Figuring out self-sabotage.

photo-1516794840430-8d8c51e7c045

Self-sabotage is extremely common, and it happens for a number of reasons. 

One of the most common reasons we self-sabotage is, we have mixed— or even negative— feelings about the goal we’re pursuing. 

Sometimes we feel intimidated by a goal. We think that doing the things we’d need to do to achieve that goal will involve more pain or hassle than we want in our lives. 

Sometimes we feel that if we actually achieve a goal, it’ll turn out to be an ultimately negative thing. 

People who have a “fear of success” often feel this way. They think that if they actually succeed, it might change them or their lives in ways they don’t actually want. 

Sometimes we self-sabotage because a goal wasn’t something we actually wanted in the first place. It was a goal picked FOR us by somebody else. 

You see this a lot with people whose parents or families have strong feelings about what they should do with their lives. 

Sometimes we self-sabotage because we haven’t sufficiently listened to ourselves or paid attention our needs. 

If we are denying or ignoring some of our basic needs in the pursuit of a goal, those needs won’t just stay quiet. 

Rather, they’ll get our attention via any means necessary— including sabotaging our attempts to achieve our goals. 

Sometimes we self-sabotage because we don’t believe we deserve a goal. 

We imagine achieving a goal, and we feel like a fraud or an imposter— and our brains don’t want us to have to deal with those feelings. 

So they throw a wrench into our plans. 

Sometimes we self-sabotage because we like the process of working toward our goal much better than the idea of actually achieving that goal. 

We worry that if we achieve a goal, we’ll be without the process that has given our life structure and meaning— and who needs that? 

There are lots of reasons why we might get in our own way when working toward a goal. 

If we’re really going to address our own self-sabotage, we need to understand it— and that means observing our own behavior and listening to our own feelings and needs, without judgment. 

Goal achievement is VERY much wrapped up in judgement. 

From a very young age, we are told that in order to be “worthy,” we need to be working toward certain goals (very often specific goals that other people choose FOR us). 

If we don’t work “hard” enough, we judge ourselves (or other people judge us) to be lazy or incompetent. 

It’s a recipe for self-hatred and demotivation. 

We need to separate our self-worth from our life goals. 

You can go your entire life without achieving one meaningful goal, and still have worth. 

Goal achievement does have to do with happiness and fulfillment— but not basic worth. 

You are worthy whether or not you achieve goals easily. 

You do not have to be a high achiever to be deserving of happiness and respect. 

We need to rethink how we set goals. Setting goals is not about proving our worth. 

Setting goals CAN be about creating lives that are interesting and feel good. 

But only if we move away from the myth that goal achievement equals worth. 

Pay attention to how you’re thinking about your life goals. 

When you get in your own way, pay attention to that too. 

If we observe ourselves and our behavior with enough patience and compassion, we WILL figure out what’s going on. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

Reclaiming your focus.

photo-1535930891776-0c2dfb7fda1a-2

Most of what I do with people is aimed at putting them back in control of their own experience. 

A lot of what the world does to us, is make us feel like we can’t control anything. 

For much of our lives, especially much of our early lives, we are forced to focus where other people want us to focus. 

In school, we are forced to focus on what the teachers want us to focus on. We get in trouble if we don’t. 

At work, we are forced to focus on what our employers want us to focus on. If we don’t we get fired. 

I’m not saying that every time someone has an expectation about our focus, it’s necessarily bad. 

ButI do think that, over time, we get used to not choosing our focus. 

We stop trying to control our focus, because we’ve had so many experiences of our focus being determined by other people. 

Even in social situations, there is strong pressure to focus on the people and issues that are the most popular and pressing within our group. 

Those who do not want to focus on those people and issues face criticism and ostracism. 

So after awhile, we just get used to surrendering our focus, and letting other people decide our focus for us. 

Then, when we wind up depressed, anxious, or addicted, we get criticism from others for not having taken enough initiative in deciding our own focus. 

This is especially a problem with people who suffer from depression. 

