Dysfunctional Ways of Problem Solving. Anyone recognize any of these old standbys?

Consider the following dysfunctional problem-solving techniques. Ask yourself if any of these forms of unhealthy problem-solving sound familiar. These were my old familiar favorites at one point in my life.

After any long-term relationship with an abusive narcissist or toxic partner, some of these unhealthy patterns may continue to linger in our subconscious. These patterns will not serve us in our recovery.

The point of this blog is to raise some awareness of old habitual patterns and offer an alternative way of thinking or a different perspective.


Pretending that all is fine when we are miserable inside. Keeping up this façade is exhausting and depleting and does not serve us. Many times we don’t even know consciously we are doing this. Sooner or later it rears its ugly head. We all know this one. Moving forward, how do we bring ourselves to act with integrity when our go-to is denial and distraction?

Waiting, Wishing, Hoping, and Praying: No action yields no change. We must base our decisions on what is – not what we wish or hope things to be. We must deal with the truth and the actual evidence in front of us. When we fortune tell and linger in imagined fantasies into the future it takes us away from the here and now. When we think: “ He/she has changed. He will return to the man/woman he once was and start being consistent and kind” or “He/she will stop outrageous lying, manipulation, control during the divorce and custody proceedings” or “I will find a job, something will come along (we are not actively taking steps to look or train for work) Acknowledging the predictable patterns of the abuser and becoming more conscious of our own patterns and habitual reactivity is a step towards healing.

Looking For Others to Bail Us Out: Hating our lives, numbing ourselves with food, booze, work, over sleeping, internet surfing, over-spending, keeping ourselves locked up in our homes. All of these unhealthy distractions keep us stuck. Sometimes we are looking for others to rescue us or mind read our situation and help us out without us asking. The time is now to move slowly into our lives forming a small community of trusted others. Looking at the actions and patterns of others, not empty words and false promises.

Blaming Ourselves/Complaining/Shifting Responsibility: We all know the deflections we use to justify our delays in taking action. Many times we blame ourselves. “Why did I stay so long? What is wrong with me? or How can I be so cruel to leave him/her? How could I abandon him/her?” How many times do we go over and over a problem in our life replaying and rehashing how we can change another and their out of control behavior when we are the ones that need to take the decisive action. Ask yourself – Do we continue to play a particular role in our lives? Are we still trying to rescue and save others as a heavy cost to ourselves? Are we still pretending all is perfect and that we don’t need comfort, support, and compassion? Do we continue to blame, shame, and feel guilty for taking a stand to protect ourselves and/or our children?

Outer Focus: Layers of a façade and perfectionism not admitting we need help and not showing our vulnerability because we perceive it as a weakness. Continuing to promote a false sense of who we are. Do we continue to be outer-focused and perhaps defensive? Avoiding turning inward? Can we admit that we need support? Do we still refer to our soon-to-be ex partner as “my husband or my wife or my ______” Are we avoiding new things, new places, and steps towards making a new friend?

Clinging: This is when we cling and grasp onto the shreds of our life because we can be literally terrified of the change. We justify and defend our choices to ourselves because we fear the change even though we know deep inside that something is wrong. Often we wait for some imagined point in the future that comes and goes multiple times. Are we avoiding divorce proceedings? Are we stalling and not taking clear steps to support our emotional and physical health? Do we have any short term or long term goals for well-being and self-care?

Perhaps considering this information and the lingering disturbances and challenges in our lives. The mind has a way of spinning us into negativity. Rumination is that downward spiral of thinking that increases our anxiety and feelings of sadness and at times hopelessness. Our mind loves to create stories and weave together narratives about the past and project into the future.

So when we start ruminating about our problems and start thinking negatively – we tend to recall and relive many of the negative stories from our past. This is not helpful. This is not productive.

These thoughts are not serving us and are causing us more suffering. We can stop the spiral. If we have an endless list of challenges, we need to start detangling them.

Take one problem at a time.

Brainstorm solutions to each individual problem. You may find that you have solutions to some of your previously interwoven problems. Healthy problem solving is available and waiting for us.

One small step at a time. You are not alone.

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