INTRO: Hello and welcome to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe, a podcast for artists and storytellers about changing the world for the better through story.
TOPIC INTRODUCTION: We are well into 2023. And here I am, I'm still talking about personal recovery. And the reason for that, and the reason I have not gotten into craft yet, is because I'm a big believer in the idea that the healthier we are as people, the better writers we will be.
And part of that is because if we are healthy people, it means that we have to have a good grasp on psychology, even our own. We need to be able to understand our own psychology—what makes us tick, what makes us healthier—so that we can reflect that in our characters. Because all too often what I find is that writers that don't have a good grasp on those things, end up propagating lies, which we know we cannot do.
So if you are ready, rip roaring ready to get into some craft issues, just know I'm building a foundation for that. We're almost there, where I'm going to dive into craft really, really deeply. But in the meantime, there's still just a couple more things I'd like to address to lay a foundation for a healthy 2023, so that we can be the best artists possible.
PRESENTATION: So to that end, I want to talk about something that is happening in our world today. And I'm seeing it all the time. And you probably are too if you're going through Instagram, and you're watching people's reels or you're reading people's stuff. You're seeing a lot of this stuff. You're seeing a lot of this language that can be very confusing because it starts to sound the same. And sometimes it's difficult to differentiate between what is actually healthy and what isn't.
And what I'm talking about is this self-help, self-care, self-love craze, where people are posting certain things and they sound good. They sound right. But sometimes they're not. And I think it's really important for us to understand what is actually healthy, and what isn't.
And what I want to do is talk to you about something I read in a book by Dan Allender, called The Wounded Heart. And what he talks about in The Wounded Heart are different approaches of recovery. And that's what I'm talking about here, the different approaches of recovery. And let's face it, we're all in recovery. That's just a lifelong process. Whether you have had childhood trauma, or adult trauma, or whatever the case may be, that not withstanding, you're in recovery. Just living life, as we know, is going to bring suffering and pain. And by virtue of the fact that we're human, we have flaws. We just do.
So, no matter where we are in life, we should be on a road of self-improvement. If you prefer that term to recovery, that's fine, but it's all the same. It means that we are trying to improve ourselves, that we are trying to not make the same mistakes we did yesterday, that we're trying to make different choices today, to improve our outcomes, to improve the results, to make our lives better, to be able to accomplish more and be more in step into the heroic authentic self that we were meant to be. Right?
That's what life is sort of about. It's a constant process that never expires. We never arrive. We just simply cross the next line. And then we start with the next task. It's an ongoing dance that never ends. But that is what we're doing. So, whether you're in recovery, or just constantly trying to improve, or whatever the case may be—we are all in this together.
And as a result, there are two different types of approaches that we can take to accomplish this. And it's very important, very crucial that we understand these different approaches, because one of them, I believe, leads to really beautiful fruit and the other one I believe leads to death.
By way of explanation, I want to talk about something that Dan Allender talks about in The Wounded Heart. Now if you know anything about The Wounded Heart, it is for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and he's basically trying to help people who have established bad styles of relating because of the trauma wounds that they have. He's trying to help them heal and learn different ways of relating with others.
Now, there's a lot that he has to say about this. But one of the things he talks about, which is critical for what we're talking about today, is that there are basically two approaches to recovery or self-help. And one of them is sort of the secular approach, although there's plenty of faith people who are doing it. But the secular approach tends to be about boundary setting. And it tends to be where people lay down the law. And they basically make demands of others and say, "These are my issues, and you, your job is to accommodate them."
And by the way, this is exactly what's happening in the world today. This approach is exactly what's happening in the world today. When people struggle with this or with that, or whatever the issue, it's no longer a request for us to tolerate them or to give them grace as they grapple with something. Rather, the demand is, "No, you accommodate me." There is a subtle difference. There is a subtle difference between, "Gosh, this is something I'm struggling with. And if you could just give me some extra grace while I'm struggling through this, that would be great." And, "This is something I struggle with. And so your job is to make me feel better. And your job is to not do anything that triggers me, or else, you're a hater."
And that tends to kind of be the approach that's happening today. We see it all over with transgender stuff, with the woke movement, with most of the controversial topics today. When you approach the world with that approach—you make demands, everybody else is supposed to accommodate you.
And it's actually really selfish. And so what happens is these people set boundaries—and boundaries are good. I'm a big believer in boundaries. But they set them in a way that is actually ultimately reveling in their selfishness, rather than doing it from the point of view of love.