Very often, the world responds to depressed people by telling them to just shift their focus, and they’ll be happier. 

When they have difficulty shifting their focus, they are shamed and blamed for feeling the way they do. 

This is after DECADES of being shamed and blamed for NOT focusing where other people want us to focus. 

The good news is, we can take our focus back. 

We don’t have COMPLETE control over our focus— but we can develop increasingly MORE control over it. 

It takes practice and the willingness to go against old programming (specifically, the programming that says to choose our own focus is selfish and futile). 

But we CAN get better at directing our focus. 

We CAN direct our focus in such a way that life seems more livable. 

We CAN create a world inside our heads and hearts that we actually LIKE and VALUE living. 

The thing we have to come to terms with, is the fact that he world sends us overwhelmingly mixed messages about choosing our focus.

We get penalized for NOT focusing where other people want us to focus. 

Then we get criticized for directing our focus in such a way that exacerbates feelings of depression, anxiety, or loneliness. 

Eventually we need to come to a realization that WE are in charge of the world inside our heads and hearts. 

Other people may not like it— but they don’t get a vote in how we direct our focus or interpret the world.

They will try to bully their way into your head and heart.

But you don’t have to let them. 

The world inside your head and heart is yours. 

Reclaim it step by manageable, realistic step. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

I assure you: you can’t do “anything.”

photo-1509725741166-82fabe3ac4f9

The self-help world is full of terrible, dumb advice. 

“Anything the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!” 

“If I can do it, you can do it!” 

A lot of self-help slogans are designed to make you feel better…but aren’t actually based on anything substantive, like science or clinical experience. 

It is NOT the case that you can “do anything.” 

It is NOT the case that whatever someone else can do, you can do also. 

That’s not because you’re somehow broken or unusually limited; it’s because you just can’t make blanket statements like this about human nature. 

I can do things you can’t do. 

You can do things that I can’t do. 

And we can ALL imagine things that NONE of us can do. 

For example: I can IMAGINE a world in which we all just feel awesome, all of the time— without having to learn and practice coping skills and emotional management tools. 

Will that ever be the reality? No. No it will not. 

In order to feel good or feel better, we need to develop skills and acquire tools. 

Most of the time it’s not particularly easy to develop skills and acquire tools. 

Much of the time it’s a slow, frustrating, trial-and-error process— which we often have to undertake while STILL experiencing symptoms. 

Our minds can “conceive” of LOTS of things that don’t actually work in the real world— whether or not we work ourselves into “believing” it. 

Why is it reasonable to assume that we can do “anything” someone else can do? 

Other people have different genetic advantages and vulnerabilities than we do. 

Other people have had different developmental experiences. 

I may be able to do a lot— but I’ll never run a marathon at the same pace as an Olympic champion. 

And still: self-help INSISTS on cramming such “can do” nonsense down our throats at every opportunity. 

Why? 

Because it sells. 

People WANT to believe that they are actually “limitless” beings. 

People WANT to believe that, through a mysterious Law of Attraction, they can carve the life they want literally out of thin air. 

I’m actually a big fan of positive thinking generally. I do think— and the science supports— that there IS a relationship between optimism and results. 

I DO think that what we visualize and what we believe can have a PROFOUND impact on our results. 

But that DOESN’T mean we should buy into a world where “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!” 

No. “Anything” is not possible. 

And that’s okay. 

We don’t need to live in that world where we can “do, have, or be ANYTHING” in order to create a life of meaning and satisfaction. 

We don’t need to delude ourselves with simplistic self-help pseudoscience in order to take advantage of what we really DO know about making our lives better and achieving our goals. 

When you’re looking into self-help resources, please: be aware of and realistic about the outsized promises self-help teachers sometimes make in order to sell their products and services. 

I strongly believe in a world where people CAN help and improve themselves through books and seminars and courses and the mentorship of teachers, guides, and even gurus. 

But I also strongly believe self-help can do better. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter and never miss a blog or social media post!

