“Why bother” is a question that sooner or later everybody struggles with in therapy or recovery. 

“I’ve been using for so long. Surely one more day won’t make a difference. Why bother not using today if I’m just going to go back to it tomorrow? 

“I’ve overshot my calorie budget for today anyway. Why bother stopping eating now?” 

“I’m so depressed, it just doesn’t seem like doing one therapy homework exercise will help. If it won’t even make a dent, why bother even trying?” 

“Even if doing the therapy work makes me feel a little better for a little while, the past is still the past, and I’m always going to be someone who experienced trauma. Why bother fighting it today, if it’s always going to be there?” 

The variants of the “why bother” question that your brain can come up with are endless. Your brain will do backflips to invent sneaky versions of the “why bother” question if it thinks it has a chance of getting you to abandon your recovery. 

The thing is: that part of your brain that is always asking “why bother?” is not particularly interested in your recovery. 

It may SOUND logical, at least sort of— but that part of your brain is not interested in logic, either. 

That part of your brain my SOUND like it is trying to spare you effort and pain by giving you an excuse to not go through the hassle of doing all that is required to maintain your recovery, either from addiction or depression or PTSD or whatever it is you’re specifically trying to recover from…but I can absolutely assure you this part of your brain does not care about sparing you pain. 

This part of your brain wants you to do one thing: give up. 

And it doesn’t care what it has to say in order to achieve its goal. 

It will tempt you, it will try to seduce you, it will try to harangue you. Sometimes it may talk to you as if it knows something you don’t; sometimes it may come to you disguised as a friend who just wants you to see reality. 

But the truth is, all it wants is what it wants. It doesn’t care what you want, what’s important to you, or the price your addiction, depression, PTSD, or other challenges have coast you in your life. 

It wants you to give up. Period. 

And it knows “why bother” is a particularly effective tool in getting you to give up. 

If we are to succeed in therapy or recovery, we need to recognize the “why bother” question for what it is, and come prepared to deal with it. 

When I say “deal with it,” I don’t even mean “talk back to it.” 

I don’t want you getting into a conversation with the part of your brain that throws the “why bother” question out there.

Why? Because that part of your brain is not interested in an honest conversation. 

It will lie, it will selectively forget, it will tease, it will manipulate, it will bully. Trying to negotiate with the part of yourself that plays the “why bother” card is like trying to negotiate with a terrorist. 

So no, I don’t want you using those cognitive behavioral therapy skills you’ve worked so hard to develop in trying to rebut or dispute anything that this part of your brain tells you. 

The fact is, you could come up with a million and one very good, very valid answers to the question of “why bother?”…but even if you did, that part of your brain is never going to say, “Oh, I didn’t realize. My bad. Carry on doing the hard work of recovery, sorry I inconvenienced you.” 

So don’t even engage. 

When your brain hits you with the “why bother” tactic (and that’s what it is— it’s a tactic, not a question), I want you doing one thing: rolling your eyes, and going about your recovery. 

Don’t even respond to that part of yourself asking that disingenuous, asinine question. 

Just stay on track. 

Do the therapy homework. 

Cease the food intake. 

As soon as you have the opportunity to not use, don’t use. 

Use the skills and tools you’ve developed with your therapist or sponsor. 

Your brain playing the “why bother” card doesn’t even warrant a response…other than the behavioral response of just carrying on. 

And the good news? Like any important skill, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

Get good at ignoring the “why bother” tactic. 

One day at a time. 

One thought on “How to handle it when your brain plays the “why bother” card.

  1. I read and reread all your blogs, I hang on to the message, I try and digest the message. The “why bother” voice is a constant noise, sapping my energy, the impetus to get out of bed, in the shower, to get dressed. And so on.

    I wish I had someone helping me, even a friend if not a therapist. Both seem a non starter, I’m afraid.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful blogs, needed by more than just myself, I know.



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