Posted: April 7, 2020 in: Personal Empowerment, Pain-2-Power

SELF-HARM—OR WHY GETTING IN THE RING WITH MIKE TYSON IS A REALLY BAD IDEA

Sometimes, metaphors have power.  Here’s one I came up with to help empower clients who put themselves in harm’s way, again and again: Why would anyone get in the ring with Mike Tyson, knowing the inevitable result—being knocked out?  If you question that, by the way, there are lots of videos that will convince you.

I share the metaphor with people who keep climbing in the ring with alcohol, when alcohol has damaged their relationships, stolen their focus, led to problems with drinking and driving, or negatively and severely impacted their emotional and physical well-being.  For them, alcohol is their Mike Tyson, yet they keep climbing in the ring, knowing they’ll be hitting the canvas.

I share the metaphor with those who return, again and again, to an abusive relationship—or keep finding similar relationships.  For them, high-energy, low-empathy connections is their Mike Tyson, yet they keep climbing into the ring, knowing deep down that pain is inevitable and that the excitement won’t even last a few rounds, let alone go the distance.

I share the metaphor with those who “volunteer” to keep replaying toxic dynamics in their families of origin—again and again feeling devalued and far less than unconditionally loved.  For them, trying to elicit that unconditional love is their Mike Tyson, yet they keep climbing in the ring with him, imagining he might decide to deliver a high five or a hug, instead of a right hook to the jaw.

How do we get magnetized to being knocked out, again and again, in the first place?  Usually that happens when we’ve felt defeated in one way or another during earlier chapters of our life stories, but don’t want to think about it (and, therefore, haven’t learned from it).  When that kind of denial is operating, getting in the ring with Tyson, again and again, can actually make someone feel hopeful or powerful.  More powerful than alcohol.  More powerful than a relationship that shows early signs of being abusive.  More powerful than family dynamics that hobble autonomy or self-esteem.

The Pain-to-Power message here is obvious:  Once you identify your Mike Tyson, stay out of the ring when “he’s” in it. It doesn’t matter whether you get the feeling this rematch will be different and end with you pumping a fist in the air.  It doesn’t matter whether you think you can magically escape the ring before the real blows start landing.  It doesn’t matter if you feel badly for Mike, all alone inside the ropes.  Those feelings are actually coming from the part of you addicted to self-harm—the part almost magnetically drawn to ending up face-down on the canvas.

Rx: Stay open to learning from your past.  Stay powerful.  Take only the fights worth taking—the ones that call out your true self—and do what it takes to win them.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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