Clarity is the Point of Personal Power

Don’t get lost in the five fogs

With almost anything you do in life, you do it more powerfully if you are clear about what is happening and what you want. That applies to getting married, getting divorced, getting a new job, or leaving one.

To be personally powerful is to be in charge of yourself. With personal power, you are not a victim. If you can stay out of the five fogs, you can live your life with greater clarity and therefore, more personal power…

The fog of negativity

Negativity cuts off the world of possibility both for self and for others. I call negativity a “fog,” because negativity creates a little world. The negative person can’t see very far. He or she frequently uses phrases like, “I’m just being realistic.” Sadly, that limited world is their reality, and they see themselves as victims of that reality.

The fog of codependency

Codependency is the merging of your identity with another. When you derive your identity from your partner, you cannot see clearly who you are, therein “the fog of codependency.”

However, the psychology is the same if you merge your identity with a cause, only the fog may be denser. If you derive your identity from a cause, you limit your clarity and your personal power. The cause can be extremely worthwhile– environmentalism, Christianity, pro-choice, Islam, feminism, or housing the poor. The cause does not create the fog. You create the fog by deriving your identity from it.

Martin Luther King was a very powerful leader, not because he merged himself with a great cause, but because he didn’t. Instead, he maintained his personal clarity of vision while leading a cause. He also stayed out of the other fogs.

The fog of hopelessness

Hopelessness is a devastating emotional state. It is a feeling of being a victim of life, whether that life is poverty, an alcoholic and/or abusive marriage or a life sentence in prison. In fact, those stuck in poverty or abusive marriages often refer to their circumstances as “life sentences.” There is no clarity or personal power. The fog of hopelessness is so dense that its victims can see no way out.

The fog of lack of direction

We’ve all been caught in that fog at one time or another. I certainly have. I have followed what seemed to be a good idea, but then was distracted by a pull in another direction, and then another, and another. People often don’t realize they’re in the fog of lack of direction, because they are too busy going in all directions at once.

It often takes getting to a state of overwhelm, of being pulled in 10 directions at once, to make you realize you are in a fog. That’s when you need to step back and reflect on your core values, attitudes, skills and wants in life. Only then can you rise above the fog and regain clarity about your life direction. Above the fog, you have the personal power to pursue that direction.

The fog of alcohol

Maintaining clarity of purpose and personal power requires determination and effort. It can sometimes be scary knowing that the buck stops with you. It’s very easy to take a drink and make that fear disappear. It’s more comfortable in the fog. There are fewer demands in the fog. No one expects you to have vision in the fog of alcohol.

However, make no mistake: alcohol kills clarity, so it is a very real fog. However, it is your choice not to abuse alcohol. If you are addicted, it is also your choice to conquer alcoholism, with help if you need it.

Live powerfully

To live powerfully is to take charge of creating your future, instead of letting the future be something that just happens to you. It takes a clear mind to choose the future you want and to follow your path.

Think for a moment of the times you have been fogged in and couldn’t see your path. Now reflect on when and how you rose above the fog to live with clarity and personal power.

Alcohol Abuse Effects on the Family-Part One

I have been deeply moved by the depth of despair and confusion you are expressing in your identifying your most important question about alcoholism. I feel your pain. I am also aware of the presence of great moral strength.

Here are questions from two women whose struggle is almost universal among women who live with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction:

1. How do you live with high functioning alcoholic? He has a good job and he tries to be involved in the kids’ lives, but you cannot rely on him. He acts like we are the crazy ones; he is the Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll. I have stayed with him because of our vows and children. If I cannot face him, it wouldn’t be fair to divorce him and force the kids to face him alone.

2. Should I stay in the marriage? And what are the impacts on my children and how can I neutralize them?

Each woman’s question highlights two moral dilemmas. They are big life questions I suspect underlie the majority of the responses sent in. You married with the belief and intention that your marriage was going to be a lifelong relationship. Now your partner abuses alcohol, and his drinking is severely impacting your sense of wellbeing and, if you have children, probably theirs as well.

Dilemma One: You

Do you break your vows to protect your own sanity, or do you stay and just do the best you can in the hope one day he’ll wake up?

Some women manage to create a life for themselves while staying in their alcoholic marriage. They develop their own interests, friends, family connections, work and so on. It can be a lonely path, but they consider the alternative of leaving the marriage to be worse.

My sister-in-law decided in her later-in life marriage to take this route. She had wide interests, good friends and a great relationship with her adult daughter. Her older, alcoholic husband had lots of medical problems and was generally in poor health. Sadly, she died ten years before he did.

Other women with alcoholic partners find themselves spiraling down emotionally, mentally and often physically, especially if he is abusive. So they leave, but there may be guilt to deal with, and often difficult financial pressures and other problems.

Dilemma Two: Your Children

Do you stay because your children need a father, or do you take your children out of the unhealthy environment? But will separating them from their father do them more harm than good?

Children learn by modeling their parents. If you take the children away from the model of their alcohol-abusing father, will they be less likely to adopt his drinking lifestyle, but resent you for abandoning dad? If you keep them there, will they resent you for not rescuing them? As adults, will they adopt the model you provided, that of staying in a marriage no matter what?

I know a woman in her 40s who remembers at nine years old praying daily that her mother would leave her dad and take the kids. I know another about the same age who recalls as a young teen her constant worry her parents would split up. Both are now dealing with resentment towards their mothers, not their fathers.

There are no easy answers. There are no answers that apply to everyone. It’s little wonder you sometimes feel stuck and unhappy.

Four Signs of Victimhood in Marriage

I have never come across anyone who says they enjoy being a victim. However, over and over I see people playing the victim card in their marriages. Why do they do it? The answer is it is often habit, and much of the time, they are not fully conscious of doing it. So let’s look at a few of the more blatant indicators of victimhood.

Sign one: The first and most obvious sign of playing the victim card is blaming and criticism. The minute you blame your partner for anything, you are making yourself the victim. Perhaps not as obvious, you criticize your partner because you feel like a victim of a marriage relationship with a less-than-ideal partner.

Sign two: The second sign of victimhood is subservience or subordination to your partner. This form of victimhood often grows out a traditional family structure where the male is the major breadwinner. However, earning the most money is a role, not a right to dominate. You are still equal partners, so don’t allow yourself to sink into a subservient position (victim) for money reasons or any other reason. If you do, the probability is high that you will be exhibiting sign number one as well.

Sign three: The third sign that the victim card is being played in a marriage is rightness and bullying. The one who insists on being right, that is, the one who bullies the other into accepting their point of view, has at least a subconscious belief they are being victimized by their partner. Feel the emotional difference between, “This is what I prefer,” and “This is the right way.”

Aside: When people with an intense need to be right become fanatics, and, yes, fanaticism is just an extreme form of rightness, they see themselves as victims of an imperfect world, not just of an imperfect marriage with an imperfect partner. We all know such smiling but unhappy people.

Sign four: Chronic unhappiness. This sign can be tricky, because you could be going through a genuinely unhappy time that is not at all a reflection on your marriage. Nevertheless, with that caveat, chronic unhappiness is often a sign that at least one of you feels victimized by your marriage. The often-silent refrain is, “If only I had stayed single…”, “If only I hadn’t married such a loser…”, or “If only I had got an education before I married…” Each of these could signify a feeling of being stuck as a victim of a bad choice.

The solution is simple, although seldom easy. Take responsibility for your feelings and your life. Get help if you need it, but refuse to be a victim…or a victimizer.