Recovery is going to ask us to try some things that we don’t like.
And when we’ve been forced to do a lot of things we don’t like in our life, that can get complicated.
Many of us grew up having very few choices about what happened to us.
Maybe we were teased and bullied at school— yet, we had no choice but to go to school.
Maybe we were bullied or abused at home— yet, we had no choice but to live at home.
Maybe we were pressured into relationships we didn’t choose- or pressured to give up friendships or relationships we did choose.
Maybe we were pressured to give up career options that would have been fun or interesting or fulfilling…all because they weren’t acceptable to someone who had power or control over us at the moment.
For many people reading this control and domination has been a central, defining dynamic of their lives.
Many people find themselves in adulthood not really even knowing who they are or what they want, because they’ve spent their entire lives being controlled and dominated by someone against their will.
Having structure imposed on us when we didn’t ask for it or want it is damaging in multiple ways.
Not least of the ways such involuntary control and domination is damaging to us is that it often sours us on the very IDEA of structure and guidance.
Which can be problematic, insofar as it’s actually really hard to grow or progress WITHOUT at least some structure and guidance.
A lot of the people reading this know exactly what I’m talking about: they push back instinctively at even the suggestion of someone else choosing things for them.
They push back effortfully at the idea of following someone else’s plan, because it triggers in them the pain and sadness of having been involuntarily controlled and dominated earlier in their lives.
We all know someone who will push back at ANY suggestion— even if that suggestion is obviously what needs to happen in order for progress to be made.
We all know someone who will push back at ANY degree of structure— even if lack of structure is obviously crippling their efforts to change and improve their lives.
For years, this described me. It still does, in a lot of ways. Maybe it describes you.
All of this becomes important to assess in our own journey because, again, recovering from depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, or any other emotional or behavioral struggle is GOING to ask us to do some things we like and some things we would’t choose in the moment.
It’s going to trigger every impulse we have to push back— to prove that we’re not about to be controlled or dominated…even if it’s for our own good.
We need to find a way to face our aversion to structure head on, such that we don’t feel steamrolled…but that we accept enough guidance to get where we need to go.
Getting where we need to go requires a certain amount of voluntary submission.
We need to “submit” to driving directions to arrive at a destination (not to mention the rules of the road and the requirements of operating a vehicle).
We need to “submit” to the the limitations of the sizes and shapes of certain puzzle pieces if we’re going to solve the puzzle— it doesn’t work to try to ram round puzzle pieces into square spaces just because “no one’s going to tell us what to do.”
Yeah, it can be triggering. It can remind us of some of the worst times and people of our lives.
Chances are acquiescing to the structure in recovery will nudge us to “prove” that we literally don’t have to acquiesce to ANYTHING we don’t want to.
And, by the by— that’s true. You DON’T have to acquiesce to anything you don’t want to.
But, we don’t get to have it all, either.
We don’t get to opt out of making certain decisions, and STILL get the benefits of those decisions.
I don’t get to NOT train for a marathon— because NO ONE WILL TELL ME WHAT TO DO!— and then still be able to run a marathon without probably getting injured.
Likewise, we don’t get to meaningfully recover and NEVER have to do or try ANYTHING we don’t want to in the moment.
Recovery, like any kind of growth or change, has some terms and conditions.
If we don’t like those terms and conditions, we’re free to opt out— but that means opting out of the potentially lifesaving benefits of recovery as well.
But, as always: we’re free to choose.
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