The reason I encourage people to focus on the environment inside their heads first, rather than the external support that may help improve their life situation, is because we simply cannot control if or when that external support arrives.
I agree that external support and resources makes healing and recovery enormously easier.
i agree that it’s really hard to heal WITHOUT external support and resources.
I wish we lived in a world in which external support and resources were more available to people who need them.
But we have to deal with the world as it is— and in this world, the arrival of external support and resources is an uncertain thing.
As helpful as it would undeniably be, we simply can’t put our eggs in the basket of someone or something coming along to help us out by giving us something we don’t already have.
It’s not that I have any delusional ideas about how it’s somehow “better” to attempt to pull ourselves up “by the bootstraps.”
I just think we have to deal with the world as it is, not as it should be.
I WISH we could count on support arriving when we needed it.
I WISH we could count on backup.
I WISH we could count on external support and resources being extended in a timely fashion, with no catch.
But we can’t.
And even if we could, a lot of people in pain would struggle to reach out and struggle to accept what was being offered, for a number of reasons.
This doesn’t mean I don’t think we should, as a society, work on making support and resources more available to people who are struggling. Of course we should.
But that “should” doesn’t help people who are reading this and struggling right now.
It’s really important that our recovery be realistic.
If we’re going to heal and recover, we need to look at life and ourselves as they are— not as we wish they were.
I encourage people to focus on skills, tools, and strategies because that’s the side of the equation we CAN influence.
There are dozens and dozens of variables that we CAN’T influence very much…but the degree to which we develop skills, seek out tools, and use them as part of intentional strategies is something we CAN influence.
Recovery needs to be about restoring power and agency to us, even if that power and agency isn’t always perfect.
People who are struggling have usually felt powerless for a long time.
They’ve often felt blamed and shamed for things that have been outside of their influence.
It’s my experience that, as long as we focus on something external as the main or only thing that can turn our situation around, we continue to feel powerless.
The truth is, successful recovery involves a great deal of effort on our part…as well as support from unexpected sources, luck, and dozens of little triumphs and little setbacks every day.
When I say “use your damn skills,” please don’t hear that as a suggestion that you HAVEN’T been using your skills.
Please hear it as a reminder to focus in on what you can do, not what you can’t.
Please hear it as a reminder that you are not limited to waiting for the cavalry to arrive.
Please hear it as a reminder that you have autonomy and agency— power— right here, right now.
Because you do. Really.
And I believe in you.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free email newsletter!