Kickstart your way out of denial.

photo-1565184944956-70a161db60f4

If we’re not careful, we will get obsessed with mistakes we’ve made in the past. 

It’s not that we want to get stuck on those mistakes. 

It’s not even that we think, rationally, that we can go back and do things over. We know we can’t. 

Yet…when we think about the past, we struggle to accept that it actually happened. 

We struggle to accept that we made the decisions we did. 

We struggle to accept that the people in our lives responded as they did. 

And we get paralyzed. 

In the front of our minds we may “know” we need to move forward— but emotionally, we just can’t seem to move on. 

In the back of our minds, we hold on to the hope that somehow, someway, we can “correct” the thing that went wrong. 

We think that if we just REFUSE to accept that reality was what it was and happened like it did, that we can somehow will it out of existence. 

The truth is, moving on is tougher than we think. 

When someone tells us to just “move on,” they assume that moving on is something that should be obvious how to do, or easy to do. 

It is neither. 

How do we accept that we were abused or neglected by the people who were supposed to love and support us the most? 

How do we accept that we let opportunities and relationships slip through our fingers— and they’re gone forever? 

If you look around, you’ll see many people actively refusing to accept that reality is as it is. 

You’ll see plenty of people pretending that what happened, didn’t. 

You’ll see plenty of people trying to behave as if the world is fundamentally the same as it was before whatever happened, happened. 

As long as we continue to deny and disown reality, we can’t really grow emotionally. 

We can’t really be free. We can’t really create the life we want to create. 

So we need to get curious about what skills and tools are necessary to really accept that what happened, happened. 

First thing’s first: we need to be able to handle the emotions that come with acceptance. 

Many people refuse to accept reality because they don’t think they can handle the feelings that will come with it. 

Identifying and coping with feelings such as anger and grief require tools and skills such as containment, self-nurturing, verbalization, and trauma processing. 

They can be learned, and they can be used— but they don’t get learned and used by accident. 

We have to set out with the intention to learn and use the appropriate skills. 

Moving on also requires us to use the cognitive skills of reality testing, reframing, and shifting to task-oriented cognitions. 

Often we need to use the skill of behavior activation to get out of a slump and back into our lives. 

Why is any of this important? 

Because you NEED to know that you don’t have to stay stuck. 

You don’t have to deny reality. 

No matter how upsetting what happened was, you CAN learn and use the proper skills to deal with it. 

And in so doing, you can kickstart your way out of denial. 

Which is the only real path to genuine growth and lasting happiness. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

Mentally, we are what we watch.

photo-1481018085669-2bc6e4f00eed

Our brains respond to what we expose ourselves to. 

That sounds simple, obvious. But we often seem to forget it. 

Our brains respond to the pictures we put in front of our eyes. That is to say, what we watch. 

We often like to think that we can watch violent or sad or infuriating things, with no emotional repercussions— that we’re sufficiently “tough” that our entertainment choices don’t affect us. 

We need to keep in mind that television and movies did not exist when our nervous systems were evolving. 

As organisms, we are ill-equipped to meaningfully distinguish between things that are seen on a television or movie screen, and things we see right in front of our eyes. 

When we’re children, we’re VERY responsive to things we see on TV and in movies. Our parents and caretakers often have to remind us that what we’re seeing is “just a movie,” and we have to be shown that the actors involved survived to make other movies. 

That’s a distinction understand with our cerebral cortex— the part of our brain responsible for higher-order thinking and reasoning. 

That top/front part of our brain gets that “it’s just a movie.” 

But our limbic system— the deeper, lower part of our brain, which doesn’t really communicate with language and doesn’t really respond to well-reasoned argument— continues to respond to things we see as if they were real. 

This is why, even though we know it’s “just a movie,” we still get sad at sad movies, we still get an adrenaline rush while watching action movies, we still hate the bad guys on the screen, and we still root for the heroes of the story. 

