One, Actually Two, Big, Fat, Damaging Myths

26 Oct 2011

Farrah is someone who has put a LOT of effort into getting over an abusive relationship. She’s read a lot, thought a lot, and tried a lot of things, including counselling, without feeling a whole lot better. And, like most of the women I work with, she was struggling stoically. She’s come to accept that her lot is a hard one. That’s just the way it is – as she sees it.

There’s no doubt she is doing her best. Last week, on the Quick Start program she said: “I try to Take One Day At A Time”.

(Okay, she didn’t capitalize it, I did.)

I’ve used the “One Day At A Time” mantra in my time, and I’m guessing you have too.

But, still, the phrase: “take one day at a time” provokes a nasty abreaction in me. It has me curling my upper lip, and baring my teeth in as savage a snarl as I can manage.

What makes it so profoundly upsetting for me, personally?

That phrase came into my life when my relationship with my abusive partner was at rock bottom. It surfaced at the point in the cycle where, after threatening to leave me and find another woman (if only) he’d decided our bank balance, and his ego and comfort, would be best served by our continued “union”.

Donning his trusty physician’s hat, he told me about a couple he was seeing who were working on their marriage, in the wake of the husband’s affair. They were taking things “One Day At A Time” – and if it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for us, too. Especially since there hadn’t been an affair.

(Notice how he did the typical abusive man piece about making an unfavorable comparison between me, and someone else. If Mrs Saint could get over her husband’s infidelity, surely I could deal with the much smaller issue of his latest hissy fit, and threats to leave… Clearly, my then husband had his own excellent, self-serving reasons for overlooking the fact that there are different kinds of bad, all of which can be extremely damaging and destructive.)

Anyway, as the wise, respected professional explaining reality to the petulant, insecure, child-woman who was his burden, my husband explained the way forward: we would, he said, “take one day at a time”.

What did that mean?

What does it ever mean?

It might be meant to sound like a message of hope. In reality it is quite the opposite.

When you take one day at a time you lose sight of the overview. You stop seeing where you want to go, and the steps you need to take to get there. All you do is toil away at the pit face, from morning to night.

Better still, One-Day-At-A-Time means there can be no dialogue about what caused the situation. Therefore, no need for him to accept any share of responsibility for it. You can’t possibly talk about it because that would be harping on about what you need to let go, now you’re in One-Day-At-A-Time mode.

One-Day-At-A-Time is about sucking up each day’s share of unhappiness, and compromising on what you want and need.

Don’t believe me?

Okay, let’s contrast it with a very different experience.

When my beloved partner had a cardiac arrest this summer, I lived through some of the hardest days of my life.

But they were also shot through with intense feelings of love and happiness.

The nights were hard to get through, because of the flashbacks, and the days running to and from the hospital were… challenging.

And I did not live “One Day At A Time”.

I lived in the moment.

That was my only safety. It was also my salvation.

There were good things in the moment. I could cope in the moment. And I could connect with my partner in the moment.

I lived celebrating what I had. I still do.

None of us know what the future will bring. And none of us deserve to live the present moment like worker ants bearing an enormous weight of misery, never daring to look up at the sky , and carrying our emotional toil on our backs, One-Day-At-A-Time, against the day when something might change.

Besides, how is that ever going to happen?

Actually, it’s another big fat myth that fits neatly with the destructive myth of “One Day At A Time”. Feeling lousy, and accepting feeling lousy as right and proper, while waiting for events to come along and make us feel better, is a very high risk strategy.

It does one thing, and one thing alone. It conditions us to accept feeling bad indefinitely, while we wait for an outside agent to create our preferred outcome, as in: “I’ll work with the difficulties of my relationship one day at a time, and hope that I’ll feel better, and he will change, and the situation will improve, as a result of my carrying the enormous weight of this dysfunctional relationship around on my back.”

If you pile up enough bad things, they will not eventually create a good thing. A bad relationship is not governed by the laws of math. It’s not like two minuses making a plus. When it comes to relationships two minuses create a crater of minuses, and misery.

Your salvation, and your happiness, begin when you start to value the Now. That’s where we all reside; not in the past, and not in the future. We can’t shape the past, and we sure as hell can’t mold the future by focusing our attention on the past.

But we can start to restore our personal power, and revive our happiness, the instant we focus on the present moment.

Two weeks in, my Quick Start coaching program is already creating transformation for the women in it. They feel fully heard, they can see – and change- what’s not been working for them. They view themselves and their future in a far more positive light. For at least one person it’s been an “epiphany”.

They’re not prepared to settle for “One-Day-At-A-Time” anymore. They understand that One-Day-At-A-Time means settling for crumbs, being grateful for small mercies. Instead, they’re turning their attention, and their personal resources, to consciously creating the life they want for themselves step-by-step-by-step.

Farrah has grasped how, despite all her efforts, her undiagnosed One-Day-At-A-Time-itis was holding her back. She’s ditching it, and ditching all the struggle that went with it, so as to be free to live in the Now, and create the life she wants for herself.

If you’ve been living with One-Day-At-A-Time-it is, or have any other glitches in your thinking that need ironing out, join me on the next Quick Start program, starting November 9th. I guarantee you’ll have your share of epiphanies, too.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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