Turns out: even badass warriors want to be held sometimes.

It’s very possible to be both very independent, by conscious, intentional choice— and also be lonely. 

When we’ve had complicated or painful experiences with other people throughout our lifetimes, we very often spend a LOT of time and energy trying to become as self-sufficient as possible. 

It makes perfect sense that we’d highly value independence, given what a lot of us grew up with. 

The more independent we are, the less opportunities there might be for others to disappoint or exploit us. 

A lot of us learned early on that even well-intended others can very often let us down. 

Many of the people reading this are quite proud of how far they’ve come in not NEEDING other people. 

Cultivating independence, for a lot of people, has reduced their anxiety and enhanced their self-esteem. 

And for a lot of people reading this, cultivating independence wasn’t easy, either— they had to fight, tooth and nail, to extract themselves from codependent or exploitative relationships, some of which they’d been trapped in for years. 

I think there are a lot of great tings that can be said about becoming more and more confident about our ability to survive and thrive without depending on others. 

The thing is: even if independence has been good for us in many ways…many of us still feel lonely. 

In some ways, connecting with others is about survival and logistical support, and we can largely lean to survive and take care of ourselves on our own if we choose. 

But in other ways, connecting with other people is about certain experiences that we CAN’T have solely on our own. 

There is something special that happens when we are truly seen or understood by someone else. 

There is something special that happens when we are held by someone we trust. 

There is something special that happens when someone else emotionally invests in our life and journey. 

These aren’t issues of survival, per se— at least, not physical survival. 

Even if we’ve spent a GREAT DEAL of time, energy, and focus becoming as independent as we possibly can…we can still miss and yearn for those experiences of closeness and visibility that come from connecting with others. 

Being lonely doesn’t mean you can’t survive or thrive on your own. 

Craving safe, chosen physical touch from someone you trust doesn’t mean you’re longing for codependency. 

We can make room for our emotional wants and needs. They are, as it turns out, as real and important as our physical wants and needs. 

Wanting to be seen, understood, and cared about doesn’t make you any less strong or independent. 

It means you’re human, with normal human wiring. 

We don’t do ourselves any favors when we deny or disown what we want and need— even if it’s not entirely congruent with the life we’ve built. 

We’re complex. We can let ourselves be complex. We can let ourselves have competing, even sometimes seemingly contradictory, wants. 

Yup, you’re strong, independent, badass. 

And, yup, you’re lonely sometimes. You want to be seen. Held. 

Both can be true. 

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Maybe you ARE “more intense” than “normal.” And maybe that’s “awesome.”

Our anxiety doesn’t care if we think it’s “stupid.” 

Our anxiety doesn’t care if we think we “should’t” be anxious. 

We need to manage the anxiety we have— not the anxiety we wish we had (or didn’t have). 

Lots of us grow up learning to call our anxiety names. “Stupid.” “Excessive.” “Silly.” 

It’s not very nice, when you think about it— because our anxiety’s not out to torture us, even if its effects can FEEL like torture sometimes. 

Our anxiety stems from a part of us trying to keep us safe or perform well. 

We get anxious partly because we care about things. We care about how we’re perceived, how we perform, what will happen next. 

Calling our anxiety stupid is like saying it’s stupid to care. Which it’s not. 

I KNOW there’s a subset of people who read that last sentence and immediately said, “BUT IT’S STUPID TO CARE THIS MUCH!” 

Says who? 

I’m personally not a fan of shaming ourselves for our own passion or intensity. 

Many people who are highly anxious are also incredibly passionate, invested, and focused. Their anxiety is an almost inevitable byproduct of their intensity. 

I don’t think intensity is a bad thing. I sure hope it’s not, because I’m plenty intense. 

It’s not wrong or foolish to care about things— even intensely. 

We do have to be realistic about managing the feelings that COME with intensity— including anxiety— but intensity and passion can be extremely useful in creating a life worth living. 

Lots of people reading this have probably been shamed for their intensity. 

