was recently on the receiving end of a relationship break-up which he took pretty hard.

A few days ago, he returned to his former girlfriend's place to pick up some of his things. While there, she informed him that "both professionals and non-professionals alike had told her that Ben had been abusive in their relationship".

Having had no experience with any physical abuse and being unaware of any emotional abuse, Ben asked her what she meant by "abusive". It turns out that Ben had always been pretty strong and clear about what he wanted (e.g., what to eat for dinner, where to go for this, whom to see), and she had not. Typically, she would just go along with whatever Ben wanted at the expense of what she wanted without ever voicing her wishes.

Note, the professionals and non-professionals alike had just her perspective (which makes either the professionals' opinions or her story suspect), and I have only Ben's perspective. But let's go with it.

Ben mentioned telling her that he was sorry she felt that way. When she told him that she wanted him to apologize for what he had done to her, not for how she felt, Ben decided that it might help mend the relationship (even though he didn't actually think he'd done anything), so he did. Sigh...

Abuse for Fun and Profit
Anyway, as Ben continued with his Saga, he mentioned wanting to pick up his $1200 vacuum cleaner.

"$1200 dollar vacuum?", I said.

"Yeah, my folks bought it for me."

This triggered a thought, "Wow Ben, you are abusive!"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I've noticed that you're more than happy to take advantage of people's good graces. If someone is open to you and ready to help you, you'll take it to the limit (or past it). You'll abuse it."


Running with It
Now, I'm prone to taking little fleeting ideas and running with them to see where they'll take me. Last night as no exception. Ben, despite his "best" efforts, has been without work, without a woman and without a place of his own for more than half a year now.

So, I postulated, "I believe the reason you're not moving forward with all the things that you say you want to move forward with is simply because you're an abuser. You're more than happy to take money from your parents. You're more than happy to stay with friends. You're more than willing to tell your story over and over to anyone who will listen, without any real intention of changing anything.

Your abusing has become a crutch on which you've grown dependent. On current course and trajectory, you'll never change any of this stuff."

(You gotta love me as a friend. I mean, you gotta or, well...)

Ben said, "Well, what would you do differently? What would prescribe here."

Going with it, I said, "Stop accepting any help for you which you don't somehow reciprocate. Don't accept any more money from anyone. Start bringing more to your relationships than you take from them. Start relying on you."

A Bridge Too Far?
OK, maybe I was a little over the top, but the ideas really rang true for me. I haven't yet seen Ben today; we'll see where it goes.

Nonetheless, I realized that just as there are people who overindulge in alcohol, in food and in drugs, there are people who over indulge in relationships, in relaxation, in comfort. You can abuse anything.

When Mark K and I were talking on Sunday, it occurred to me that "Mark, I believe all the things you're struggling with would all but disappear if you were to lose all you money. It would be the best thing that could happen to you."

Mark's a trust-fund kid who doesn't have to work for a living and whose life is riddled with challenges of over-indulgence and abuse.

Sweetly, Mark said, "I agree."

Now I'm wondering if there's a more general theory that we could come up with here. Something like:

If you find yourself chronically stuck in a situation that you want to change, it may be that you've been abusive of some one, some thing, or some situation to the point of having become dependent on it.

Further, the operative object of abuse may not be the most apparent. For example, if you struggle with weight, the problem may not be food, it may be the lack of meaningful work.

From a root-cause perspective, you would want to look past the immediate and start to look at other places in your life where you're abusive.

It might be indulging in complaining rather than doing. It might be in getting things perfect, before doing anything else. It might be indulging in television. It might be over-tolerant friends.

My theory is that, if you were to get to the root abuses and then remedy them, other things would change.

Anyway, those are my musings for this morning. Would love to know what you think.

Hugs, Teflon

PS Our band, No Room for Jell-o will be playing at Fuel in Great Barrington tomorrow (Friday, Sept 18) from 5-7PM


  1. You are the most confronting person I know. And even though in the moment I sometimes refuse to listen any longer to your "rantings" (ohh, yeah, big time judgments in those moments!), most of the times I change my mind later, because I do realize that I started judging from my discomfort and not because what you say has no merit.

    You thoughts really sprout from genuine love for your friends and your passion to help them create another, happier world for themselves. I am personally a stronger, happier, more direct and passionate person today because of our love and interactions.

    In the conversation with Ben (while I was sleeping) you seemed to have been very passionately selling your thoughts around abuse. I am wondering if it is because instead of being the abuser you sometimes feel abused. Because of your passion and full-blown persistence to get things done, you seem to hold on longer than anyone else to situations... So, let me ask you a question in that area: who or what is something about what you you feel abused? And how have you been approaching this?

    I love you XXX

  2. Ahhh... Iris, what a great insight. Although it wouldn't have occurred to me to think of it as abused in the classic sense, in the light of the blog and what you wrote, I have definitely been an enabler of abusers.

    Wow... I absolutely indulge the over-indulgent going back to help them accomplish what they say they want to accomplish over and over and over despite an apparent unwillingness on their part to do so themselves. I think I often invest more in people than they're willing to invest in themselves.

    Time to stop being an enabler. Thank you!

    Thank you!


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