“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

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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Just get back on track.

Some of the roughest moments we will ever navigate in our healing or recovery journeys, are the moments after a relapse or set back. 

Talk about a time when it’s easy to feel as if we will never, ever make meaningful progress. 

Those are moments when we scrape bottom— when it’s easy to feel as if all of this effort is pointless. 

Our inner critic will be VICIOUS in the moments and hours and days after a relapse or setback. 

It’ll tell us that the roadblock we just ran into is our REAL self. 

It’ll tell us that we should’t even bother trying to get back on track, because we’re just going to screw up again. 

If we try to be compassionate toward ourselves after a setback, our inner critic will tell us we’re making excuses. 

If we’ve experienced a setback, we will often feel the urge to go even deeper down the rabbit hole, because we’ve screwed up already, why not go all in on our defeat? 

It’s a painful, discouraging time. 

There are a few things we need to remember after a relapse or a setback. 

We need to remember that literally everyone who succeeds in recovery has setbacks. 

Sometimes those setbacks are emotional, sometimes they’re relational, sometimes they’re behavioral— but EVERYBODY has them. 

You are not going to be first exception in the history of recovery to the rule that everybody has a setback. Neither am I. 

Setbacks are a normal part of the process. 

Yes, they’re a painful part of the process and we try to do everything we can to avoid them and make them less debilitating, but they’re GOING to happen. 

We can’t avoid setbacks in recovery— but how we handle them makes a big difference to what happens next. 

How we talk to ourselves after a setback or relapse is key. 

We are going to have the inner critic screaming in our face that this is evidence we are worthless and we should just give up. 

It’s really important we not jump on his side and scream in our own face that we’re worthless and we should just give up…not least because, it just isn’t true. 

You don’t have to like the fact that you relapsed. You don’t have to like the fact that setbacks are a normal part of recovery. I don’t. 

When relapses or other recovery setbacks happen, the name of the game is pushing reset and getting back on track. 

Not self-punishment, not cosmic justice, not existential certainty. Getting yourself out of danger and back on track is the ONLY thing that matters for a minute. 

We can have feelings about why and how we relapsed— and we can process them later. For now, just get back on track. 

We can have feelings about how hard it is to start over, and yup, that part can be super discouraging— but we can be discouraged and mad about it later. For now, just get back on track. 

If this is where you are, this is where you are. I’ve been there, everybody who has successfully recovered has been there. The smartest, strongest person you know has been there. 

Just get back on track. Press reset. Each and every time your inner critic tries to get you to look backward at what a mess you’ve made, calmly turn back around and look forward to what you have to do here, now, in this minute, to get back on track. 

Between those who plunge into self-punishment after a relapse, and those who focus on getting back on track, I will bet on the latter recoverers every time. 

Self-punishment doesn’t motivate. It stalls us out more. It robs us of the energy and focus that we need to get ourselves back on track after a setback. 

I know. This isn’t fun. It’s not fun for me, either. 

Just keep taking baby steps. Step, by step, by teeny tiny step. 

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Control? Nah. Influence? You bet.

When we’re recovering from depression, anxiety, addiction, or trauma, there’s a LOT that is, or seems, out of our control. 

It always annoys me when I see people assert that people who are struggling should simply “take control” of their mental lives. It’s just not that easy. 

If we COULD simply “take control’ of what we’re thinking and feeling, I assure you, we would. 

If it was a straightforward matter of “taking control” of our behavior, I assure you, we would. 

But human thoughts, feelings, and behavior is NEVER quite that simple or straightforward.

We don’t have “control” over everything that goes on in our head and heart, and we don’t have “control” over everything that happens in our lives. 

We have INFLUENCE over some things that happen inside us and something that happen around us— but not complete influence. 

That’s not a reason to give up. 

That’s a reason to get realistic about how we can use the limited amount of influence we have, to our advantage. 

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to do what we can to create a life consistent with what we want more of. 

For example, I want a life that includes a lot of love. 

I want a life that includes a lot of laughter and non-toxic humor. 

I want a life that includes a lot of affectionate, consensual physical touch. 

If those are the things I want, I need to do what I can to create a life that is consistent with those things. 

If I want a life that is full of love, I need to do what I can to limit the aggression and hostility in my world— primarily the aggression and hostility that I direct toward myself. 

