GOT SEX, SECURITY or SOCIAL PROBLEMS?

Anxiety Attack Worry Less Now

When our survival instincts for procreation, security, and community exceed their proper function, we want what others have, lust for sex and power, and become exceedingly angry when our demands aren’t met. (Bill Wilson) *

Many of us have valiantly tried to satisfy our overblown needs through our own efforts. For example, my selfish search for emotional security drove me to sick relationships, overwork, and manipulation. In the end, I hurt both myself and others.  

So, how then do we grow out of the patterns that threaten our romantic life, safety, and productive relations? First, we must sincerely want to find a better way to live. Then, we look at our own part in our unhappiness, and take actions to become the person we want to be.

Most important, we find like-minded people to give us unselfish support as we come to trust a loving, protective power to fulfill our needs.

What’s the Problem with Exaggerated Needs?

We begin our journey by listing each survival instinct, along with the personal cost of trying to force the world to fulfill it. See if any of these needs and consequences apply to your life (add to the list, if you wish).

  1. Unmet Emotional Needs cause low self-esteem, perfectionism, addiction, self-harm, anxiety
  2. Threatened Material Security causes inflated ambition, dishonesty, overwork, worry, stress
  3. Dysfunctional Social Relations result in codependency, prestige-seeking, competitiveness, gossip, failed relationships, conflict
  4. Dishonest Sex Relations lead to promiscuity, disease, selfishness 

Driven by fears of losing what we so desperately need, we may have been selfish, dishonest, and resentful. To free ourselves from these patterns, we write about the following questions and share our answers with a trusted person (therapist, clergy, sponsor, or spiritual advisor).

In what ways did I hurt others or myself,? Where was I . . .

  • Selfishly seeking my own security, social needs, or sexual gratification; and ignoring others’ feelings?
  • Dishonest with myself and others about my motives to satisfy my security, social relations, sex needs?
  • Fearful of not getting my needs met, and trying to control people and things so I could feel .more secure?
  • Resentful about my frustrated demands for security, social relations or sex?

This work helps us see the futility of expecting the world and others to fulfill our needs. No matter how hard we’ve tried, it just hasn’t worked, as it’s caused harm to ourselves and others. After sharing our shortcomings with a trusted confidant, we go to work to overcome our negative patterns.

If we’re addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, overeaters, gamblers, or regularly numb ourselves from life’s disappointments, we need help. In my case, I found a skilled therapist and the 12-step programs of AA, Al-Anon, and ACOA.

Self-Compassion

As I met with others who had faced similar challenges, I realized I wasn’t the only one confused about how to keep myself safe and secure; that everyone’s instincts caused them and others trouble.

I came to see my old hurtful actions as misguided attempts to fulfill my own needs. For example, in my alcoholic home, I decided, “If I’m perfect, everyone will like and admire me, and I won’t feel so alone and afraid.” I went on to get good grades, advanced degrees, and professional awards. Eventually, those efforts led to anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic pain, and three divorces. Clearly, my attempt to ensure my own happiness was failing.

Loving Support and Security

As I joined with healthy others, I found I was not uniquely bad; I had been merely a desperate mess. Many of my recovering friends had done worse things than I had, and they had become good, reliable, caring people. Perhaps, with help, I could be a better person too.

Through the loving care of others, I began to own my strengths. For example, through my people-pleasing, I developed social skills that had to be balanced with self-care and boundary-setting. Ditto with my perfectionism; I certainly knew how to work hard–an asset–but only when I combined it with adequate rest and self-forgiveness.

Being immersed in groups of happy people who are healing their lives led me to my own source of security–a power greater than my fears. I was relieved that no one pushed me to believe in their definition of a “higher power.” Eventually, with guidance from my sponsor, therapist, and other spiritual teachers, I began to trust in an ever-present love that fulfilled all my needs.

These days, I often take a quiet moment to connect with this benevolent, caring power. In times of trouble, however, when I’m afraid my needs couldn’t possibly be met, I rely on my healthy friends to stream that positive power into my life and mind.