And this can be some very tricky stuff that we're talking about. There can be some very fine lines here. And I can't always answer what those lines are. But that's what we're trying to do right now is to try to define what some of those lines are.
Now, I should say that part of the reason, and a great part of the reason, why that approach is problematic, and also why it exists, is because the purpose of it is to protect the person from ever being hurt. That is the primary goal—to protect oneself from being hurt. The problem is, that is not a good approach. The problem is of course that we all want to be protected from being hurt.
But that actually isn't the goal of life. It really isn't. The goal is to be healthy, to behave in healthy ways. But the goal is actually to be vulnerable, to be able to be vulnerable, to be so healthy, that we can be vulnerable with others, to be so healthy in our own wounds and our own skin, that it's okay to take that risk. So, we don't have to draw these hard lines because we are able to be vulnerable to others.
So, you can see now how this is a different approach. And this is an approach that uses a philosophy of love as the basis for the decisions that are being made.
So it is a lot different. And how might that look? So, let's say I'm just in a relationship with somebody who has that characteristic that a lot of people have where they simply seem unable to see their own fault. They just don't seem able to see where they have done something wrong. And instead, they constantly feel like they're the one who's being wronged and they justify. They explain. They defend the accused. They're just not able to own their own wrongdoing. Well, a worldly response to that would be to set a hard boundary to cut that person off, to make sure they know that that's unacceptable.
And, now by way of example, this is the person who sets a boundary with you. But when they set the boundary, and by the way, I'm a big believer in boundaries, I love them. But when they set it, it's not a discussion. And it's a hard nosed line. This is the person who is setting that boundary without any regard really for your feelings, or for what you need or what your position might be. And also, maybe for other guests or something like that. It's not really about that. It's because of their own preferences. And it is something that they demand that other people jump through, almost like a power struggle. It's really—that's kind of what it is, it is the power struggle boundary. That's what they're doing. They're setting a boundary because they want to be in power over you.
And that is a lot different than setting a boundary because of an actual need besides power. But because of a wound, or because of a fear, or because of an accommodation that you are asking people to make because of an issue that you might struggle with.
For example, I have Lulu. And Lulu is my service dog, meaning she goes with me everywhere. So, whenever I'm invited to somebody's house, and keep in mind, a service dog means she actually has a job, right? She has a job to alert me and to help me if I have a PTSD episode. And so she is legit supposed to go with me—paperwork and everything. So, let's say I'm invited to somebody's house to have a barbecue or some event. Well, I always contact them in advance and say, "Hey, listen, I have a dog. Is it okay If I bring my dog with me? And if they say, "No, no, because we're allergic." Or whatever. Of course, of course, I'm going to accommodate that. And in fact, if anybody said no, I would accommodate that. I would figure something out.
But on occasion, I have had people say no, not because of allergies, or because of some legitimate reason. But rather, because it's a power struggle thing. Maybe they think I'm too dependent on the dog. Or maybe they think that it's just embarrassing, or whatever the case may be. And now they're setting the boundary to have power over me, rather than because it's for the good of anything else.
What I'm talking about here is the person who sets a boundary. And by the way, I'm a big believer in boundaries. I need them. I use them. They're healthy. However, there's a type of boundary, where it's being set, not because of an accommodation for one's weaknesses, or wounds, but rather for the purposes of dominating or having control over another person. This is an inappropriate type of boundary. This is the kind of boundary you want to look for, and be aware of. If a person is exercising it because it's not a boundary that's being enforced out of love. It's not a boundary that's motivated by love.
And that's what we're looking for. We're looking for the kinds of boundaries, both that are being set for us and that we're setting for others. We want to always be the kind of person that is looking for love as the basis, what is for the best, what is in the best interests of that other person and ourselves. How are we being the healthiest possible in it?
I recently had a conversation with a girlfriend of mine who is really going through a hard time. Her husband has been cheating on her and has actually had multiple affairs. And so now they are separated. The problem is, is that he doesn't want to get a divorce, and he keeps trying to tell her. "I don't want to divorce. You're the one you're the one causing this problem. Why can't you do that? You know, these things make me happy. I'm still here. I'm a good husband. There's nothing wrong with this. And you're the one that's wrecking this family."