If I want a life that includes a lot of laughter and non-toxic humor, I need to do what I can to limit the sarcasm and mockery I direct at myself. 

If I want a life that includes a lot of affectionate, consensual physical touch, I need to do what I can to limit the self-hating thoughts I have and statements I make about my body. 

I cannot control everything that goes on in my head and heart…but what I do influence, I want to influence in such a way that maximizes the chances that I’ll create the life I want. 

To the extent that we influence what we think, feel, and do, we want to think, feel, and do things that are consistent with what we want— and we want to intentionally limit those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are inconsistent with what we want. 

What I’m talking about isn’t easy. 

For many of us, the default setting is self-aggression. For many of us it feels “natural’ or “normal” to viciously make fun of ourselves, hate our body, obsess over our flaws and faults and imperfections. 

Many of us have even been taught that the only way to avoid being “narcissistic” is to viciously attack and deprecate ourselves at every turn. 

But we’re simply not going to create the positive, comfortable life experience we really crave if we’re cutting into ourselves all day, every day. 

I know, it may not feel “natural” to be kind to yourself. 

I know, part of you may be worried that to extend yourself kindness or compassion may be opening the door to “narcissism.” 

Being kind to yourself won’t make you a narcissist. Giving yourself the benefit of the doubt won’t make you into a narcissist. Having your own back won’t make you a narcissist. 

What being on your own side WILL do is giving you a fighting chance to create the life you actually deserve. 

Don’t get all up in your head about “controlling” your life. 

Reel it in, and get curious about what you can influence— inside your head and heart, and out there in the world. 

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Handling triggers is all about preparation.

A lot of staying grounded and stable has to do with preparation. 

We’re GOING to get triggered throughout the day— and a lot of those triggers are going to come from places and situations that are completely unexpected. 

If we’re going to handle those triggers, we need to have our coping thoughts and habits planned out in advance. We can’t be trying to come up with them on the spot, in the midst of a stress reaction. 

When we’re triggered, our ability to think is literally impaired. 

Triggers fire up the parts of our brain that are responsible for keeping us alive and dealing with immediate threats— and they temporarily shut down the parts of our brain that think and reason in calm, organized patterns. 

Ever wonder why our responses to triggers and crises can sometimes seem all over the map? It’s because our brain isn’t wired for nuance and high level thinking when it’s facing survival threats— it’s wired to escape the threat, come hell or high water. 

What that means is, we can’t count on reasoning our way out when we’re drowning in a emotional reactions. 

We need to give ourselves something to grasp onto BEFORE we need it. 

A big part of recovery is coming up with lists of stuff to say to ourselves and do when we’re in crisis. 

When we’re facing a craving; when we’re triggered; when we’re suddenly circling the drain, we need to have access to the words and behaviors that can keep us afloat until we can think again. 

Those words and behaviors need to be pre-planned. We can’t be trying to come up with them on the spot. 

I’m a big fan of organizing our coping thoughts, skills, and options into lists that are no more than one or two actions away. 

We can keep lists on our phone of things to say to ourselves when we start panicking or dissociating. 

We can keep lists of grounding techniques on our phone, and grounding objects, such as a totem or bracelet, in a pocket or on our body. 

We can keep folders of helpful pictures— such as nature pictures, pictures of important people, or screen shots of helpful quotes— on our phone.

The important thing is that we have access to those resources without thinking too much about it. 

It’s really important that we be realistic about what we are and aren’t able to pull off during an emotional crisis. 

When we’re triggered, we’re NOT going to be doing a lot of high-level reasoning. We’re going to be up in our head, and maybe not terribly verbal— and we’re NOT going to be inclined (or maybe even ABLE) to think in an organized way about what to do. 

We’re not ourselves when we’re triggered. 

When we’re panicked or craving or dissociative, it doesn’t matter how intelligent or capable or we are— our nervous system is short circuiting our ability to respond. 

We need to be realistic about what’s needed to get back in the driver’s seat. 

If you’ve struggled with handling triggers or cravings, you’re not alone. Everybody who deals with depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction has been in that position. 

EVERYBODY who is at risk of getting triggered or relapsing has to be prepared with lists of coping thoughts and strategies. NOBODY is “too recovered” to be prepared for an emotional emergency. 

