28 November 2012

Filling Our Emptiness


This time last year I was reeling emotionally even more than I am this year.  This time last year was the end of a year of turmoil and anguish, and the beginning of a year of healing.  I was filled with fear about spending time with my family during such a silently painful time.  I couldn't share anything, and I had to act as if everything was right.   I had just discovered A Blog About Love, and it was a fairly new blog so I reached out to Danny, asking for advice about how to cope.  He wrote some very wise things, I'll share in my later post. 

But last week I went searching for his emails, desperate for something to help me through.  In my search I came across an email from Michelle (Hope and Healing) that was an answer to a prayer.  She said this:

"I've thought a lot about this with the struggles I have with extended family relationships and expectations for what such relationships 'should' look like. As I read through recovery materials, it seems the message is that as soon as we have expectations for others or for life, we set ourselves up for pain. Resentments are a key force in keeping us stuck in unhealthy behaviors and mindsets.

I think it's hard to wrap our heads around, but I think that ultimately, 12 steps are about letting God fill our needs. Fully and completely. Once we don't have to rely on anyone else, then we don't give others power over our lives and our well-being, and we trust ourselves to the care of our God.

I'm reminded of a saying my mom used to say when I was dating:
"Love is sharing your fullness, not filling your emptiness." I'm also reminded of the scripture that says "All things must fail" -- except the love of Christ. I think once we realize that we simply will and do fail each other, we can stop expecting others to fill our needs and instead be grateful for whatever goodness comes in a relationship without being dependent on others for our well-being."

It was exactly what I needed.  I have already discovered, in doing a Step 4 inventory and after much reflection, that so much of my unhappiness comes from disappointed expectations about my relationships with my family members. 

We are all imperfect people, and by expecting my family to be in charge of my well-being, I set them up for failure.  How can they know of my expectation? And if they have their own emptiness, how can they be expected to fill mine?

This is not to say that we should surround ourselves with toxic people, people who offer nothing and suck everything out you.  Nor is it to say that our families don't offer us a great deal of love.  It is only to say that my peace and emotional stability need not be dependent on my idea of how my family should act and treat me. 

And because my family aren't toxic people, there is much I CAN be grateful for about my relationships with them.  I know that ultimately I can rely on God for filling my emptiness, but additionally he has given me other people to help fill my emptiness.  When I don't feel love and kindness exuding from my family members, I know I can fall back on the love and kindness I feel at group meeting, or from my online friends that I carry with me constantly.  It sustains me when I feel alone. 

I finally realized that I can best appreciate my family by releasing them from my unreasonable conjectures about how they should be, and just accept them as they are.  Which is the subject of my next post, not because I can do it, but because I've read some great things about it that I want to share.


  1. I love this post, Jane! I can relate to it so much because I used to be that same way too - I would hold my family to this standard of understanding me perfectly all the time and knowing exactly what I'm going through and saying the exact right thing to make me happy. My mom would always tell me, "You need to just accept people as they are, and not expect them to be perfect for you all the time no matter where you are at in life." I feel like this lesson has sunk so deep in to my head because after the big D, I knew they COULDN'T understand, they COULDN't be there for me how I needed them. So I really had to learn to take care of myself and figure out how to be happy through my own efforts. Now it comes so naturally, and I accept them fully for who they are. When I feel a little on edge with my emotions, I know I need to lay low until I can moderate back to a healthy emotional state, and then fully engage with them again. That keeps me from holding them to an unreachable standard and crutch for me. Also, another thing that has helped me is my friend once told me to remember the acronym HALT. if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, pay more attention to your behavior and your co-dependent tendencies because that's when we start getting these unhealthy reliances on others.

    Anyway, sorry I'm blabbing on. But I just want you to know you have my support, and I'm thinking of you. And I think you are doing a great job actualizing about this tricky aspect of your life. I love that you are always striving for understanding and improvement. That is why I have so much respect for you, and I feel so connected to you.

    Love you Jane!!

  2. I keep thinking of the phrase that I wrote in my journal a while back: "Expectations are premeditated resentments." I find they show up everywhere -- in family dynamics, yes, but also in more silly, superficial ways -- with companies and their policies or products, or traffic or whatever. But it doesn't matter how 'silly' the thing may be, as long as I have expectations, I'm doomed to be unhappy, tense, on edge, more grouchy. Learning to recognize how often such expectations creep in is a sobering and humbling -- but also freeing -- exercise.

    I needed every word of this post. Thanks, Jane. (You know that every word I type is usually something I need in some way, right? ;) )

  3. p.s. Maybe there should be a 12-step quick course just for dealing with the stress of the holidays! It's just such a time of expectations on so many fronts!

  4. And here I am again...thought you might enjoy this post.


  5. Are we twins? I feel like every word you write is somehow something I carry inside but can't form into words. This is my big thing too. I've realized that all my life I've depended on others for my happiness (hence my very low self esteem and why I often feel lonely even when I'm surrounded by people). I am working on depending only on myself and God for happiness, but it is challenging. Glad we are in it together! xoxo