It makes no sense to assume that we can repeatedly expose ourselves to sad, violent, infuriating, or otherwise negatively activating entertainment, day in and day out, and remain unaffected. 

Of course it’s “just a movie” or “just a show.” 

But does every part of you know that? 

When we close our eyes, the images we see are highly dependent upon the images we’ve seen. 

When we go to sleep, our brain has to somehow make sense of everything we’ve seen and experienced during the day. 

When we’ve fed ourselves a steady diet of violent or activating entertainment, our limbic systems are working overtime to sort out what we’re “allowed” to react to emotionally— and what emotions and reactions we need to keep “bottled up,” because we’re not “supposed to” react. 

Why is any of this relevant? People like the entertainment they like. 

It’s relevant when we’re trying to heal emotionally. 

When we’re trying to return to a sense of normalcy after trauma. 

When we’re trying to regain emotional equilibrium on the other side of depression. 

When we’re trying to convince our anxious brain that we are effectively safe. 

It’s not that we can NEVER distinguish between real life and violent or depressing entertainment. 

It’s that in exposing ourselves to a steady diet of violence or powerfully negative images and stories, we are asking our brains to work overtime. 

And when we are in recovery, our brains already have a lot to do in just helping us function every day. 

Does this mean we can NEVER expose ourselves to potentially triggering entertainment if we want to be happy and stable? 

Not necessarily. Everybody’s going to have a slightly different tolerance for violent or otherwise heavy entertainment. 

The point is: pay attention. 

Maybe consider mixing up the kind of entertainment you expose yourself to. 

Maybe consider putting some limits on things that could be triggering. 

As usual, there’s no “one size fits all” fix to this issue. Everybody needs to take responsibility for what works for them. 

All I know is that, especially in the early stages of recovery, I strongly encourage my patients and clients to devote serious thought to what they are putting in front of their eyes every day. 

Emotionally, we are what we watch, what we read, what we expose ourselves to. 

Make good choices. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

The Doc’s Quick Guide to Anxiety Management.

photo-1442458370899-ae20e367c5d8

Philosophy and theory are nice. 

But when it comes to managing anxiety, skills and tools are better. 

Any effective strategy for managing anxiety includes at least three components: acceptance, mental focus, and physiology. 

There are various skills and tools we can use to address each component— but each component needs to be addressed if we’re going to make a dent in our anxiety. 

An anxiety management strategy that DOESN’T address one of those components will be incomplete. It might work for a minute— but it won’t ultimately be as effective as we need it to be. 

Acceptance means acknowledging the problem of anxiety— and the specific level and kind of anxiety we’re experiencing at the moment. 

We can’t manage what we don’t accept is happening. We really can’t. 

A lot of people think they’re going to skip this component. They find anxiety so unpleasant and overwhelming that they resist acknowledging that it’s exactly as bad as it is. 

(We’ve all known someone who is clearly melting down and overwhelmingly anxious— but who stubbornly insists they are “JUST FINE.”)

Denial is not an anxiety management strategy. It’s a very effective anxiety exacerbation strategy, though. 

Once we’ve accepted that we’re anxious, and it’s exactly as bad as it is, then we can get on to effectively managing it. 

Mental focus involves becoming aware of the story in our heads that is fueling the anxiety. 

We don’t develop anxiety in a vacuum. Anxiety arises in response to our thoughts— usually our thoughts about things that are outside of our control. 

What often happens is, an external event will trigger a well-rehearsed “story” that we often tell ourselves— and we tumble down the anxiety rabbit hole as a result. 

In order to effectively manage our anxiety, we need to shift our mental focus, somehow, some way. 

There are lots of tools and skills we can use to shift our mental focus— containment, distraction, music, self-talk, internal communication, poetry, quotes, visualization. The list goes on and on. 

The important thing is that we get something new and different in front of our mind’s eye than the mental “story” that triggered our anxiety. 

We cannot manage our anxiety without shifting our mental focus. 

Physiology is the state of our physical body. Our posture, breathing, muscle tension, heart rate— anything going on that involves your body (as opposed what’s happening in your mind). 

