Your mileage is going to very when it comes to how useful other peoples’ presence and feedback is to your goal-setting and self-improvement efforts. 

This might sound obvious— that is, your mileage is going to vary on pretty much ANY variable related to your goal-setting and self-improvement efforts, right? 

That’s what I think, anyway. But you’re going to run into lots and lots of sources in the therapy and self-improvement worlds that assume you conform to their mold of how people effectively set goals and change their habits. 

There is a subset of teachers and therapists who think the only way people effectively pursue their goals is to heavily involve other people. 

An example of this viewpoint is the 12-step recovery movement. People who strongly believe in the Twelve Steps tend to agree that the only way recovering addicts can stay honest and focused in their recovery is with the support and involvement of other recovering addicts. The Twelve Step approach views isolation as a strong contributing factor to the disease of addiction. 

It’s true that many recovering addicts— and many others who have been helped by groups and  external support systems in other types of recovery—often find the camaraderie and support of others to be enormously helpful in their healing journeys. For these individuals, isolation is a risk factor and attachment is a necessary healing factor. 

The thing is, not everybody gets the same boost to their recovery efforts by involving other people. 

An example of this phenomenon is people who have been harmed as a result of their membership in certain groups and subcultures. There is a subset of people who have been exposed to abusive, exploitative, or otherwise harmful behaviors in settings such as churches, schools, or social circles…and who felt unable to break free from these groups because these groups represented spiritual, academic, financial, or social lifelines for them. 

For people who have been harmed in group settings like this, the group cohesion that is so helpful to some recoverers can represent a trigger or a threat. Such people often need to do a certain amount of work on their own or in individual psychotherapy before they can involve anybody else in their recovery. They need to find their voice and reclaim their autonomy, independent of group dynamics, at least for awhile. 

My point isn’t that involving other people, groups, or organizations in your recovery is an objectively “good” or “bad” idea. 

My point is that you need to become curious and observant about what you, specifically, need in a recovery program. 

You also need to be prepared to set limits and boundaries with other people who may have their own strong ideas about how people get sick and how people heal. 

It doesn’t do you any good to conform perfectly to someone else’s vision of “recovery,” when that vision isn’t supportive of what you specifically need in your healing journey. 

How can you tell if involving other people is a good idea in your own recovery? 

How can you tell to what extent involving other people, and in what specific ways, might be helpful to you in your recovery? 

The most important thing YOU can do in this context is pay attention. 

Pay attention to how involving other people in your life, generally, has worked out for you. 

Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and reactions when you’re in group settings. 

Pay attention to the difference in your level of openness and comfort when you’re with small groups of people, larger groups of people, or with only a few other people. 

There are factors beyond our unique histories that may make group recover a better or not so great choice for our recovery. Factors such as learning styles, symptoms, diagnoses, and disabilities all come into play. 

The point is, don’t assume that you do or don’t have to heavily involve anyone else in your healing journey. 

Don’t assume that somebody else’s vision of recovery is what you, specifically, need in order to heal. 

Pay attention to the signals from your mind and your feelings, as well as the data from your past experiences, when choosing between treatment modalities. 

In the end, your recovery is YOURS. It needs to be designed by, driven by, and effective for YOU— nobody else. 


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