People are the ultimate designer drug: What is your poison?

The [addictive] process of abusive relationships is complicated. Here I discuss the reasoning behind why some get addicted to the highs and lows of unhealthy partnerships and the powerful impact that actions and words can have.

We all know the mind-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, but have you ever stopped to consider the mind-altering effects that the people in your life have on you?

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Think about it. Anytime you meet someone, there are definite biological components at play. Research suggests that when a person falls in love, there is an increase in dopamine and a desire to be with that person—the “I can’t get enough of you feeling” that is all too common in the initial stages of dating.

Like taking a drug, however, after meeting someone and beginning to have them in your life consistently (i.e. you are in a relationship), that “shiny penny” excess-dopamine phenomenon begins to plateau and you begin to develop a tolerance of sorts. You’re left at the same place you were before you met the person. The “high” is gone.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many friendships and romantic relationships fade. After the dopamine levels out, the tolerance builds, the excitement or newness dwindles—the decision to separate from that person becomes more attractive. So what could be the reason behind a person deciding to remain in a relationship that is unhealthy or causes the proverbial hangover that seems to linger on and on?

Love addiction.

Two powerful little words that are quite prevalent in our society.

The “rule of thumb” to knowing if you have an addiction is evaluating whether or not the person, place, or thing is causing you significant distress and impairing your ability to carry out activities and functions of daily living. We typically think of male-female romantic relationships when we consider domestic violence, however, emotional and physical abuse comes in the form of many different familial and even platonic relationships.

Take for example a relationship between mother and son. The mother constantly tells her son that he is failure, will never amount to anything, and he is a disappointment to all. As a result, the son feels worthless and no good. However, as in most abusive relationships, there are periods of “sobriety” where the abuser refrains from the abuse and the relationship appears hunky dory. It is during these times that a very critical part of the cycle of abuse occurs:

The honeymoon stage.

Or the part where you fall back in love with your abuser because he or she is acting the way that you had always hoped or “knew they could”! Your abuser may apologize and profess their undying love for you, vowing to “never do that again”. Your love for them becomes even more reinforced, thus the cycle is able to continue and you hold on to that honeymoon period thinking that “I know he/she will get back to the person that I fell in love with again”.

With each revolution of the cycle of abuse, we become more desensitized to the abuse, and our emotional states start to become dependent on that other being—or as I believe—the emotional aftermath we’re left experiencing, until our tolerance builds up and we are but a shell of who we once were.

People experience emotional highs and lows throughout the course of a relationship—romantic or platonic. And I believe that the addiction becomes not to the person, but the feeling that the person elicits within you. Feelings and thoughts carry a very high amount of weight in a relationship. And the rollercoaster of highs and lows can at times, become what people become addicted to, or in some strange way, comforted by.

 

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The joy, the passion, the fighting, the making up…one big blur of experiences that can make you feel like you’re riding the cyclone (but not having fun).

 

Take the woman that is being abused by her partner. She knows deep down the signs that the explosive and destructive emotional outburst is about to occur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, she also knows that there will be the making up and “best behavior from the abuser” parts to the cycle that she so desperately craves. Thus, there begins the pattern, and because human beings—whether you want to believe it or not—are patterned creatures, a sort of comfort or acceptance of the situation is derived.

Human beings have flaws and certain people in our lives know how to bring out parts of you that are the best and alternately, the absolute worst. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to decide how you are going to allow another person to treat you, when enough is enough, and realize that your self-worth is more important than accepting abuse.

How much another human being can affect another human is an amazing phenomenon that truly makes the world go ‘round; or with regards to the darker side of human kind, causes a person to start to lose sight of who they are and how they feel about themselves.

Think about it…The pretty girl smiles at you and your morning is made. You receive a sweet text from your partner and your bad morning turns to good. Your parent calls to tell you how proud they are of you and for once, you start to feel proud of yourself.

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Alternately, your spouse comes home from work and wordlessly flings their belongings on the floor, instilling a sense of fear in you. Your girlfriend slaps you across the face because you asked what time the movie starts, causing you to feel idiotic, embarrassed, and angry.

Humans and our word and action choices are very powerful forces in this world. Our ability to cause a stir is palpable and ever-present. Consider the recent Trump/Kathy Griffin debacle. One decision probably forever (negatively) changed that comedian’s career. The actions of people have very serious consequences. Much like choosing to drink too much, deciding to infringe on another person’s boundaries and taking the joke too far can have very serious implications in life.

Tying it all together…

We are beings that have millions of neurons interacting together, thrive in relationships, hurt each other’s feelings, and inadvertently and sometimes consciously choose to cause harm. The only person that you can ever truly control is yourself.

I challenge you to make healthy choices and treat others with kindness. You never know how you will affect someone else…what joke will push someone over the edge (think bullying) or conversely, what kind word will cause someone to want to remain a part of this world.

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Choose the people in your life that give you a healthy “high”. A high where you feel good because you are cherished and respected. The high that comes after a shared experience of laughing and talking with your partner or friend. Not the emotional high that comes during the honeymoon stage in the cycle of abuse. Pick your poison carefully…every person has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way.

Be the positive light and force that others desire to be around. And most importantly, be someone that YOU want to be around.

Wishing you positive interactions and healthy choices today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

The answer is always no…unless you ask: Ask what you want from life, NOW!

Have there ever been times in your life where you thought, “Darn! Why didn’t I ask about that?!” and potentially missed out on a great opportunity? Chances are, you will answer yes to that question. Many opportunities in life and love are missed because people simply just don’t ask the questions they need to!

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I had never heard the powerful phrase “The answer is always no unless you ask” before. It was only after talking to the wisest individual that I know, my father, that he made that comment in reference to something we were discussing.