They’ve been told they go “overboard.” They’ve been called “high strung.” They’ve been made to feel their passion is “childish.” 

I hate when people are shamed for their intensity (even when it’s themselves who are doing the shaming). 

I’ve met so many people who think they’re “too much.” 

I’ve met so many people who think they need to “reel it in” or hide parts of themselves to be acceptable to other people. 

I’ve met people who are blazing comets who were made to streak across the sky— but who have been made to feel like they have to pretend they’re low-watt, energy efficient bulbs. 

If I’m describing you, I’m so sorry you’ve been made to feel that way. 

The truth is, your intensity is a virtue. 

It has to be realistically handled so you don’t burn yourself out or burn the people who come into your gravitational field— which is a lesson I had to learn the hard way— but you can LEARN to manage your intensity and passion. 

I did. And if I can, anyone can. 

It’s ironic that so many people have been conditioned to hate those things hat make them unique— because things that make us unique also make us different. And people around us don’t always handle “different” all that well, do they? 

Coming back to anxiety, though: your anxiety is not “stupid.” 

It may be the byproduct of how you perceive and process the world, and you may need to make some adjustments on what you focus on and how you talk to yourself to manage your anxiety in every day situations— but that’s a habit, a skill. You can learn that. 

You can learn to manage your intensity and passion so they work FOR you, not against you. 

Don’t listen to those who want to call you immature for being intense, passionate, or even anxious. 

And don’t get on your own case about your “stupid” anxiety. 

Your anxiety may actually be a reflection of one of your very best qualities. 

Everybody I’ve ever loved has been more-intense-than-normal. 

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Boundary setting in the real world.

In the real world, what does setting boundaries look like? 

It’s often less dramatic than you think. 

Most often, setting boundaries in the real world is some version of, “don’t talk to me/treat me like that.” 

There are things we can and can’t tolerate in relationships, and still maintain a reasonable sense of personal safety and self-respect. 

One of the reasons boundaries exist is to keep some distance between us and people or behaviors that could potentially harm us. 

If there is a person in your life who is habitually reckless and dismissive of your personal safety, for example, someone who drives distracted or intoxicated, a realistic safety-focused boundary might be, you’re not getting into a car with them. 

If there is a person in your life who becomes unpredictable or unstable under the influence of substances, a realistic safety-focused boundary might be that you’re not spending time around them when they’re using. 

Self-respect centered boundaries focus on respectful and appropriate interpersonal behavior. 

If you have a person in your life who typically treats you with withering sarcasm or mockery, a self-respect-centered boundary might be to communicate to them that they are not to talk to you that way. 

If you have a person indoor life who typically disregards your needs and preferences in decisions that affect you, a self-respect-centered boundary might be, they need to solicit your input and take it seriously if they want to continue in whatever relationship they have with you. 

When you set a boundary, the other person always has a choice: to respect that boundary or not. 

When somebody else chooses not to respect your boundary, you then have a choice: whether to continue in the relationship or not. 

I don’t at all mean to be cavalier about the ending of relationships. Often the boundary-setting situations with which we most struggle involve people with whom we have longstanding, entrenched, complicated relationships that are not easily changed or ended. 

I also don’t mean to suggest that every boundary violation is an automatic dealbreaker when it comes to continuing a relationship with somebody. It’s up to you how many chances to give somebody, or how seriously to take their violation of your boundary. 

Here’s the thing, though: if there are no consequences to violating a boundary, there’s no reason for somebody prone to violating your boundaries to change their behavior. 

In the end, it’s up to us to decide that our boundaries are important enough to enforce. 

Enforcing boundaries is often anxiety-provoking, messy, and awkward. 

We can often feel guilty when enforcing a boundary. 

You don’t need to feel guilty for setting boundaries that help protect your personal safety or your self-respect. 

Both your personal safety and your self-respect are worth protecting. 

Both your personal safety and your self-respect are more important than somebody else’s hurt feelings. 

There will ABSOLUTELY be people whose feelings will be hurt that we feel we need to set boundaries. 