It’s hard to mange your anxiety if you’re holding on to anxious physiology. 

It’s not at all easy to relax your muscles, slow your breathing, or straighten your posture while you’re in a state of anxiety— but if you really want to change that anxiety, you’re going to have to address that physiology. 

With practice those three components— acceptance, mental focus, and physiology— can all be addressed in a short period of time. 

At first, the temptation is to get “stuck” on one of the components— but, over time, we can get into the habit of going through our mental checklist and making quick adjustments to each component. 

There are anxiety management strategies that focus on each of those components. Cognitive therapy, for example, addresses mental focus. Progressive relaxation and medication address physiology. The mindfulness tools of Dialectical Behavior Therapy addresses acceptance. 

Any long-term strategy for handling anxiety, however, NEEDS to address all three components. 

Anxiety management can be learned. It can be practiced, and you WILL get better at it. 

That said: anxiety is no fun, and managing it isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. 

Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to experiment with the strategies that work for you. 

And don’t give up. 

You’ve come too far. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

Everyday hiding.

photo-1581832098105-51824c721c2d

When you’re scraping bottom with your depression, there’s a lot you don’t express. 

The people around you might not even have any idea that you’re scraping bottom. 

They might see you as a perfectly functional human being, with no indication that there’s anything wrong at all. 

I can tell you from my own experience that people who know me from the period when I was at my worst, tend to be surprised to learn that every day I was waging a private battle against my own thoughts, feelings, and impulses. 

I went for a period of several years where my behavior was reliably self-sabotaging and self-harmful. 

But almost no one knew. 

I was very good at hiding it. 

People who struggle with depression, anxiety, and trauma over the long term get very good at hiding it. 

It’s not that we’re trying to be dishonest with anybody. It’s often that we are embarrassed or ashamed. 

I certainly didn’t want the people around me to know that I was having trouble just living day to day. 

I didn’t want anyone to know the kinds of things I was doing to try to manage my feelings. 

I felt weak and out of control and pathetic. Why on earth would I want anyone to know anything about any of that? 

So I hid it. 

In my case, at the time I was at my worst, I was involved in the local performing arts scene. I was regularly cast in productions for a local dinner theater, and I received reasonably good reviews for my performances. 

Little did anyone know that the reason I was performing at the time was because it was one of the few jobs available where I didn’t have to get up before noon. 

In the performing arts, even in the relatively small performing arts community I was in at the time, you kind of are who you say you are. You can basically invent a story about what your deal is. 

I told the people around me that I was a student— and I was, technically.  I was enrolled at the local community college. 

Little did anyone suspect that, although I continued to enroll every semester, I basically never showed up to class, due to a combination of depression and anxiety that made leaving the house almost unbearable. 

People who knew me at that point in my life would probably tell you I was somebody who enjoyed performing, and someone who was fairly good at it. 

And I was. 

They didn’t know that my life was basically a performance. 

They didn’t know that every single day I felt increasingly ground down, emotionally. 

They didn’t know that my struggle to just get out of bed and leave the house was a reflection of a larger struggle: I was desperately searching for reasons to keep living at all. 

Those who know my story know that it didn’t end there. 

I ended up making major changes in my life— and that my life changes were largely due to material that I had discovered in the self-help literature. 

This is why, to this day, I feel so strongly about the self-help community: it played a large role in keeping me alive once upon a time. 

But the point of this post is to acknowledge that if you feel like every day is a performance, if you’re just hanging on day to day, if you feel like the entire world is clueless to how desperate you are: hang in there. 

I’ve been there. 

Things do change. 

I got lucky and found what I needed— and what you need IS out there. 

Maybe reading these words are part of that process. 

But please, please don’t give up. 

And please know you’re not alone. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

Our powerful, frustrating need for connection.

photo-1513159446162-54eb8bdaa79b

When we desperately want a specific kind of contact or attention, and we don’t get it, it can be overwhelmingly painful. 

