I am a big promoter of constantly asking what can be learned from every situation, good or bad. I think if you can take a step back from each situation and reflect you can always find something gained, strength, knowledge, a deeper insight into life or yourself. So when I encounter an individual who seems to be blind to obvious learning opportunities or valuable advice is given to them over and over by multiple wise individuals and they choose to ignore it, I am amazed. I have encountered two individuals in my life who light a fire within me that is a mix of frustration, confusion, intrigue and shock at how they choose to live their lives. I have tried to advise and help both of these women and realize that denial is a soul sucking and knowledge draining leach on some individuals. I think when people refuse to see the obvious it is most likely because they are in denial and lying to themselves because of insecurity, guilt or shame.
The first person I think of is a woman in her fifties who has a skin disease that causes her some pain and discomfort, but is somewhat controlled by medication. She is also looking for a job to relocate closer to family. These are two very separate situations but how she chooses to handle them is very much the same. She is a smoker, doesn’t really exercise and her diet is not great either. Yet, she constantly complains about her disease and asks me for advice about natural remedies to help with the symptoms. Her doctor has already told her to quit smoking because it will help her meds work better and may even put the disease in remission, but she just chooses to ignore that suggestion and ask me for alternative advice. She did not graduate high school and needs to complete her GED. I have given her the location and information to do this, but she ignores this information and just continues to apply for jobs that require being a high school graduate or having your GED in hopes that they will make an exception. Why? Why ask for more advice when you refuse to take the valuable advice already given to you?
Then I have a friend in her late forties who has been cheated on by her last 2 boyfriends and not even two months after breaking up with the last one she is already practically living with another guy. She skips from one guy to the next and gets involved so quickly and even when she sees warning signs of issues she ignores them because she is just so desperate to have someone. I remind her of similar situations in her past and how she said she would be different next time, but she chooses to ignore it. She will try to explain to me how this time is different. Why is she repeating the same mistakes over and over and hoping for different results? Why call me and ask to be a reference on an apartment or a job or ask advice about relationships if you are going to ignore it?
These are two examples of women in my personal life that need counseling and may not realize it. They are in denial but do they know they are in denial? Are they just stubborn and refuse to admit that what is wise is not what they want in the moment? Do they really not know the best way to handle the situation or is doing the wise thing too hard and they are just too lazy or weak to even try? What happened to them in their life to make them ask for advice over and over but never act upon it? Do they just enjoy talking about their problems and having attention on them? If they actually take the correct advice and apply it and it works then they won’t have the problem anymore and then the attention they received will no longer be an option. I think this could be the issue for my first case study. However, I think the second one is a bit more complicated.
I believe the first case study simply does not want to change her habits, she is looking for the magic pill to heal her. She is too lazy to go back to school, change her diet, exercise or quit smoking. That would require too much effort from her. She would much prefer to collect disability than try to better herself. Yes this attitude infuriates me and unfortunately I see it all too often.
Then case study number two is a classic case of can’t be alone with a twist of competitive spirit. I catch her in weird little lies or half-truths a lot because I think a part of her is in competition with me. She wants me to think she is getting a great apartment or a really great paying job or going back to school or getting married and buying a house with the current boyfriend, but none of it ever seems to actually happen. I do believe she could possibly be diagnosed with a personality disorder and not just simple laziness. She asks for advice about the same things over and over, things that should be obvious to her by now. She repeats the same relationship over and over, just a different guy each time. Yet, when I point out the similarities she seems surprised at how right I am, but then still chooses to ignore all the red flags and continues to move forward. Yes, she openly admits I am right but does nothing about it. Then I don’t hear from her again for a while and randomly she will contact me and tell me how great everything is but it is over-the-top great and usually later I discover that its not as wonderful as she has made it out to be. Some time will pass and she will contact me again to tell me problems and ask for more advice, often problems that are identical to past issues. I will point out similarities again, she will agree and say she understands. The next time we talk she will try to paint the picture that everything is great when I know it is not. This cycle will repeat until the guy cheats on her and the relationship dissolves and she is broken hearted, saying she is fool and frustrated that she invested so much time into another bad guy. I just think, you didn’t have to invest all that time and effort if you would not have ignored the signs and listened to my advice the first time.
Maybe I am the crazy one for trying to advise these women over and over, but this is also why I chose to complete my education in counseling. I want to learn ways to help people see the error in the way they think and confront themselves. If you cannot be honest with yourself then you will not be able to be honest with anyone. If you are not learning from past experiences and you find yourself in the same situation more than once, then it is time to seriously re-evaluate and make some hard changes. Yes, I said hard. It is never easy to make real change, especially when you have been doing things the same way for years. But with real change comes real opportunity for real results. I am not going to be a hand holding counselor. I will confront you and challenge you to look at the ugliest parts of yourself and you may not like what you see. You may not like me for forcing you to acknowledge those parts of yourself, but the truth is, we all have those parts of us. The insecurities, shame, guilt and just feeling like a failure in some areas of life. If you don’t confront those faults within your character you will never grow to your full potential. A stagnant or immature soul is an unfulfilled soul which leads to unhappy relationships, depression and even suicide.
It may sound ironic but in order to be truly happy in your own skin you have to allow yourself to fully accept the dark, ugly, sad, scared, guilty, insecure and shameful parts of yourself. With acceptance of where you are in that moment you can also commit to a plan for change but until then you cannot change what you refuse to admit is there. Make sure with every experience you accept responsibility for your part in it and ask yourself what lessons are learned. Then take those lessons and really apply them in the future. That is a true sign of wisdom and maturity.
Surround yourself with people smarter than you so that you are always learning something because a day spent not learning something is a day wasted.
With wisdom, love and happiness