The good news is, the more often and more effectively we cope with triggers, the easier it GETS to cope with triggers. 

But the difference between successfully handling triggers and cravings and not is very often in being prepared and realistic about them. 

Easy does it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

And marathons are all about training and managing your energy. 

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Confuse and confound “them.”

We don’t have to fit into anyone else’s “box.” 

But: they will try hard to convince us we do. 

The world wants us to be predicable and comprehensible to them. 

They want us to behave in ways they can understand, predict, and control. 

This may or may not be conducive with our happiness and growth. 

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think the world is necessarily crazy or even mean. OF COURSE we want the people around us to be understandable, predictable, and controllable. 

I’m NOT saying “the whole world is against you.” I don’t think the world cares enough about us as individuals to be either for OR against us, at least intentionally. 

What I AM saying is that the world is not necessarily INTERESTED in our growth or happiness. 

It is INTERESTED in us being a known quantity. 

Sometimes, in order to really be ourselves, we need to step outside of the world’s comfort zone. 

We’re going to have to be unpredictable to them. We’re going to have to be uncontrollable by them. Sometimes we’re going to be incomprehensible to them. 

They’re not going to like that. 

The world will often try to essentially bribe us to stay in our lane. 

The world will dangle social approval in front of us to get us to conform to what IT thinks we “should” be. 

Social approval is nice. But it’s not self-esteem. 

Our goal is to become internally directed. To not stay at the mercy of anything external. 

Yes, the approval and comfort of others matters. I’ll never tell you it doesn’t. We are social animals, and we want to form positive, durable bonds with other people. 

I don’t happen to think that loneliness is the necessary price of success or self-esteem. 

But others’ approval and comfort is not worth sacrificing our individuality or self-esteem for. 

At the end of the day, we need to live in our skin. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror. 

There are going to be moments when nobody else is around— when it’s just us, up in our head. 

During those moments, others’ approval will not matter. 

Our relationship with ourselves will be the only thing there. 

Will we be able to tell ourselves that we did everything we could to be an individual, to pursue our passions and interests, to truly be ourselves in a world that tried very hard, again and again, to get us to abandon ourselves? 

We can’t abandon ourselves and recover at the same time. 

Depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma— they all count on us bailing on ourselves. 

They count on us being disgusted by who we are, what we feel, what we need. 

If we absolutely refuse to bail on ourselves— if we refuse to squeeze ourselves into the little “box” that is preferred by “the world” so we can be understandable, predicable, and controllable— then depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma eventually run out of oxygen. 

We can starve our pain with relentless self-compassion. 

We can stare down our emotional and behavioral struggles with unwavering self-acceptance. 

It’s not easy.

The world was not constructed with us being autonomous and consistent. 

Confuse the world. 

Confound the world. 

Refuse to compromise who you are for the comfort or convenience of anyone else. 

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“Have you tried just not thinking that?”

A lot of people are going to try to “help” you by telling you you wouldn’t feel that way if you weren’t thinking those things. 

There’s even a whole therapy technique, Cognitive Therapy, that emphasizes how depression and anxiety are exacerbated by “distorted” thoughts— and advises people to replace their distorted, distress-causing thoughts with realistic, adaptive thoughts. 

The thing is, most people already KNOW it’s their thoughts that are contributing to their distress. 

This isn’t news for anyone. 

Most people who are struggling wholeheartedly agree that if they weren’t thinking what they were thinking, they probably wouldn’t feel the way they feel. 

It’s frustrating when somebody’s recommendation to feel better is basically, “think different things!” 

If only we COULD think different things on command. 

But we usually can’t. 

The truth is, we don’t select our thoughts from a platter of equally-easy-to-think options. 

We don’t look at a distorted thought and a non-distorted thought, and say, “I’ll take the distorted thought that will make me depressed and anxious, please!” 

If we’re thinking distorted thought that are causing depression and anxiety, it’s not because we’re “choosing” to think those thoughts— it’s because we’ve been CONDITIONED to think those thoughts. 

We’ve usually gotten a lot of PRACTICE thinking those thoughts. 

We’ve usually had a lot of MODELING when it comes to thinking those thoughts. 

We’ve probably even been REWARDED for thinking those thoughts. 