That bad driver doesn’t want to think they’re a bad driver or they make you feel unsafe. That substance abuser doesn’t want to think their problem is that bad. That person who is “fluent in sarcasm” thinks they’re just being themselves, and they’re probably annoyed with you for not rolling with it. 

But constantly sacrificing our boundaries to other peoples’ preferences and comfort zones will quickly decimate our self-esteem. 

And it’s really, really hard to build a life worth living when we’re constantly punking out on ourselves, giving up our boundaries, treating our personal safety and self-respect as unimportant. 

Setting boundaries gets easier with practice. 

Tolerating the guilt and anxiety that goes with setting boundaries will get easier. 

And as you get and stay in the habit of setting appropriate boundaries, your self-esteem will rise— which will make a whole LOT of self-care behaviors a whole LOT easier. 

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Feeling bad doesn’t make you “bad.”

Sometimes it can be really hard to separate “I feel bad” from “I am bad.” 

Our culture often has very specific feelings about people who struggle emotionally or behaviorally. 

Emotional pain is seen by some as a sign of weakness. 

Struggling to manage our behavior is seen by some as lack of character. 

Often there is a superficial acknowledgment that emotional or behavioral struggles are “not your fault,” and people are encouraged to seek help when they need help…but just under the surface, it’s hard for many people to shake their belief that peoples’ emotional pain or behavioral problems are largely self-inflicted. 

People are often told to “choose’ to be happier. 

People are often told to “choose” to be more productive. 

And if people struggle to be happy or productive, it’s often assumed that they’ve been somehow doing life “wrong.” 

These attitudes are sometimes even held by people who should very much know better. 

And very often these attitudes sink into our own head and heart— leaving us with the conviction that we, ourselves, are “bad” because we struggle to be happy and productive. 

You are not “weak” because your brain isn’t wired to hang on to states of focus or happiness. 

You don’t lack “character” if you struggle to manage your behavior. 

The truth is, emotional and behavioral problems are usually complex and multi determined. 

That is: there are a LOT of things that feed into our difficulty getting and staying happy, and our difficulty managing or changing behavior— and many of those things are out of our control or awareness. 

It’s true that, in therapy and recovery, we can learn how to make personal happiness and productivity more likely for us— and because we can do things to be happier and more effective, some people leap to the conclusion that the only reason we WEREN’T those things in the first place is because we were making poor choices. 

It’s just not that simple. 

Genetics plays a big role. Our early home environment and our relationships with our early caretakers play a big role. Our peer group growing up plays a big role. A LOT of that is out of our hands. 

You are not “bad” just because you feel bad. 

We are not defined by things that happen TO us. 

It’s really important, in the course of therapy and recovery, that we constantly remember that we are not how we feel. 

Many of us experience mental and behavioral symptoms that can be overwhelming at times. 

But we are more than our symptoms. 

We’re more than the diagnosis that DESCRIBES our symptoms. 

Our most important characteristics, as people, are things we freely choose— not things that are handed to us by our genetics or early environment, and not choices where we feel we don’t have true options. 

There are AMAZING people who have struggled with their feelings and behavior. 

Kind people. Smart people. People who have made profound, lasting contributions to the world. People who have made the lives of the people around them significantly better. 

Don’t get sucked into thinking that you are broken or “bad” because you feel bad. 

In addition to the fact that it’s not true, the observation simply isn’t very useful. It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t explain anything. 

Recovery isn’t about becoming a “better person.” 

It’s about learning and strengthening certain skills, gathering certain tools, and accessing certain supports. 

You are a perfectly good person just as you are. You, there, reading this. 

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

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Kids are not adults. Even “old souls.”

Lots of people reading this were told they were “old souls” when they were kids. 

They were told they didn’t ACT like children. They were so much more mature. 

For a lot of us, it made us feel special. After all, when we’re kids, we really WANT to be more grown up, don’t we? A lot of us do, anyway. 

