There is a gal whom at various recurring intervals throughout the past year I’ve heard say, “I really need to quit my night job.”
She still hasn’t.
A guy I dated wrestles with daily anxiety over his poorly-trained dog, but has never read a dog book or attended a training class.
(I hope he’s not reading.)
A mom I know believes her 2+ hour daily commute is literally destroying her health, but is not searching for alternatives.
A friend of mine has always hated living in LA, but has been here for four years.
Are we seeing a pattern here? A little punishment, perhaps?
You know these people, too.
Folks, I don’t know what’s going on and I am eaten away by this question:
Why do people punish themselves?
The armchair psychology answer is that we take what we think we deserve. Consciously or not. If deep-down we think we’re unworthy of happiness, we let all these little forms of punishment operate just beneath the hum of consciousness in order to eat away at our baseline level of joy.
But I’m dying to believe there’s more to it than that. There has to be more to it than that.
It’s so widespread that it leads to part of the reason I’m asking:
What if I’m doing something wrong?
I’m so fast to jump ship when I’m unhappy. I can’t count all the jobs I’ve had on two hands. I’ve changed living situations every 2-3 years. I quit. I leave. I wander.
Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I should endure more? Why else would these mostly wonderful people I know put themselves through so much suffering?
Maybe I want to hear that I should stop vagabonding because I’m actually looking for an excuse to avoid the impending discomfort of living on the road for the next several months.
Could be that I’m trying to give credit to these punishers because I want to sabotage my quest for a writing career by making myself stay here in Los Angeles.
But I’m not there yet. I’m not quite able to believe that I’m doing something wrong by doing a little punishment here in order to avoid the greater punishment of pursuing an unfulfilling career.
So then the question still stands: What am I missing?
I just want to know: Have you noticed this? What do you think it means? Are you one of those people? Why? What is the purpose?
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Sometimes I do things that could be considered punishment as a form of motivational stress.
If used properly, stress/punishment can be utilized as a tool.
I find if I have no stress, I get lazy and procrastinate, but too much stress causes burnout, so I try to find that sweep spot in between, so as to maintain a productive momentum.
I also keep track of short-term/long-term goals as a form of reassurance, as well as a method to measure progress. Just make sure you measure your progress relative to who you were yesterday, not relative to other people’s accomplishments, since there is always someone better than you at something.
“Motivational stress,” I like that. Do you maybe have an example of what you mean by punishment to induce it? I definitely get how it can be a tool, though.
Thanks for the reminder on goals! You know, I set them and then sometimes forget to review later on, which is a pretty useless process. I’m going to put something in my calendar now!
A general example could be doing stuff you find challenging or restricting entertainment/fun stuff to reward only, while a more specific example could be refusing to see the sun again until you solve that sudoku puzzle. Most animals, including humans, can be conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to do/be whatever you want them to be.
The key is the reinforcement, which takes discipline.
I definitely think people tend to only accept what they think they deserve. I have willfully sabotaged relationships I felt like I didn’t deserve, even to the point of concocting elaborate scenarios to paint myself in a bad light to kind of force their hand. Once you realize how manipulative it is, you devalue yourself more and it turns into a loop.
oh my, this is soooo true! That whole idea of sabotaging relationships because you don’t think you deserve them is wild, and yet we’ve all been guilty of it. You know, of course the notion of “worthiness” is complete bullshit. We’re just animals on earth who have constructed an essentially batshit reality to give our lives meaning. We’re going to end up the same way monkeys eating bugs end up: dead. So why factor a rating system so much into our feelings toward ourselves and others?
SO many people live an entire life full of relationship sabotaging, and eventually they just end up with someone sticking by them who happens to love destruction…essentially nobody gets the happiness they deserve.
I try to battle this with “I am great, worthy, valuable, etc.” mantras or I simply try to silence my mind when the negative feedback loop starts, but admittedly it eats away at you sometimes. My hope is that when two truly compatible people meet, they feel secure enough to combat the mind demons as a unit…but I haven’t experienced that yet?
In the meantime, I try to fortify and love myself so that I am operating as close to 100% as possible when and if someone comes along.
I love this…my conscious self is trying to remind myself to be the best me I can be everyday! Appreciate some positivity in my life wherever I can get it!👌
I’m right there with ya. Thank you for reading!
Sometimes when I’m angry or stressed with what I did in a recent scenario, I begin to degrade myself and punish myself for making such poor choices. Sometimes I’ll not eat, sometimes I force myself to stay awake too long to purposefully be unhappy in the morning, sometimes I wont cool down when I’m hot, or take a drink when I’m thirsty. It’s because I do feel that I don’t deserve to be happy for the actions that I’ve done. While others are quick to forgive and say it’s okay, it’s really not. Sometimes I really push the line and feel so bad. I’ve even developed self-esteem issues because I feel like when someone says that I’m pretty, I’m not; because deep inside isn’t beauty. I’m a procrastinating overthinker who gets hotheaded and is stubborn to stop an arguement, then get upset with myself later on. It’s a battle within myself. Sometimes I’m angry but don’t know why or who to be angry with (because I don’t want to be), so I get angry at myself for thinking the thoughts of harming a loved one. It’s very complicated. So far, no one has understood why I’m so emotional. Well… this is most of it. Other times are just past experiences that often surface.
That’s really great awareness you have, and I can relate with ALL of it. I’ve been doing a lot of exploration around perfectionism lately and how it developed within me alongside my upbringing. It’s not the normal type of perfectionism, it’s this completely arbitrary thing I have where I hold myself to an impossible standard because deep down I want to set things in a way that enables me to continuously “prove” that I’ll never be enough. Realizing that my standards are arbitrary helps me see that they’re not verifiable and most people would think they are, in fact, unrealistic, unhealthy, and unfair. I wouldn’t expect these things of anybody *else* I loved, so why do I push *me* so hard? So I’m learning to try to look at myself from the outside-in, the way I would look at a loved one or even a child; I wouldn’t berate them the way I berate myself. Because the thing is, we’re ALL SO full of contradictions and brokenness (I’m a “wealth” of contradictions), and maybe those are the very things that make us beautiful. Maybe all that contradictoriness is actually THE perfection we’re seeking in the first place. What if you’re just perfect?