We are always the boss of ourselves. We’re always responsible fo our decisions and our behavior. You are, I am.
There are factors that influence our decisions and behavior, and sometimes we’re not always making the most informed decisions— but we’re always responsible for the decisions we DO make, whether or not we had all the information or autonomy we “should” have had.
That is to say: sometimes we’re actually NOT the “experts” on our experience that we think we are.
We want to be, we try to be. We want to think that there’s something inside of us that will tell us if what we’re deciding and doing truly is “best” for us.
But a lot of the time, that “something” inside of us is just…absent.
Sometimes it’s there, but we’re not listening to it— and sometimes it’s just not there.
I WISH I was the “expert” on what I needed all the time. But I’m not.
My brain and personality have shortcomings. Left to my own devices, I will actively try to deceive myself into taking the less painful, less anxiety provoking path— and I will effortfully try to convince myself that that path is the “best” way for me, because “I know me.”
There are absolutely things we know about ourselves. We know what we went through. We know what we were told. We know what we felt— and we often have to remind ourselves of that, because there are definitely people who will try to convince us we DIDN’T go through that, that we WEREN’T told that, that we DIDN’T feel that.
At the same time, we need to be realistic about the fact that our brain WILL try to bullsh*t us at times.
When there is something in our world that is just too sad or scary for us to consciously deal with at the moment, our brain WILL bend over backwards to make it seem like it’s not happening.
It’s not that we’re intentionally avoiding it— it’s that our brain is pulling a fast one in order to avoid “seeing” and “knowing” something it thinks is catastrophic.
When we’re trying to give up an addiction, but our brain truly thinks our substance or behavior of addiction is the ONLY thing keeping us alive and functional, our brain will lie to us about how bad our addiction is and how necessary it is to continue it.
When we’re depressed, our brain will actively lie to us about our worth, about our competence, about the world, and about the future.
One of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn— and relearn, and relearn again— is that when my brain tries to tell me that it KNOWS something WITHOUT A DOUBT…that I need to look closer.
When my brain tries to tell me that I need to NOT QUESTION an established habit of feeling or behaving…I need to look closer.
It’s like the Wizard of Oz commanding Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion to PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!
When the Wizard in your head snaps at you to PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN…something’s up behind that curtain.
All of which is to say: we need to approach our own motivations and perceptions with curiosity as well as compassion.
We need to be open to the idea that maybe we’re not seeing as straight as we think we’re seeing.
We need to remember that depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and a dozen other things seriously impact how we process information and experience the world.
It’s not that we can’t trust ourselves— it’s that we need to be realistic about the factors that are influencing us.
If you had a family member who you really, really trusted, but who got high sometimes, you’d take their habit into account. It doesn’t mean they can’t be trusted— it means that realistically there might be something else going on sometimes.
Recovery brings us face to face with a lot of stuff that’s really hard to swallow. It brings me face to face every single day with how I deceive myself, because I want to keep believing what I already believe.
We can question and challenge ourselves from a place of realism and compassion. We can push back on our preexisting beliefs and assumptions not because we don’t trust ourselves, but because we WANT to establish authentic self-trust.
Yup. It can all be pretty complicated.
But it’s worth the hassle.
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One thought on ““Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!””
Brilliant article Doc. YOU are truly gifted at what you do. Thank you so much for your honesty and for being a beautiful human being.