For that matter, thoughts don’t just occur in isolation. We don’t so much think thoughts, as we think in patterns of thoughts— and those patterns are directed by our attitudes and beliefs. 

“Just think something different!” is one thing. 

“Just BELIEVE something different!” is another thing entirely. 

When it comes to changing our patterns of thinking, it’s not one decision point that makes the difference. 

We don’t just suddenly decide “I’m no longer going to think this!”, and that’s the end of it. 

If we want to change our thought patterns, we need to recondition ourselves.

We need to recognize how and when a thought pattern is triggered— and we need to have an alternative thought pattern ready to go. 

It’s a lot of work. 

It requires a lot of self-awareness and self-discipline. 

The good news is, we CAN and DO change our thought patterns, and even our beliefs. 

Beliefs change every day. 

But for a belief or a thought pattern to change, we can’t just let it go on autopilot. 

We need to be vigilant about recognizing when it’s getting activated, and diverting our attention and self-talk into the alternative we’re trying to condition. 

We can scramble any pattern into which we’ve been conditioned. It’s as straightforward as scratching a record so it doesn’t play the same way anymore. 

It just takes more effort and strategy than “think something different!” 

Don’t stress when people oversimplify the process of changing your mind, brain, and emotions. They’re trying to help. 

Ironically, though, anybody who tells you “just think something different” probably has areas of their own life in which THEY are struggling to “think something different.” 

“Just don’t think that!” can be a type of wish-fulfillment. IF ONLY it was that simple. 

Don’t get up in your head about “thinking differently” being a one-and-done DECISION. 

Pay attention to the self-awareness and STRATEGY necessary to really change how you think. 

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What does it mean to have your own back?

We are relating to ourselves, all day, every day. 

We are the most important relationship in our own lives. 

How we relate to ourselves largely determines how we feel and function. 

We are with ourselves 24/7. We can’t NOT relate to ourselves; we are in our own head. 

The relationship we have with ourselves can be supportive and nurturing, it can be disparaging and destructive, or it can be somewhere between those extremes…but our relationship with ourself ISN’T neutral. 

Very often, when we grew up abused, neglected, or bullied, the way we were treated works its way into our relationship with ourselves. 

We didn’t learn to value ourselves when we were young, because we had no idea what it might look like TO value ourselves. 

We didn’t learn to talk to ourselves in supportive language, because we weren’t talked to in supportive language. 

We didn’t learn to be there for ourselves, because the people who should have been there for us, weren’t. 

To the contrary, if we grew up with a lot of pain and aggression in our lives, we might have learned to attack ourselves for our perceived inadequacies, and hold ourselves responsible for things we couldn’t possibly control. 

This comes out in our self talk— how we communicate to ourselves about the world, how we explain things to ourselves, how we verbally relate to ourselves. 

It comes out in our attitudes toward ourselves. 

It comes out in the behavioral choices we make— whether we choose to do things that will protect, support, and nurture ourselves, or choose to do things that will dig us into deeper and deeper emotional and behavioral holes. 

If we’re going to effectively grow and recover from depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction, we need to establish and maintain a supportive, positive relationship with ourselves. 

We need to be there for ourselves. We need to have our own back. 

What does this look like, in practical terms? 

It looks like talking to ourselves in ways that we would talk to someone we support and love, as opposed to someone we hate or are indifferent to. 

It looks like making decisions, day to day, that will enhance our health and happiness, particularly about self-care and relationships. 

It looks like setting appropriate boundaries to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, and energetically. 

Having our own back means refusing to abandon ourselves. It means refusing to talk down to ourselves. It means refusing to abuse or neglect or bully ourselves in our head. 

Being on our own side doesn’t mean we love or approve of everything we do. I’m sure there are people or animals in your life who you love, but you’re not thrilled about everything they do. 

It does mean viewing what we do in context, and giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt— much like you’d do with someone you love and who you want to see succeed. 

In order to get and stay on our own side, we often have to take a hard look at how our past has impacted the way we relate to ourselves— and that can be painful. 

Many of us don’t WANT to take a close, clear look at how what we’ve been through has affected us. 

Many of us would prefer to keep relating to ourselves in an antagonistic way rather than take on the burden of being on our own side. 

A lot of people have even been taught that to value themselves is “selfish” or “narcissistic.” 

There is nothing selfish or narcissistic about healthy, realistic self-esteem. 

When we value ourselves, we see ourselves as we are— not some imagined perfect version of ourselves that can do no wrong. 

Getting on our own side, having our own back, is a non-negotiable when it comes to recovery. 

We’re not going to recover while simultaneously attacking, shaming, and bullying ourselves. 

When we make that shift to actually valuing ourselves, though— miracles happen. 


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Keep “the world’s” feedback in perspective.

The world is going to have a lot of feedback for you about how well you “should” be doing. 

How far you “should” have come.

What progress you “should” have made— and how. 

Again and again, you’ll see the emphasis placed on what you “should” be doing that you’re not— how you’re “doing it wrong.” 

The vast majority of the feedback we seem to get from the world is about how we “should” be doing better. 

There are lots of reasons for this. 

One reason is because much of the world is out to sell us products and services that will supposedly enhance our lives. 

It’s hard to sell someone a product or a service unless they think they “should” or could be doing something better. 

So, a lot of marketing starts out trying to convince us that we’re lacking. 

Mind you, this often has nothing to do with whether or not you ARE actually lacking— but rather has EVERYTHING to do with making you FEEL like you’re lacking. 

It’s about selling you something, not giving you any kind of honest feedback about how you’re doing life. 

Another reason the world’s feedback tends to be reflexively negative is because there are a LOT of people out there in the world who view success as a zero sum game. 

They think that in order for them to be successful, it necessarily means other people HAVE to be failing. 

Thus, a lot of people get in the habit of looking at someone else’s efforts, and instead of assessing and expressing how that person is doing it RIGHT, zeroing in on the things that the person could be doing better. 

For some people, life is a constant game of one-upmanship. 

It’s something people do when they struggle with their own self-esteem. They can only feel worthy if there happens to be someone around who they can favorably compare themselves to. 

All of which is to say: you’re going to get LOTS of feedback about your “performance” out in the world— and a LOT of it is going to be negative. 

This is true NO MATTER WHAT you’re doing. 

Think of the most successful, competent public figure you can imagine. Now Google that figure combined with the search term “criticism.” I GUARANTEE you’ll find lots and lots and LOTS of people happy to point out all the ways that person is doing it wrong. 

Don’t get up in your head about what the world tells you about whether you are or aren’t “doing it right.” 

“The world” is not your judge and jury. 

You focus in on moving toward your goals, on your schedule. 

YOU know what tasks are you your plate. 

YOU know what benchmarks you have to achieve. 

YOU know the areas that you struggle with. 

All that listening to the nitpicks and criticism of “the world” will do is discourage you and distort your efforts. 

Feedback from people you trust and value is one thing. Generalized feedback from the randos out there in “the world” is another. 

Keep your focus where it belongs: just taking the next teeny, tiny step in the direction of your goals. 

We can freak out and melt down all day about the criticism of others if we let ourselves (and believe me, I’ve let myself do that a LOT). 

Freaking out and melting down never got me closer to a goal. 

When you start to feel your anxiety about others’ opinions rising, push the pause button. Take a breath. Remind yourself of who you are and what you’re all about. 

Good job. 

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Maybe it’s all BS– that is, Belief Systems.

It’s not your fault that you grew up feeling what you felt. 

When we’re kids, we don’t have any real cognizance of why we feel what we feel. We just feel it. 

When we’re kids, we assume pretty much everything is about us— including our negative feelings. 

We don’t understand that the adults in our world essentially carve out our early environment for us. 

We don’t understand that our relative size and inexperience makes us essentially helpless when we’re being controlled and manipulated. 

So we assume, when we grow up feeling bad, guilty, inadequate…that it’s our fault. 

We assume that, if we grow up feeing unloved, it’s because we’re unlovable— rather than the adult sin our environment have issues of their own. 

We assume that if we’re getting bullied at school, it’s because we’re somehow asking for it— rather than our bullies have been reinforced for destructive social behavior. 

Once we get the idea that it’s our fault stuck in our heads, that idea deepens into a belief. 

Beliefs become easier to believe, the longer we believe them. 

The longer we believe something, the more practice we get at seeking out confirmation that our belief is true— and disregarding evidence that our belief may not be true. 

That’s why the ideas we’re “given” when we’re kids are so important. 

