Reflections: Struggles

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain. ~ Vivian Greene

Struggle is an innate aspect of the human experience.  Difficult situations happen every day, whether related to the stressors of daily life, or to particular struggles such as skin picking or hair pulling.  If you suffer from Dermatillomania or Trichotillomania you are no stranger to difficulties.  But how you respond to any challenging situation is a choice.

People often tell themselves things like, “Life is so stressful all the time.  I can’t possibly work on changing my behavior until things calm down.”  But the simple truth is that life will continue to endlessly bring you more challenges, and if you are waiting for life to calm down before you make changes, you will likely have a very long wait.  Ultimately, telling yourself that you need to wait before making an effort to change is the same as saying “I can’t”.  This kind of negative self-talk only increases feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and feeds into “the storm”.

Struggles are all around us, and suffering with Skin Picking Disorder or Trichotillomania certainly adds an extra layer of difficulty to life.  Given this truth, you are better served by accepting the existence of all of the difficulties that life presents to you, and choosing more effective ways of responding to them.  For many, the mere idea of being willing to accept the unwanted difficulties that arise in life seems like resignation or surrender.  But to deny these struggles is to deny reality.

Everyone responds to difficulties and stressors differently.  While some learn to “dance in the rain”, others may respond with compulsive coping behaviors such as disordered eating, sex addiction, abusing drugs or alcohol…or skin picking and hair pulling.  In the short term, these and other self-destructive behaviors may serve as effective ways to avoid coping with the inevitable struggles of life.  But in the long-term, these behaviors are maladaptive, and will slowly destroy your self-image, your relationships, and your joy.

So how does one learn to “dance in the rain”?  The first step is to accept, even embrace, the storm.  It’s not going to stop, so you may as well accept its presence!   And an essential aspect of acceptance is accepting all of yourself as you are, including the existence of your unwanted urges to pick or pull.  Then your goal is to find different ways of responding to the storm – ways that include tolerating the temporary discomfort of your picking and pulling urges, without capitulating to them.

While it is certainly difficult to give up an action that initially provides comfort, gratification, and relief, doing so will better serve you in the long run.  With commitment and practice, you will gradually learn that you are capable of making these difficult changes, and you will then be dancing in the rain.

1. In what ways do you overtly or covertly tell yourself “I can’t” when faced with life’s struggles?

2. What self-destructive actions do you do when life becomes difficult?

3. What could you do differently when face with these struggles?

Tip of the week: This week, notice when you are telling yourself “I can’t”.   Challenge this self-defeating thought by gently reminding yourself that change is a process, and telling yourself “I am willing to accept that life is difficult right now, and I am doing my best.” While these may seem like minor changes, they will open you up to more acceptance, and improve your ability to change how you respond during stressful times.

Written by
Kelley Franke, BA and Tom Corboy, MFT
© 2014 OCD Center of Los Angeles

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