Knowing that love is always available gives me great security, and I’m ever grateful for that.

*NOTE: The ideas presented here are based on the Step 4 Inventory of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gigi Langer security

Gigi Langera person in recovery, holds a Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education and an MA in Psychology from Stanford University. Through her writing, coaching, and speaking, Gigi has helped thousands of people improve their lives at home and at work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and Murphy, her cat.

Worry Less Now Cover

Get Gigi’s new book, “50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking.” Available in audio, e-book, and paperback (5 Stars on Amazon). Click HERE

  • “This book is a winner.” Karen Casey, Bestselling Hazelden author
  • “Valuable, heartfelt manual.” — Publishers Weekly (BookLife)

IF YOU’RE ON A HUNT FOR HAPPINESS, YOUR THOUGHTS CAN’T SCARE YOU!

hunt for happiness gigi langer

We just finished “Hunt for Happiness Week,” and I wanted to share with you my favorite tool for dissolving the worries and negativity that block our happiness.

Stress is not a reaction to an event but rather to how you interpret the event.” (Sonya Collins)

How can you change the meaning you’re giving to the things that bother you? One method is to question your thoughts about the troubling situation. Chances are, you’re seeing it in a very scary way. But that CAN be changed!

One of the things that recently caused me distress concerned Judymy dear friend and business partner for over twenty yearswho was diagnosed with breast cancer. In between her chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, she continued to work at her usual hectic pace. I was terrified Judy would get sick again, and I didn’t want to lose her.

My worried mind whispered to me, “She should not work so much,” and it interfered with my hunt for happiness. Soon after admitting this, I began to seek a new way of looking at the situation.

Just in time, a friend invited me to attend a weekend course with Byron Katie, the developer of “The Work”—an amazingly powerful tool for examining and reframing our minds’ negative interpretations.

Tool Number 6. Is It True? [from 50 Ways to Worry Less Now]

Byron Katie gave me permission to use this illustration of her process. My responses to her recommended questions appear in italics.

  1. Write in your journal about a particularly troubling situation in your life. What’s wrong? What should be different? I am so worried about Judy. She’s had cancer, and she’s determined to work long hours even as she’s recovering from surgery and chemotherapy. I’m terrified her ambitious work schedule will make her sick again. Nothing I say or do has changed the situation. I feel stuck
  2. Select one thought to explore in greater depth. Write it at the top of a new page. Judy should not overwork.
  3.  Ask yourself, Is this true?  Yes.
  4. Ask yourself, Can I absolutely know it’s true? No, probably not . . . there might be times when it’s ok.
  5. Ask yourself, How do I react when I believe this thought?    I worry about Judy. I react by trying to do things for her. I judge her as not being able to take care of herself. I’m thinking about this way too much, and it’s robbing my peace of mind.
  6. Ask yourself, Who could I be if I didn’t believe this thought? What might my life look like or feel like?   Without this thought, I’d be more accepting of how Judy is dealing with her illness. I could stop worrying about her and meddling in her life. I could relax.
  7. What other ways of saying the original statement might be as true, or truer, than the original thought? (Original statement: Judy should not overwork.) (a) Turn the thought around to the opposite:  Judy should overwork.  In what way is this as true, or truer, than your original statement?   She realizes every minute is precious and she has a lot she wants to do. (b) Turn the thought around to yourselfI should not overwork.  In what way is this as true, or truer, than your original statement?      I’ve been working too much and I’m under a lot of stress. I need to take better care of myself.

The point of this exercise is to see that the meaning you’ve constructed is not necessarily the truth. In my case, I was afraid Judy would get sick again, and I thought she would stay healthy if she worked less. When I turned it around to the opposite, however, I saw that the decision was Judy’s to make and not mine, that working might be exactly what she needed.