It's very crazy making what he's doing. It's very much gaslighting what he's doing. And what my girlfriend is struggling with, is knowing how to even respond because he's such a gaslighter. He's such a manipulator that she finds herself automatically getting sucked into the game. And so what will happen is he'll send a message or something, and then she is down that rabbit hole. Trying to think how she can respond to do X and X and X. And my girlfriend is such a lovely person that she was confessing to me that she's realized how controlling she is. How manipulative she is, because she realizes that anytime she's interacting with her husband that she's really trying to control him.
And it's a very sweet thing because, on the one hand, how could she not, right? Because she's not dealing with somebody who's playing by the same rules. He's cruel and he's a gaslighter. And he's completely ignoring and building this wall of denial around his behavior and turning it around as if she's the one who's actually causing the problem.
So, that's crazy making for one. But for two, she's also learned to operate in this sort of subtle way her whole life because of a lack of direct communication between them. So, anytime she's needed to communicate something, it's always kind of been done by this underhanded way, which is often the way that women do it. Right? Especially if they're in relationships with dysfunctional people or non-direct communicators.
And certainly, if you grew up in a home with a dysfunctional family, then you were in a home with non-direct communicators, because everything is done secretly, manipulatively, underhandedly. That's what happens in those types of families of origins. So, you learn to finagle things. But it's never just directly asking for what you want, or what you need. You finagle. It's a game. It's a game. And what we don't want to do is be sucked into the game.
So, one of the things I shared with my girlfriend is that, while it's appropriate for her to set boundaries, that whenever she did it, she should test her own heart and make sure that she's not setting a boundary in order to get a certain response from him. That she's not trying to elicit or manufacture, or somehow get him to do something or feel something or see something. That it's not about him at all. That whenever she sets a boundary with him, it should be for her own benefit because it's not good for her to do otherwise.
But even in that, whenever she sets a boundary, it should be a boundary that is set because of the fact that there's no demonstration of repentance on his part. So, the boundary is for self-protection, but not in a hard-nosed lined way. It is for self-protection because there's no demonstration of repentance. But should he show repentance, then there can be some wiggle room or some negotiation.
Because ultimately, we need to be gooey. We need to be approachable. We need to be able to be vulnerable in these situations. So, what you want to do is make sure that whatever approach that you're taking, in terms of trying to achieve personal health, personal recovery, personal growth and healing, that you're not doing it in a way that is making demands of other people. That you're not actually acting in a narcissistic way.
It is very tricky sometimes to know the balance. It is very hard sometimes to know—is this healthy? Is the self-help? Or is this actually selfish? Because self-help is not selfish. It shouldn't be selfish. It should be something that we're doing. Also for the good of others. It should be something that is self-protective, but not in a hoarding, self-protective—a demanding way. It's because it's healthy. But also, it's because it's actually healthy for the other person given the circumstances.
CONCLUSION: These are very tricky things to try to figure out. But I think it's important that we discuss them and these are going to keep coming up. I have not exhausted this subject by any means. In fact, this is probably even a pretty short episode trying to articulate the different paths. What's really important for you to understand is that there are two different paths, and one of them is grounded in love and care and vulnerability. And the other one makes us harder, makes us more selfish, makes us less vulnerable, less accessible to others. And that, I don't think is good.
And that is primarily the way that most people are operating. Most people are making decisions like this. Most people have this very selfish attitude. "Well, I deserve this. I deserve that." Anytime you use those words, you're probably operating in the wrong one. You probably are. So I just want to be bringing this up. I'm not going to solve it for you today. I can't. It's too big. I want to bring it up because it's an ongoing problem.
It's too big of a problem to solve in one episode. More than that, I needed to just bring it to your awareness, so that as it comes up as we continue forward, we'll be able to address it. Because there's so many different ways that I see this playing out in story.
So, that's really what this podcast is about. Story. And we are getting there. We're getting there. Again, I'm just laying the groundwork for all the things we're going to be jumping into over the course of 2023. And I'm really excited because I'm hoping that this is going to be our best writing year ever.
CALL TO ACTION: So, I want to thank you for listening today. And if you've enjoyed this podcast, if you would share it with somebody that you think maybe needs to hear these things. And of course, as always, if you would rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or on YouTube, where we are now available. And of course subscribe to the show on whatever forum suits you best.
OUTRO: In the meantime, thank you so much for listening to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe. May you go forth inspired to change the world for the better through story.