Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some People Want to be Miserable

There's at least one thing I've learned in my life: there are some people who want to be miserable. For whatever reason they feel more validated or more connected to reality by feeling bad or by making others feel bad. I know because I spent a number of my adolescent years doing the same kind of thing, although I had not particular reason that I recognized for doing so. I learned, though, that it provided a great deal of attention through the entreaties of others as they attempted to "reach out" to me. Fortunatley I have long since moved past that stage of my life where being miserable provides enough reward (negative though it be) to perpetuate its existence.

Negativity (a phrase I first heard used excessively several years ago during one of John's or Mike's numerous residential treatment stays) breeds a life of its own, as the individual continues to decline further and further into the abyss of meaninglessness. There comes a point for most individuals where enough is enough, and if their mental health is stable enough, they can pick themselves up from that point (often with the help of others) and move to a new chapter of life. But until that time comes -- and it's a highly individualized experience, unique to each person -- there is only so much others can do. In fact efforts to intervene too frequently and/or with too much intensity usually backfire, because the person seeking misery is provided only more opportunities to feed upon the intensity of those interactions.

I wonder if that might be the place where our daughter is at this point in her life. For whatever reason she feeds upon misery. She loves to feel bad. She likes to make it sound like it's her parents' fault -- our rules are too unreasonable (not an unusual mantra for an adolescent) or we don't understand her (ditto) or perhaps it's even racial (we are white and she is Hispanic) or it's because she was adopted and if she had only been able to stay in her birth family (we've heard this multiple times) her life would be oh so much better. She loves the attention her self-imposed misery brings upon herself; it gives her opportunities to "prove" to her friends just how bad her life is, and how awful her parents are to live with.

I ask myself whether she might be acting differently if we had made different choices with her older brothers John and Mike years ago, but I cannot believe that violating our foundational principle (that we do not disrupt our adoptive parenting lives even when kids are out of control) would have taught her anything better. I wonder whether she or I had developed a closer relationship earlier on if this rebellion could have been staved off (but I do not believe we had a bad relationship early on; in fact, she and Mercedes on a number of occasions have traveled with me on church-related business as a means of having time together). I become irritated because I wonder what else we might be able to do ... we have tried consequencing (but nothing means as much as the opportunity to have negative feelings "validated"), we have withdrawn privileges (but her friends are there to enable her poor choices), we have set limits. It has been to no avail.

My desire to be "self-differentiated" is being sorely tried, especially knowing how blatant her defiance has become. I mean, if I were fourteen and wanting to really sneak around at night, I would, after bidding my parent(s) goodnight, slip out to see my friends and then make sure I was home and in bed by the time they awakened (especially if there were up at nearly the same time every day). I would then be able to make my parents believe I was doing what they wanted (receiving the benefits pertaining thereto) as well as see my friends.

I really think there are some people who want to miserable. But I'm not one of them. And I'm going to do my best not to be, even when this behavior drives me crazy.

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