We humans are wired to need certain kinds of affection. 

It’s not an intellectual thing. It’s not a thing that we sit down, think about, and decide one day that we desperately crave human contact and affection. 

There are many theories about why we so desperately want and need certain types of contact and affection. 

Some researchers think it’s tied into the human survival drive. 

They suspect that, when we’re tiny, defenseless babies, it was human contact and connectedness that provide security against being abandoned and possibly dying. 

After all, a baby can’t survive on its own. It needs a caretaker that cares about it in order to live. 

Thus, they think that our strong need for attachment stems from our fear of abandonment as infants. 

It’s been established that human contact and intimacy is associated with the production in our bodies and brains of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, which result in pleasurable feelings. 

That is to say: even our biology inclines us to want and need human contact and intimacy. 

But what happens when we don’t get it? 

What happens when we’re denied that positive contact and intimacy and attention and affection again, and again, and again, over the course of years or even decades? 

There are definitely people reading this right now who are thinking, “I don’t NEED that connection and intimacy.” 

There are undoubtedly people reading this right now who are thinking, “That may be true for OTHER people, but I’VE learned to live without those things.” 

And there are definitely people who have decided that the need for human contact and intimacy invites so many opportunities to get hurt and feel horrible, that they’ve made a conscious decision to cut themselves off from it. 

When we have to go without that human contact, affection, and intimacy over time, we tend to develop defenses against how painful the lack of those things are. 

We close ourselves off. 

Sometimes we even dissociate our powerful desire for intimacy and the feelings it stirs up.

But even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it…that need never quite goes away, does it? 

We can ignore it, deny it disown it, dissociate it…but we were still powerfully wired, once upon a time, to want to be held. 

To be seen. 

To be understood. 

To be accepted and wanted and needed and loved. 

When we become aware of our wants and needs for intimacy and connection, it’s important that we not judge it. 

It’s important that we not judge ourselves for wanting closeness. 

And it’s really  important that we not judge ourselves harshly for things we’ve done in in the past to feel connection— even if those things have led to painful outcomes. 

People will do lots of things to try to compensate for a feeling of emptiness. 

Things we’re not proud of, things that seem foolish, things that it’s really easy to make fun of or get judgmental about. 

Be gentle with yourself. 

The need for intimacy and connection is powerful and innate. 

It stirs up powerful chemicals in our bodies and brains, and it often impairs our judgment. 

Give yourself a break. 

Show yourself some compassion. 

And make the best decisions you can going forward, because we can’t undo the past. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

The patterns that build your reality.

photo-1503387762-592deb58ef4e

There are literally thousands of things we COULD focus on in our experience. 

Even when we’re sitting by ourselves, alone in a room, there are hundreds and hundreds of things we COULD focus on and think about. 

Every single minute of every day, our senses are overwhelmed with input. 

The things we could look at; the things we could listen to; the things we could feel and smell and touch. 

Most of what our brain does every day is filter all of this sensory input. 

Our brain has to make choices about what we’re going to notice, and what we’re going to ignore. It’s a cognitive process called “sensory discrimination.” 

One of the reasons why different people have such dramatically different experiences of life is that they have developed different patterns in what they pay attention to. 

Some people have gotten used to paying attention to everything that is broken in the world. 

They see every problem. They see every inconvenience. They see every part of every obstacle. 

Other people have gotten used to paying attention to everything that is threatening in the world. 

They see every danger. They see every accident waiting to happen. They see every tragedy in the making. 

Most of the time, we have not consciously chosen our patterns of focus. 

Our patterns of focus are usually modeled on what we saw our parents focusing on, how we saw our parents interpreting and responding to the world. 

This is one of the reasons why depression and anxiety seem to “run” in families: because children tend to mirror and mimic their parents’ patterns of focus that contribute to depression and anxiety. 

As well, most of the time we don’t fully realize how much our characteristic patterns of focus contribute to our struggles. 