That very short, yet extremely powerful phrase, has stuck with me now for years and I think at this point I have completely internalized that concept—attempting to live my life with that mindset.

What is it about for human beings that asking for what we want out of life makes us uncomfortable?! I say ‘human beings’ very generally because the majority of clients, friends, and colleagues that I have come into contact with struggle with being able to directly ask for what they want.

 

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You may be making eye contact, but are you asking for what you want?

Whether it’s asking out the girl of your dreams or asking if you can move into the vacant corner office at work, people struggle with advocating for themselves. I asked the question about what makes it difficult to ask for what we want and I believe that across the board the answer would be: a fear of rejection.

Although advocating for yourself is very powerful, the fear of rejection for many trumps the powerfulness of being your own best representative. So how do you make it through life asking for what you want while also dealing with the possibility of the answer actually being “no”?

When asking for what you want:

1. Be prepared with logical data. Say you’re starting a cupcake business and what you’re wanting to ask is as simple as trying to price your cupcakes—essentially asking the public to purchase your product. Do a market analysis of the other bakeries in the area to assess what the average price of baked goods is. Are the ingredients you use unique to your store? Have you received specialized culinary training and currently utilize a technique no one else does? If you decide to price your cupcakes higher than the average in your area, be prepared to back up your reasons why.

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2. Don’t take it personally if someone asks you why you are asking for what you’re asking for. Have that logical data in mind at all times, that’s why I made it number one on my list.

Recently I was selling a 16 by 20 inch piece of art that I painted and a customer asked me how I got to the sale price number that I did. I was able to break it down piece by piece, remaining calm and transparent, and outline the cost of materials, labor, and a small commission I add on. Her response was “I never had any clue as to how artists priced their work. I thought they just came up with a number!” And guess what? She bought the painting.

You cannot take a lot of things personally when people ask you how and why you are running your business the way that you are. Unless they are personally attacking you, business is business. If someone is paying you for a service, they deserve to be told the how and why of what they’re paying for.

3. Use emotions sparingly. Pick and choose who you decide to show your emotions to when attempting to ask what you want out of life. You’re not talking to your therapist (unless you are!) so remain professional and cool-headed at all times. Be assertive but definitely not aggressive.

These very tactics could be applied when having a conversation with your spouse. Learn to clearly communicate your wants and desires from the relationship in a way that elicits open communication and does not turn into a rage session where one or both parties loses their cool.

4. Just ask for what you want. Do you have a question on your mind? Do you have expectations and want to see if the other person is on the same page? Be tactfully direct as I like to call it and just ask your question. So you’re looking for an office for your mental health practice but you notice there is not enough space for your groups to be held? Ask the owner if you can utilize the conference room twice a week! Try to make the situation work for everyone, but especially in your favor. Never ever assume that someone else knows what you want or what you are thinking.

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So what happens if the answer is no?

1. You have the choice to move on. I strongly believe in working very hard to get what you want, but everything that happens in life happens for a reason.

So you decide to ask Kara out? Finally. After working up your nerve for 2 months of being friends. And she says no. Guess what?! It’s okay. You can’t convince another person to be romantically interested in you so consider this a favor. You can still be friends but you can also walk away knowing that you asked what you wanted, are free from that weird romantic tension that happens when you’re “just friends”, and can continue to look for The One that wants you back! As they should!

2. In business, sometimes you have to cut ties and make it happen on your own terms. Don’t like the way the accounting firm you work for treats the employees or pays you? If you’ve been in the biz long enough, have the know-how on running an accounting firm, then who’s to say that you can’t put yourself out to the universe (with careful planning) and start your own firm? I don’t mean to trivialize this concept, starting a business takes a lot of work. But it CAN be done.

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3. Focus on becoming a better communicator. Not that you were unable to clearly communicate your needs, but effectively communicating should be a constant goal to strive for. Being an excellent communicator will do nothing but serve you well. I have never ever heard someone be criticized for being a great communicator. Think about it. Focus on the skills that you need to have in order to excel and be able to get what you want from life.

4. Learn to walk away from a situation knowing that you accomplished something. You asked for what you wanted! Realize that you were able to powerfully advocate for something that you wanted. Maybe the powers that be did not want you to have whatever it is that you were asking for, so instead of viewing this as the ultimate rejection, realize that maybe your Higher Power was looking out for you.

5. Reframe every rejection as a learning experience. Learn from what happened. How did it make you feel? How did you deal with things not happening the way you wanted them to? What is in your immediate control that will be able to help you achieve what you want in your future? Stay in the here and now and seek resolution within yourself. Remaining self aware on how the experience is affecting you is instrumental in recovery.

 

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Find peace and learn from every situation you encounter. Typically with time, you will be able to gain a clearer understanding of why something happened…

Tying it all together…

People are not mind readers, an old adage that remains ever-presently true. Unless we ask for what we want out of life, the answer will always be no. If you are okay with missing out on adventures and prime opportunities by remaining silent, then be my guest—a lot of times this does happen to be the safer route. But if you have noticed a pattern of missing out or feeling like there is more out there, maybe it’s time to start verbally articulating what you want from others and life!

We can’t assume that everyone has our best interests at heart or knows what we want.  As much as I strive to remain the eternal optimist, time and time again, life has shown me that other folks will take advantage of niceness…and silence. Learn to advocate for yourself. If you’re not making the choices and asking for what you want in life, then who is?

Being the best version of yourself will take you out of your comfort zone, yet being uncomfortable is sometimes the necessary ingredient in helping us grow. I challenge you to think of one aspect of your life that you want something to be different. Mull on it for a few days, coming up with your game plan of logical data and reasoning and then…GASP!….ask for it! 😉

See what happens..

Empowering you to ask for what you want and deserve out of life today and everyday,

Rachel Ann