As I turned it around to myself, I got a big dose of honesty. I realized my true concern needed to be with my own overwork. As so often happens, when we point an accusing finger at another, we find three other fingers pointing back at us. This insight prompted me to face my own whispered lie that if I didn’t work hard enough I would fail at my job. I had been worried about looking weak or imperfect, a hangover from my zero-sum-game days.

Whenever we detect false beliefs interfering with our serenity, it’s time to take a breath and acknowledge the scary unpredictability of life. Then we can use any of the 50 tools in “Worry Less Now” to face our challenges with courage and grace. 

If your hunt for happiness is thwarted by negative thoughts, try the “Is It True?” exercise. Be sure to select one of the damaging beliefs you’re holding about another person, and go through each step with it. You might be amazed!

gigi langer worry less now

Gigi Langer, PhD.  Many years ago, I used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe my frayed nerves. Over time, I discovered effective tools from therapy, recovery pro­grams, scientific research, energy work, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings. I share those techniques in my blog and book so you can find peace of mind and wisdom, no matter what is bothering you.

worry less now

My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how I and others have defeated the faulty thinking leading to dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones. Gain practical strategies through personal stories. Amazon: 4.8 stars (53 reviews) (Buy Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE

REVIEWS:  Karen Casey, best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning (Hazelden) “Even though I have been in recovery for more than 4 decades, and didn’t think another self-help book would make it to my treasured list, I was wrong. This book is a winner.” 

Anonymous Reader: “Your Book certainly transformed my life!  All I can say is, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER” 

Honesty Will Set You Free, But Denial Won’t

Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.” Dostoevsky

What secrets have you been keeping from yourself? Perhaps you’re worried about your own well-being or a loved one’s overworking, drinking, or depression. Even though these worries occasionally get your attention, when they die down again, they’re easy to forget. But that would be a mistake if you really want to be free.

The Truth Will Set You Free

The foundation of much unhappiness is denial, a coping mechanism that allows a person to reject a painful truth too uncomfortable to accept. Denial’s voice emphatically whispers, “I don’t want to admit the truth; and if I did, I just couldn’t handle it.”

As the saying goes, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” All the concerns listed above, as well as overeating, sleeping too much, obsessing about politics, or trying to control loved ones, are the unhealthy distractions of people flirting with denial.

In spite of these defenses, the pain hiding underneath the secret emerges, perhaps in a burst of outrage or in a bothersome sense of unrest in the gut. Tight shoulders, jaw clenching, headaches, frequent illness, and a host of other complaints may be symptoms of stifled truths and feelings.

Denial and Blaming Keep Us Stuck

For many of us, denial has been protective, softening the blows of life with a cocoon of forgetting. But denial, when held onto for too long, can keep us from facing up to and learning from our experiences.

We humans have a great tendency to avoid responsibility for our part in a difficult situation. Imagine you’ve just had a heated argument with your partner. As you replay the incident, you think, “It’s not my fault,” “He should not have said that,” or “If only he would be more understanding.” While these statements might be partially true, this kind of blaming only keeps you stuck.

What if, instead of blaming him, you honestly considered your own part in the disagreement? For example, you might discover you’ve been demanding, moody, or critical. You could then do the work to overcome the false belief that your partner must be perfect. Eventually, you find yourself focusing on his strengths instead of his faults. Perhaps you learn to state your own needs as preferences rather than demands. Eventually, your relationship begins to grow and thrive.

Select one troubling area in your life and work through it using the strategies and tools I offer in “50 Ways to Worry Less Now.” [This excerpt is taken from Chapter 2, “Getting Honest about Your Worries.”] Get started now with this “Honesty Check-Up.”

