There is no question: mental health requires us to make sacrifices. That’s what many people consider the bad news.
The good news, though, is this: most of the stuff we need to sacrifice in order to be emotionally healthy, to psychologically heal from trauma, depression, and anxiety, is stuff we don’t really need anyway. Not really.
One of the most straightforward examples of this is addiction.
In order to overcome addiction, we necessarily need to sacrifice the pleasurable feelings we get from our substance of choice.
Most substances of addiction provide a temporary high. They activate our nervous systems in such a way that is pleasurable. That pleasurable high, however, is always temporary— hence our need to continue to use the substance, thus creating an addictive pattern.
There is no way around the fact that in order to conquer our addiction, we need to figure out how to do without this temporary high, this momentary spike of pleasure.
For non-addicts, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. You just do what you have to do, they figure. You can’t always get what you want, so you do without. Case closed.
What non-addicts don’t realize, however, is that for addicts, the sources of pleasure and comfort in our lives tend to be few and far between.
Those momentary moments of comfort and pleasure we get from our substance of choice? Those might be the main, or maybe even the only, sources of comfort or pleasure we get in our lives that day.
Consequently, we get attached to those pleasurable moments.
Giving them up is not an easy ask.
What to some people seem like relatively small or simple sacrifices become, to an addict, quite significant sacrifices.
We can, in fact, make those sacrifices for the sake of overcoming our addictions…but making those sacrifices requires the development of strategies and skills that help us deal with the loss of that pleasure and comfort.
It may sound simple. But it’s not easy.
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
In order to be emotionally healthy in other respects requires sacrifice as well.
For example, in order to guard against depression, we must often take responsibility for reality checking the distortions in our thinking. (The therapeutic technique of cognitive behavioral therapy is built around this.)
As a rule, however, reality checking our thinking doesn’t come natural to most of us.
It’s a hassle. It’s work. It requires us to push back against the natural flow of our internal dialogue.
Challenging the inertia of our internal dialogue requires a certain amount of sacrifice. We must sacrifice convenience and comfort for the sake of keeping ourselves on an even emotional keel.
We can make the sacrifice, certainly…but again, there is a cost associated with it.
At a certain point, most of us can’t hep but stop and wonder if all the sacrifices associated with behavioral and emotional health are worth it.
Is “living healthfully” worth all the hassle, the inconvenience, the surrender of those moments of euphoria and comfort that come with using our drug of choice?
Yes. Yes it is.
IF you take the long term point of view.
And taking the long-term point of view requires— yes, say it with me— making certain sacrifices. Namely, sacrificing the seductive allure of the short-term point of view.
Thinking long-term requires a certain amount of maturity that is serious pain in the neck to cultivate.
It’s easy to cater to the short-term.
It’s more convenient to think short-term. After all, if we think short-term, all we have to cope with is the very near future. It’s less daunting than thinking long-term. It’s less anxiety-provoking.
Giving up short-term thinking is a sacrifice.
A sacrifice that is worth making, certainly…but no meaningful sacrifice comes easily.
The good news about all of that? You can, in fact, do it.
If you are reading these words, you have the basic tools to do everything I’m describing.
If you made it this far in this blog, you have the intelligence and endurance to do it.
I believe in you.
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