If you’re constantly focusing on what’s broken and tragic, it’s hard to NOT be depressed. 

If you’re constantly focusing on what’s dangerous and unpredictable, it’s hard to NOT be anxious. 

This doesn’t just apply to what we focus on in the world. It also applies to how we think about our past. 

If we are overly focused on the ways we’ve failed in the past, it’s hard to build a self-image as capable and productive. 

If we are overly focused on times we’ve been rejected, it’s hard to see ourselves as attractive and worthy. 

Understand: there is a LOT more than our patterns of focus that contribute to emotional difficulties. 

Our genetics, our brain chemistry, and our life stressors all contribute significantly to our current emotional state. 

But our patterns of focus represent possibly the best opportunity for us to make an intentional, positive change in how we experience the world. 

When we’re talking about patterns of noticing and interpreting the world, all we’re talking about are habits. 

Repeated actions. 

We get “good” at habits for one reason: we’ve practiced them, over and over and over again. 

Any habit that has been learned, can be un-learned. 

This goes for patterns of mental focus, patterns of behavior, and patterns of relating. 

We can dig our way out of any hole the same way we dug ourselves into it: bit, by bit, by bit, by bit. 

Get curious about your patterns of focus. 

Get curious about what you notice— and what you ignore. 

Get curious about how attention shapes your experience of life. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!

A lot of this journey…sucks.

photo-1502990313206-7f37a9514bea

I’ll spare you the suspense: you’re going to be frustrated with the pace of your recovery or personal development. 

It’ll move too slow for you. 

It’ll involve tasks that you won’t immediately see the point of (or, even if you DO see the point of them, you might think they’re STILL pretty stupid). 

And along the way in this process, you’re DEFINITELY going to get annoyed with me or any other therapist, mentor, or guru who is guiding you along the path. 

All of that is normal. 

I find it more than a little annoying when self-help types write about how the process of improving your life REQUIRES SACRIFICE, and then they CHALLENGE you to BREAK THROUGH YOUR LIMITATIONS!

Because the fact is, it’s both more and less complicated than just, “this process requires sacrifices.” 

Does recovery require sacrifices? Sure, it often does. 

I find a lot of truth in the quote, “Your new life is going to cost you your old one.” 

We DO need to sacrifice old habits and relationships and viewpoints that we may be attached to, or that felt comfortable. 

We don’t get to both move forward and keep everything the same. 

But it seems to me the reason these self-help types always stress SACRIFICE is mostly to make you more open to the idea of making a rather specific sacrifice: sacrificing your money, to buy their products and services. 

Honestly, most seekers I’ve ever met in therapy or personal development have been more than willing to make sacrifices in the pursuit of their goals. 

It drives me INSANE when self-help gurus treat their audience with condescension— as if the primary problem encountered by most seekers is that they’re unwilling to just SUCK IT UP and MAKE SOME SACRIFICES! 

(I’m here thinking of a specific self-help guy who loves to condescendingly tell his audience that what he’s selling “may not be for them,” and if they’re not ready to “really invest” in their personal growth, he advises they find another program.) 

The path to achieving goals and creating a productive life that feels good involves a lot of mundane tasks. 

It involves learning skills for emotional management— and learning new skills is often no fun. 

It’s not because you’re lazy or weak or uncommitted. 

It’s because NOBODY likes to learn new skills. 

We usually SUCK at new things. And learning how to manage our emotions is particularly HARD, especially when we didn’t really learn how to do it growing up.

Yeah. You’re going to dislike this project a certain amount of the time. 

You’re going to find it boring. 

You’re going to find me annoying. 

You’re going to be angry that you HAVE to learn these new skills in order to make your life work. 

All that is normal. 

The trick is to feel the annoyance, feel the boredom, feel the negative feelings that go along with the project of recovery or life development…and do it all anyway. 

Improving— or even saving— your life is more important than the inconvenience and discomfort that come with learning new skills. 

Your quality of life is worth the trouble. 

You are worth the trouble. 

 

Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!