Honesty Check-Up

Write about these questions (My own answers are below)

  1. What damaging aspects of your character (false beliefs) are you denying?
  2. How would your life be better without them?
  3. What is the cost of not dealing with them?
  4. What steps are you willing to take to free yourself from this pattern?
  1. My current false belief is “I’m  not working hard enough to help my book reach a lot of people.”
  2. Without this belief, I could be relaxed, calm, and fully present with my husband and friends. I would be more outgoing and positive.
  3. The costs of denying this belief are continued stress, stomach problems, not enjoying the present moment, and negative self-talk.
  4. I am meditating regularly, praying for a new way of seeing my book’s “success,” and will discuss my concerns with my spiritual advisor.
Gigi Langer Worry Less Now

Gigi Langera person in recovery, holds a Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education and an MA in Psychology from Stanford University. Through her writing, coaching, and speaking, Gigi has helped thousands of people improve their lives at home and at work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and Murphy, her cat.

worry less now

Get Gigi’s new book, “50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking” is available in audio, e-book, and paperback (5 Stars on Amazon). Click HERE

“Valuable, heartfelt manual.” — Publishers Weekly (BookLife)

“This book is a winner.” -Karen Casey, Hazelden author

My 2020 Inventory: Don’t Hold Back!

“Searching within myself, I will patiently, trustingly share myself with others.”Karen Casey (Best-selling Hazelden author)

Back in the 80s, my favorite spiritual author, Karen Casey, wrote “Each Day a New Beginning” for women in recovery, and it has sustained me through these many years. The quote above is particularly relevant as I start this year. I now see clearly (20 20 vision, right?) a major way I’ve been resisting God’s will. Here’s a quick inventory of my tendency to hold back.

  • Recently, I realized I’ve never memorized the Step 7 prayer exactly as written. Soon after that, a stranger in a 12-step program gave me a card with the prayer on it. So, I started saying it.
  • I also noticed a creeping opposition to doing things I was called to do. Whispered lies crept into my mind: “Oh, that would be too much work.” “I just don’t feel like doing that.” “Haven’t I done enough?”
  • By resisting those nudges, I knew I was letting my self-will override God’s direction. So, I put a sticky note in my car: “Thy Will Be Done; Not Mine.” I see it many times a day.
  • Perhaps it’s been sinking in, because I now offer you my 4th & 5th step inventory: My fearful self has always told me to “Hold Back!” Hold back smiles to strangers. Hold back chats with neighbors. Hold back calling others on the phone. Hold back compliments, etc.
  • When I get the opportunity to do kind acts, I usually talk myself out of it. I tell myself I’m an introvert, or that I’m not good at “small talk,” or that I don’t have time.
  • But mostly it’s about (1) the false belief, “If I give love away, it might never return; there’s not enough to go around” and (2) fear of getting enmeshed, controlled, hurt, or inconvenienced. (Yup, I grew up in an alcoholic home.)
  • My 6th step character defects are self-will (pride) and fear (insecurity). In short, I’ve resisted God’s will to love and serve others; and  I haven’t trusted my Higher Power to keep me safe and secure.
  • I now say the 7th step prayer: “My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go from here, to do your bidding.”  

Long ago I learned that God can supply every need, and that my worth and safety are established by my Higher Power. But, being human, I forget. In recovery, we learn that our happiness is dependent upon our spiritual condition. As Karen Casey wrote, “Sincerely touching the soul of someone else can tap the well of happiness within each of us.” That’s my plan for 2020!

Gigi Langer Worry Less Now

Gigi Langer, PhD.  Many years ago, I used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe my frayed nerves. Over time, I discovered effective tools from therapy, recovery pro­grams, scientific research, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings. I share those techniques in my blog and book so you can find peace of mind and wisdom, no matter what is bothering you.

Worry Less Now Cover

My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how I and others have defeated the faulty thinking leading to dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones. Gain practical strategies, personal stories, and guided activities. Amazon: 5 stars (51 reviews) (Buy Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE)

REVIEWS:  Karen Casey, best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning (Hazelden) “Even though I have been in recovery for more than 4 decades, and didn’t think another self-help book would make it to my treasured list, I was wrong. This book is a winner.” Anonymous Reader: “Your Book certainly transformed my life!  All I can say is, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER”