Getting real about anxiety.

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It’s useful to keep in mind that anxiety is driven by a reciprocal feedback loop between the body and the mind. 

What that means is, anxiety can be generated from both what you think and what happens in your body— and when one generates anxiety, it’s often picked up on and amplified by the other. 

We know, very well, how our thoughts can cause anxiety. Most cognitive behavioral treatments for anxiety focus on the role distorted thoughts play in creating emotional states. It’s very common that when we think in overgeneralized, catastrophized, black and white terms, anxiety will be the result. 

(I mean, it’s tough to NOT be anxious when we’re thinking things like, “this thing is horrible, which means everything is horrible and nothing exist BUT the horribleness.”) 

Most of us also know, very well, how when we think anxiety-generating thoughts, how that tends to activate our bodies. Our hearts start beating faster. Maybe we sweat. Maybe our hands tremble. Our breathing gets shallow.

That is, all of the physical symptoms we associate with anxiety tend to follow closely on the heels of an anxiety spin getting started in our heads. 

But what many of us don’t usually appreciate is how frequently this process works going the other direction as well. 

What I mean by that is, just like the mind can send anxiety coursing through the body, the body can also fire up anxiety in the mind. 

One of the primary functions of our big, evolved brains is to understand the world, both outside and inside of our skin. We see something, it’s our brains job to figure out what we’re looking at. We smell something, our brain has to figure out if it’s dinner on the grill or if the house is burning down. We feel a draft, and it’s the brain’s job to figure out if a door’s open or if the air conditioning kicked on. 

An important ongoing task of this meaning-making brain of ours is to notice and interpret signals from our body— particularly signals that something is amiss. And when we experience the physiological symptoms of anxiety, it definitely feels like something is amiss. 

The thing is, our brains sometimes don’t, actually, know what exactly is going on…so they kind of fake it. They make up a story. They generate hypotheses. 

So for example, if our heart starts pounding, if we start sweating, if our hands start shaking, if our mouth goes dry…it’s very common for our brains to be like, “Wooooaaahhh, these are anxiety symptoms…what are we to make of this? Is there something to be anxious about here?” 

And, our brains will go searching for things to explain the anxiety symptoms. That is, they will seek until they FIND something for you to be anxious about— because our brain considers it a top priority, as a matter of survival, to have SOME explanation for what is happening to our bodies, rather than none. 

So thoughts can generate anxiety in the body, and the body can generate anxiety in the mind— and when the mind is anxious, the body tends to get anxious, and when the body experiences anxiety symptoms, the mind tends to follow suit. It becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop that pings back and forth, back and forth. 

Until, that is, it’s interrupted. 

Which is the essence of both psychotherapeutic and medicinal treatment of anxiety— finding an effective point in the loop to halt that pattern in its tracks. 

Medication and some types of psychotherapy interventions seek to interrupt the pattern on the physical side of things. 

Medication, relaxation training, and breathing exercises can do things like slow down that pounding heart and relax those tensing muscles. As your body loosens up, your brain slows down its quest to find things to be anxious about. This literally gives you time to breathe, so you have the opportunity to constructively direct your brain’s activity, rather than being dragged along in its wild ride. 

Therapy largely approaches the issue from the cognitive, or thinking, side of the equation. 

Therapy interrupts the loop at the point of the thoughts, beliefs, and self-statements that are fueling the body reactions. As you learn to talk to yourself in a more realistic, productive way, and drag your thoughts away from the panicky distortions of anxiety, your body will often respond by letting its guard down. Therapy can teach you to send the “stand down” signal to your body before you wind up in a panic attack or act out to try to take some of the pressure off. 

What’s the take home message of all of this? It is simply this: don’t get sucked into trying to figure out whether anxiety lives in the body or the mind. It’s both, and they goad each other. It’s a dynamic system, not a one way street. 

Taming anxiety is all about interrupting the loop. You can interrupt at multiple points in multiple ways— but in the end it’s about scratching that record so it doesn’t play the same way anymore, either forward OR backwards. 

As usual, my core message to you is: focus on the pattern. 

We change as we change our patterns— not just our individual behaviors. 

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

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“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. 

This is why I know you– yes, YOU– can succeed in recovery.

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Your success in therapy, recovery, and life is dependent upon the development of one essential skill: directing your focus. 

Whenever anyone meaningfully recovers from anything, from addiction to PTSD to depression to any other psychological struggle, the significant thing that has shifted is that they have developed the skill of effectively directing their focus. 

In the end, why do people struggle with addiction? Because they have not yet developed the skill of directing their focus away from their cravings and toward alternative ways of getting their needs met. People recover from addiction when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there. 

In the end, why do people struggle with PTSD? Because their focus is constantly being dragged from the present and the future to the past. They recover when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there. 

In the end, why do people struggle with depression? Because their focus is constantly being dragged to the darkest, least helpful, most distorted thoughts and beliefs their brains can conjure. They recover when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there. 

EVERY type of therapy is about learning to purposefully, voluntarily shift and control focus. 

For a lot of people, this seems like the bad news. 

After all, shifting focus doesn’t seem to be as kill that comes naturally. 

We don’t WANT to have to invest all of that energy into monitoring and intentional shifting our focus. 

It’s a hassle. It’s a pain. 

We’d far, far prefer if our attention just naturally went to things the made us feel good. Just naturally avoided addictive cravings, PTSD flashbacks, and depressive crevices. 

Many people, when they realize how difficult it is to shift their focus, and that they can’t do it naturally or instinctively, get it in their heads that they are somehow “broken.” They think that “normal” people can shift focus easily and automatically, without having to learn how to do it through training or treatment. 

This is something we all desperately need to get over. As soon as we can. 

The fact is, shifting focus doesn’t come “naturally” to most people. 

Some people have had life experiences and have neural wiring that makes shifting focus an easier skill to learn than other people. That’s it. 

Regardless of how easy or difficult we find it, we ALL have to learn it. 

And the sooner we get past being angry or disappointed that we didn’t come “equipped from the factory” with this ability, the sooner we can go about actually taking control of our destinies. 

The good news: we have plenty of experience learning to control our focus.

Think about the fact that if you’ve ever held a job— EVER— you’ve learned to direct your focus, at least a little. 

Think about the fact that if you’ve successfully been potty trained— you’ve learned to direct your focus. 

Think about the fact that if you’re even reading these words— you’ve learned to direct your focus. 

The fact is, you control your focus in lots of ways, and you’ve probably done so for years. Therapy and treatment just teaches you to direct your focus in specific ways that we haven’t yet mastered. 

That’s it. 

So this essential task of therapy? You’ve mastered it. Just not in the specific domain that you need to just now. 

When you enter into therapy, when you get into treatment, as you go about your recovery journey, remember: I KNOW you can do this. And the reason I KNOW you can do this, is because I KNOW you have some practice and skill with the essential skill involved: shifting your focus. 

Don’t give up. 

Just keep drilling the basics.

Master this one skill in the specific domain with which you’re struggling. 

The only surefire way to avoid addiction.

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If you’re going to avoid addiction, you need to get good at diversification. 

Addiction happens when we get dependent upon one source to get an important need met. 

Once we become overdependent upon that one source, we lose the ability to deal with that source with realism and perspective. 

Our brains realize that, if something should happen to that source of need fulfillment, we’d be out of luck— and once our brains realize that, they begin to panic. 

Our behavior around that source of need fulfillment becomes compulsive and impulsive. 

A very common example of this phenomenon is how some people relate to food. They make food the main source of stimulation and pleasure in their lives. Once this is the case— that most, if not all, of the enjoyment in their lives comes from food—their relationship with food tends to get toxic. 

They never miss an opportunity to eat, because they don’t know when their next “hit” of eating-related pleasure will arrive. They become defensive about their eating behavior and preferences. They refuse to consider any potential changes to their eating habits, because they’ve gotten it fixed in their minds: IF I WANT ANY PLEASURE IN MY DAY, I HAVE TO EAT LIKE THIS…AND ANY CHANGE TO THIS PATTERN THREATENS MY ABILITY TO FEEL PLEASURE. 

Another example of this is in certain peoples’ patterns around friendships and romantic relationships. When a person gets it in their head that their primary, or even their exclusive, source of self-esteem is a limited number of friendships or romantic relationships, then their behavior around those relationships tends to become toxic. 

They put up with behaviors in those relationships that are disrespectful. They no longer feel free to be “themselves” in those relationships, because they’ve figured out that to be “themselves” is to risk doing something the other person may disapprove of, which would leave them bereft. They become terrified of abandonment, because they’ve gotten it fixed in their minds: IF I WANT TO EXPERIENCE SELF-ESTEEM, I HAVE TO RELATE TO THESE PEOPLE IN THESE SPECIFIC WAYS…AND ANY CHANGE TO THIS PATTERN THREATENS MY ABILITY TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF. 

This happens EVERY time we get exclusively dependent upon one or a few sources of important needs. 

Pleasure, self-esteem, money, feelings…it is ENORMOUSLY important that we cultivate numerous sources of all of these in our lives, if we’re going to avoid becoming overdependent and addicted to one or a limited number of sources. 

The main reason many people fail to give up their addictions, even in structured rehab programs, is usually because they have not diversified the sources in their lives that provide them with whatever they were getting from their drug or behavior of abuse. 

The good news is, diversifying our sources of need satisfaction usually isn’t as difficult as it might seem. 

It may be the case that it is very EASY for certain substances or people to get certain needs met in our lives. But if we’re going to diversify, we often need to accept that we’re going to have to take the less-than-easiest road to getting our needs met, at least sometimes. 

For example: it’s very EASY to feel AWESOME when you take, say, an opiate. 

But if an opiate is the ONLY way you’ve developed to feel good in your life, it is almost certain that you’ll become addicted to opiates. 

In order to keep that from happening, you need to develop numerous ways to feel good in your life. You need to diversify. The catch being, the various ways you develop to feel good will probably not be as EASY as popping an opiate. 

They will, however, save you from getting addicted. 

Similarly, it’s enormously EASY to feel good while eating chocolate. 

But if chocolate is the ONLY way you’ve developed to feel good, it’s a certainty your behavior around chocolate will get compulsive and neurotic. You’re going to become addicted. 

In order to keep that from happening, you need to develop a few non-chocolate ways to feel good in your life…but you’ll also need to accept that those ways will probably not be as EASY as chowing down on chocolate. 

Again, though: they’ll save you from getting addicted. 

Understand, diversifying isn’t necessarily a lot of fun. It’s certainly more fun, a lot of the time, to just pop the pill, eat the chocolate, call up the toxic ex, spend the day on Facebook, or whatever, than to cultivate multiple, healthy ways of feeling good. 

You know what’s even more of a drag than developing coping skills, though? 

The end consequences of addiction. 

Diversify. It’ll quite literally save your life. 

Your brain’s “emergency” scam.

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Be alert: part of you is going to try to use the concept of an “emergency” to trick you into abandoning your goals. 

It’s not a matter of “if” or “maybe” this will happen. It’s GOING to happen. 

This is how our brains work when we try to make significant changes in our lives. Part of us immediately goes to work trying to figure out an end run around the changes we’re trying to make. 

Sometimes part of us does this because, deep down, we’re sorta scared about what those changes may mean in the big picture. 

Other times part of us tries to sabotage us because the changes we’re trying to make call for us to give up immediate gratification, and we’re wired to pursue immediate gratification whenever we get the opportunity. 

Whatever the reason, one of the most effective methods this part of us tries to use to get us to abandon our goals is by shouting, “EMERGENCY!” 

Maybe you’ve put yourself on a caloric budget or changed the types of food you eat in order to improve your health. It’s almost a sure bet that, sooner or later, part of you is going to try to confound this shift by telling you you NEED to eat whatever’s in front of you right now— it’s an EMERGENCY!

“You haven’t eaten anything ALL DAY. You’ve had a really BAD DAY. There’s nothing on your diet in the house. Making those changes would be nice, but we can’t do it right now— this is an EMERGENCY!” 

Maybe you’ve decided to stop communicating with a toxic person in your life. You can bet that part of you is going to try to collapse your resolve by telling you you NEED to contact this person— it’s an EMERGENCY!

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I said I wasn’t going to call them anymore, but there’s something I forgot to ask them. There’s something I need to tell them. I just need to know how they’re doing— it’s an EMERGENCY!” 

Do actual emergencies exist? Sure, of course they do. 

Do actual emergencies usually require us to abandon our goals? Usually they do not. Usually there is a way to respond to an actual emergency while continuing to hold fast to our goals. 

Our brains pull this stunt because we have associated the word “emergency” with the idea that “all rules are suspended.” A state of “emergency” is one in which we don’t have to pay attention to the long term consequences of our behavior— by definition, in an “emergency,” we have to concern ourselves with just surviving for the moment. 

Lots of times, our “emergencies” aren’t real emergencies. Lots of times, we’re just looking for an excuse to suspend the rules we’ve imposed upon ourselves. 

Change is freaking us out, and we’re looking for a way to push the pause button. 

Let’s be clear about the fact that no one is expecting change to be easy. 

Let’s also be clear about the fact that very often we bit off more than we can actually chew when we’re trying to make changes to our lives. We go on a diet that is unreasonably restrictive. We set unreasonable standards for ourselves. We demand that we change without realistically assessing the “how” and “why” of those changes. 

If you need to reassess your goals and rules in order to successfully carry out your change program, do it.

But don’t create an imaginary “emergency” in order to push the pause button on change that’s just freaking you out.

A rise in your anxiety is not an “emergency.” 

It is what it is: an emotional fluctuation that requires regulation and response from you. 

No more, no less. 

You’re GOING to be anxious in the process of change. 

Plan for it. Expect it. Have ideas and lists ahead of time on how to cope with that anxiety when— not “if”— it arises. 

By that same token: plan for, expect, and have contingencies ready for when your brain tries to trick and sabotage you in order to keep you from changing. 

Again, it’s GOING to happen. It happens all the time. 

But your anxiety doesn’t get to choose whether you change. 

Only you do. 

The tools that GET you better, KEEP you better. Please keep using them.

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Doing the stuff we need to do to get better is tough enough. 

Change often asks us to do things that are uncomfortable, unfamiliar, unnatural. Which, of course, makes sense: if the stuff we needed to do was comfortable, familiar, and natural, then we’d be doing it already. 

Making positive change often takes us out of our comfort zone. It asks us to acknowledge our vulnerability, acknowledge that we don’t know it all, acknowledge that we didn’t come “equipped from the factory” with everything we need to know and do in order to live well. 

All of which can be hard. 

But, most of which is quite doable, provided we access the right supports and— not infrequently— swallow our pride and our preconceived notions a little in order to do the stuff. 

As it turns out, however, there’s part of getting better that might even be harder than making changes in the first place: continuing to do the stuff, even after we’ve experienced relief or made some progress. 

There is this temptation, once we’ve turned a corner, to quit doing the stuff that got us to that point of progress. 

We’re suddenly not so depressed that we can’t see straight. Or we’re suddenly thinking clearly, without the influence of psychosis or paranoia. Or our anxiety has lessened such that we can be outside our house without freaking out at passing cars or ambient noises. 

All of which makes us feel good. 

And sometimes when we feel good, we sort of forget what it’s like to feel bad. 

And when feeling bad isn’t this huge, overwhelming fear or reality, anymore, we tend to look at the tools that got us to that point— medication, therapy skills, therapy tools, external support— slightly differently. 

Whereas those tools might have been lifesavers a minute ago, sometimes they now look kind of like a burden. 

For example, if we’re suddenly no longer afraid of being crushed by our depression or burning ourselves out with mania, we’re tempted to look at our medication regimen in a new light. We find ourselves asking, are mediations REALLY something we need to function? Now that we’re feeling better, wouldn’t it be preferable to see if we can function med-free? 

Or, if we’ve used internal communication and internal leadership skills to make peace between previously warring “parts” of ourselves, sometimes we’re then tempted to look back at those very skills and think, hm, now that I’m not at war with myself anymore, is it REALLY necessary to put all this time and effort into talking to myself? Wouldn’t it be better to try to function like “normal” people do, not having to use these specialized skills? 

The temptation, once we’re feeling better, is to forget how very much we really DO need— not “needed,” NEED— those skills in order to function. 

As a rule of thumb: if a tool or skill got you better…it’s probably necessary to continue using that tool or skill to STAY better. 

Understand, that’s not necessarily to say that you’ll need to use EVERY skill or tool you’ve EVER used in your recovery indefinitely, or that you’ll continue to use those skills and tools in exactly the same way over time. 

The truth is, your needs are going to be different at different times in your recovery, so you’ll probably need to adapt the skills and tools you use to your evolving symptom picture. 

But I’ve seen lots and lots (and LOTS) of people unnecessarily backslide in their recovery because, after getting to a certain level, they’ve gotten it in their heads that they’re going to “try” to function without the tools and skills that got them there. 

At the very least: if you think you want to change how you’re managing your symptoms, it’s highly, highly advisable to sit down with EVERYONE in your support system— including your mental health providers, your primary supports, and others who might be impacted by your decisions regarding what tools and skills to keep using or stop using— and get their feedback about what you’re thinking of doing. 

I know, I know. Nobody likes to think they have to use the “crutch” of medication or therapy tools forever.

I wouldn’t, either…if I thought of them as a “crutch.” 

The thing is…usually tools and skills aren’t really a “crutch.” 

Usually they are simply the tools and skills people NEED for successful, pleasurable, productive living. 

Most tools and skills you’ll run across in your recovery from trauma or mental illness— including medication!— are simply extensions of the tools and skills any well-adjusted person learns and uses in their lifetime in order to manage life. 

If you want to stay better, please, please, PLEASE: keep using the skills and tools that GOT you better. 

Don’t just stop. 

Skills and tools that work have a tendency to KEEP working— unless they’re suddenly dropped. 

Therapy skills WILL stick with you in the long term.

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If you’re doing therapy or personal development right, you’re developing skills that will, hopefully, generalize. 

Many people get into therapy to work on a specific challenge in their lives. They might be recovering from trauma; or they might be trying to improve their functioning at work; or they might be trying to establish or improve a relationship. 

The primary skills psychotherapy teaches— reality testing, constructive self-communication, emotional regulation, and goal setting— will help you improve most situations or challenges you find yourself struggling with. They WILL help you recover from trauma, they WILL improve your functioning at work; they WILL make it possible to establish new relationships and make existing relationships better. 

That’s the good news. 

But the better news is, they will probably help you do a lot of other stuff, too. 

The reality testing skills you learn in psychotherapy, for example, will hep you ANY time you’re experiencing thoughts and fears that feel overwhelming, depressing, and anxiety-provoking. Once you learn to identify cognitive distortions and talk back to them, thus cutting their consequent emotions down to size, those skills will help you ANY time your brain tries to mess with you by making situations seem bigger and scarier and less manageable than they actually are. 

Similarly, the self-communication skills you learn in therapy will help you ANY time your brain falls back into the habit of playing “old tapes” that contain voices from the past or the world that do not serve you. Once you learn to tell the difference between your “true” voice, as opposed to voices from the past or voices from “out there,” you’ll ALWAYS be able to design and reinforce an internal script that works TOWARD your values and goals, not AGAINST them. 

As well, the emotional regulation skills you learn in therapy will serve you ANY time you feel as if what you’re feeling is out of proportion to what you can handle. Once you learn how to change your breathing, change your focus, and manipulate your brain waves and central nervous system so that your limbic system is no longer running the show, you’ll NEVER AGAIN be one of those people who is ruled by their feeling states as opposed to their goals and values. 

And it goes without saying the the goal setting skills you develop that enable you and your therapist to actually carry out your therapy plan will be useful to you ANY time you’re faced with a multiple-stage, long term process. Once you learn how to set realistic intermediate goals and stay focused on achieving milestones you can easily visualize and accomplish, no goal will EVER AGAIN feel like it’s outside of your grasp. 

If you’re doing therapy right, you’re not just hacking away at or solving one particular problem. 

If you’re doing therapy right, you’re learning a new way of being in the world— and a new way to approach problems and life challenges generally that will stay with you for the rest of your life. 

It’s a pattern with several of my longer-term patients that they came to me for help with a specific area of their lives. My area of therapeutic expertise used to be serious postrauamtic and dissociative disorders, so many of my first patients came to me because they were struggling with serious dissociative symptoms (up to and including Dissociative Identity Disorder, the condition that we used to call Multiple Personalities ) and/or serious self-injurious or suicidal ideation. 

So we set about solving those problems with the tools I emphasize in therapy: reality testing, self-communication, emotional regulation, and goal-setting. And, because therapy works (and my patients work really, really hard), they got better. I’m proud to say that I have a very positive track record when it comes to the recovery rate of the trauma patents with whom I’ve worked— mostly because of their hard work and perseverance in therapy. 

But then, after they’d recovered from their post traumatic crises, something interesting tended to happen: life went on. 

My patients went on to do other things with their lives, rather than be professional victims. Several got married. Several went on to get graduate degrees and jobs in their fields. People who thought their lives were effectively at an end went out in the world and designed the “second acts” of their lives, and it was a beautiful thing. 

But, as often happens when life goals on: challenges popped up. Sometimes they were challenges that were related to their previous life circumstances; most often, they were brand new challenges related to life, health, finances, or something else. 

The thing is: because they had worked so hard to develop reality testing, self-communication, emotional regulation, and goal-setting skills, these patients were in a much, much better position to handle these new challenges than they would have otherwise been. 

In fact, in every instance in which I’m aware, my patients have NOT had to develop entirely new tool boxes to deal with their new life challenges. In most every case, they’ve used variants of the very same tools and skills that they used to recover from trauma, to make their new lives work. 

That’s why I can’t emphasize enough: therapy isn’t just for fixing specific problems. 

Therapy is for learning how to fix problems and live life, period. 

Keep this in mind when you’re discouraged by how difficult it is to develop the tools and skills of therapy. 

You’re developing tools and skills that will serve you for the rest of your LIFE.