Focus on Others: help them, help you

I am trying to work on thinking about other people, instead of just being in my own head all the time and worrying about my problems. I do hate when people say the “think of all the starving kids in China” thing as a solution to everything – I think everyone has their own problems that are relative to them whether you are a peasant in a third-word country or Paris Hilton and that is okay. But at the same time, it really helps you AND others to think about others (this is actually a DBT skill). So this line of thinking has some validity.

Here are some reasons I need to be strong and be there for other people, not just check out and zone out into my own problems and my negative ways of coping with them:

  • My dad: his mom, my grandmother, is a job to take care of, I’ll say! He is the power of attorney for her and in charge of my grandfather’s estate and all of her finances and how they relate to the extended family. She recently moved into a senior independent living community (they misled us to believe it was an assisted living community that was much more inclusive in services – there is a big difference). From her financial problems (before my dad took over her money, she had a $6000 a month income that came from social security and the money from her late husband’s business and yet still managed to spend every penny of that every month AND go into $26,000 worth of debt, so that she no longer has enough to cover all of the care she needs in this new place without the family helping – ridiculous) to her medication problems (she has a definite alcohol problem and Vicodin addiction). I know my dad is totally overwhelmed by this, and since I have become in charge of arranging all her medical care and managing prescriptions (go me budding pharmacist!), I have realized what a job it is! He is just consumed with worrying about this right now.
  • My mom: My mom is the rock of our family. But she is working over 50 hours a week and we have always had to worry about money some ourselves. Last fall, I borrowed about $4000 dollars from them for my own medical expenses (they didn’t have it – my dad had to take out a loan in his name for me because I couldn’t get one). My youngest sister just started college. And more than that, my dad has been drinking too much, steadily becoming a problem over the last few years. I think it is a lot worse now because of all this stuff. I know she really worries about him and it hurts me that she can’t come home and have a normal conversation with her husband because he is drunk. He is not a mean drunk at all, but it is disturbing. I have never told anyone this. I am even thinking about talking about it in therapy. I don’t think my sisters even realize this. I haven’t even told my boyfriend because I feel like it is disloyal to my dad. My dad has had a few beers every night when he gets home from work my whole life, but it has never been a problem before. Now I just see him stumble to the bathroom and try to hide it and hide the worry he feels and it is hard. I don’t feel like it’s in my place to say anything because I feel like a hypocrite since I have my own addiction problems (yes, I truly think eating disorders are an addiction – especially the way my bulimia operates). And my dad still gets his shit done and goes to work every day. But I wish I knew how to support my mom better about this.
  • My sister: I have two sisters. I am 25, the next one is 23, and the little one is 19. (We will always call her the little one no matter how old she gets!) The middle sister is in her first year of a master’s to licensure-type teaching program. She got into a really competitive program where she takes her B.A. in English and teaches alongside a mentor teacher for a year while simutaneously getting her teaching license and master’s degree. It involves an innovative new method of teaching both the students and the future teachers. It is very intense and she is overwhelmed. I would never want to be a teacher because it’s like their work never ends! They take it home with them every night. I know that is what her heart wants to do, but she gets so discouraged some days, mostly because her mentoring teacher is a downright bitch and belittles her. I realized the last few nights how good it feels to just get out of my own head and listen to her problems and help her problem-solve/be there for her/give any advice I can. I think a few times I have encouraged her a lot and given good advice and that felt good. I want to be there for her.
  • My boyfriend: He is under a lot of stress in Afghanistan right now and I just want to be there for him in every way I can. He says planning our future together keeps him going. I want to be so strong when I go to Thailand so we can have a good time without any of my problems getting in the way.

Sorry, so long and rambling.

Looking it up in my book. This skill is part of the acronym BOSS (from the Distress Tolerance skill set). I didn’t learn this in my formal DBT training, but I found it in “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bulimia”. BOSS stands for:

  • B: Focus on being Busy – If you find yourself in a distressing situation or thoughts that you cannot change in the moment, focus on positive activities and being busy.
  • O: Focus Only on Others – what I am describing above
  • S: Focus on strong Sensations – step out into the fresh air, listen to music and really focus on the lyrics or beat, hold ice cubes in your hands, smell lavender….these are all ways to bring yourself back into the present moment and stop thinking on your worry for a minute
  • S: Self-supporting Statements – postive self-talk!

More commonly, it is part of Wise Mind ACCEPTS (Distress Tolerance): the second C stands for “CONTRIBUTIONS” – give something to someone else, do volunteer work, do something thoughtful for someone else, make something for someone else.

  • I think giving your attention and advice and support for someone else falls in here. I also like to clean for my mom or make dinner for her.

One thought on “Focus on Others: help them, help you

  1. Wow – this is a great post. Seriously. So, so important. And your right – it’s not a matter of thinking “oh there are people starving in the world” – yes I know there are and it’s extremely serious! – BUT it’s also on such a grand scale that it’s difficult to really use at times…

    But – using real life situations and people around you can be very helpful. Just volunteering or donating to local charities or helping a friend pack or something can be important.

    Love it. Love it all girl. Keep up the stellar insights and writing 🙂

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