Sometimes you hear the idea of self-esteem mocked. Some people seem to think it’s about giving kids participation trophies and making everyone feel good all the time. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Cultivating self-esteem in kids is about planting the seeds of the belief that we are capable and we are worthy. 

Seeds grow. 

Ideas become beliefs. 

Beliefs get entrenched as they are cognitively “practiced” over years and years. 

The beliefs you and I have, right here, right now, about ourselves, others, the world, the future— we believe them because we’ve practiced and reinforced them. 

Maybe they serve us, maybe they don’t. Maybe those beliefs came from reliable, realistic sources, maybe they didn’t. 

Recovering from depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction, often requires us to reevaluate things we’ve believed about ourselves for years. 

Reevaluating things we’ve believed for years is hard. It’s awkward. Our brain doesn’t like to question things it thinks it “knows.” 

But the truth is, we believe a lot of things because those were the ideas we were handed when we were young, and were repeated and reinforced…not necessarily because they are true. 

The good news is, beliefs change. 

Even deeply held beliefs can change. They change every day. 

When a belief changes within us, our world changes. 

Our assumptions change, our feelings change, the lens through which we view the world changes. 

It might be time to step away from the beliefs you were handed once upon a time.

Yup. That’s easier said than done.

But there are certain beliefs about ourselves, the world, and the future that we just can’t carry with us into recovery. 

Your default beliefs are not your fault. You were a kid. You didn’t know. 

But it truly doesn’t have to be this way inside our heads now.

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What it takes.

When we’re recovering from depression, anxiety, addiction, or trauma, we lose the luxury of not thinking about certain things. 

Working a recovery plan MAKES us think about the meaning of life. 

Recovery MAKES us think about what we want and value— and what is realistic for our lives. 

In recovery, we lose the luxury of just cruising along, unaware of what makes us tick. We HAVE to get into it if we’re going to make headway in our work. 

It’s not fair. 

I, personally, wish I didn’t have to live a life that was SO damn introspective. 

(Maybe I chose the wrong career if an unexamined life was really  my goal, but whatcha gonna do.) 

Part of what makes therapy and recovery hard specifically is that it forces us to do a lot of deep thinking, deep feeling, and deep soul searching. 

Successful recovery requires a LOT of introspection and a LOT of honesty. 

It’s a tall intellectual and emotional order. 

Really looking at our life, our motives, and our needs, is exhausting. 

Being scrupulously honest with ourselves and others every minute of every day, is exhausting. 

One of the reasons why some people relapse or give up on their recovery programs is BECAUSE it’s so exhausting. 

Most humans develop psychological defenses to keep a little bit of distance between them and the unpleasant truths of being a human. 

Defenses like denial or repression are kind of an emotional buffer to make the sharp edges of life a little easier to deal with. 

In recovery, we’re asked to give up those defenses— which means we feel life’s sharp edges a lot more painfully and a lot more often. 

It sucks. 

In order to work a recovery program, we have to decide that it’s worth it to confront everything we’re going to be asked to confront. 

We have to be realistic about the fact that some of this is going to be really hard. 

We have to understand that realistic recovery means there’s no back door, no half-assed, easy way out. 

To succeed in therapy or recovery, we’re really going to have to look at the hard stuff, we’re really going to have to accept that things are exactly as bad as they are, and we’re probably going to have to sacrifice some comforting illusions. 

We might think we’re not ready for that. 

But, often, it doesn’t matter whether we feel “ready” or not— we have a choice in front of us that has to be made, right here, right now: do I want to get better? 

The good news is: many of us are far more capable of doing hard stuff than we think. 

Many of us think we can’t handle pressure or pain— when the truth is, we’ve been handling pressure and pain for decades. 

It just hasn’t been pressure or pain that has served any productive purpose, or that we chose. 

Yes, therapy and recovery are often hard. But this time, pain has a purpose. 

The pain of recovery makes sense. It has a goal. 

And in recovery, you’re not alone in your pain. 

You’re choosing to take on something that other enormously brave people also take on, every day. 

But it’s true: when we choose recovery, we’re choosing the hard road. We’re giving up the luxury of not thinking, not feeling, not caring. 

And it’s worth it. 

Those “luxuries” are dead ends. 

As it turns out: the questions we confront in recovery are the questions that create a meaningful life. 

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