When we’re kids, we’re often reinforced for acting like grown ups. For reining in our big reactions. For using big words. For attempting to interact with adults like we, ourselves, were adults. 

Sometimes the adults around us thought it was cute or endearing. 

But some of the adults around us kind of let themselves forget that, no matter how grown up we acted or seemed, we were still kids. 

Some adults used the fact that we did’t seem like kids as an invitation or an excuse to relate to us in ways that adults shouldn’t relate to kids. 

No matter how mature a child is, kids are not wired to relate to adults in ways that adults should only relate to other adults. 

Kids are not psychologically or physiologically wired to engage with adults romantically or sexually. 

Kids are not wired to replace adults in family constellations. 

Kids are not wired to take on the emotional or relational burdens that adults take on in relationships. 

Kids cannot consent to adult roles and responsibilities in relationships with adults— even if a precocious kid says they can or they want to. 

There is a subset of adults who don’t understand or agree with this. 

They truly think that if a kid seems okay with something, or if a kid is resilient enough to endure something, then what’s the problem? 

Because a kid is resilient, because a kid has seemed to “grow up fast,” because a kid seems so much more like an adult than other kids their age, does not mean they’re ready or capable to “be” an adult in relationships. 

You should not have been put in that position. 

And it’s not your fault that you were put in that position— even if you went out of your way to act like an adult. 

Adults are responsible for understanding that kids are not— and cannot be— adults.

Adults are responsible for seeing past what a mature-for-their-age kid looks like or how a kid with an “old soul” acts— and remembering that children are children. 

It was not on you to remind the adults around you that you were just a kid. 

It was on them to understand and remember it. 

If the adults around you did not respect the fact that you were a kid, it’s likely you were put in positions you never should have been put in. 

That’s not your fault. 

Now that we’re adults, we have to sort through the ways our childhoods were not respected— and I don’t mean the “magic” of an “ideal” childhood. 

I mean adults around us who understood what kids need and what kids can and cannot do. 

I mean adults who did not push you into adult situations or roles for their own reasons. 

I mean adults who cared about you not being put into situations that you were not psychologically or physically equipped to handle. 

This is not about treating children with kid gloves. 

This is about treating children like children. 

You shouldn’t have had to worry about the adults around you forgetting or not respecting the fact that you were a child. 

It’s not your fault. 

Really. 

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Navigating “those” family relationships.

It’s not a character weakness in you, that certain people are able to push your buttons. 

We all have people in our lives who can push our buttons. 

Not coincidentally, they’re often the same people who installed those buttons in the first place. 

When we have complicated or painful relationships with certain family members, interacting with them can very much push our buttons. 

It doesn’t take too much to do it, either. 

Sometimes we think we can interact with certain family members and be “okay,’ because it’s not supposed to be a particularly emotional or deep conversation. 

Then, we’re surprised to find that we want to cry, minutes into the conversation. 

It’s not so much that whatever you were talking about was all that emotional or difficult in itself. 

It’s that interacting with certain people triggers certain memories and certain patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting from years past. 

It’s amazing how easy it is to slip back into some of those old patterns. 

If we’re going to interact with family members with whom we have a complicated or painful history (or a complicated or painful present relationship), we have to be realistic about what’s likely to happen for us emotionally. 

It’s likely we’re going to get triggered. 

It’s likely we’ll be pulled back into old patterns— either a little or a lot. 

If our history with that person involves trauma or abuse, it’s likely that dissociative defenses might kick in, making it hard to stay oriented to where, when, and who we are. 

If we’ve struggled to cope with the trauma stemming from a relationship over years, it’s possible that interacting with certain people might trigger urges to harm ourselves or engage in self-defeating behaviors. 

None of that is about “weakness.” 

It’s about hour our nervous system reacts when it gets exposed to relationships that it has identified (often correctly so!) as dangerous. 

That doesn’t mean we can NEVER talk to certain people again— though I do think we have to devote a lot of realistic thought to whether certain relationships are worth continuing or resurrecting. 

It does, however, mean that we have to take reasonable precautions. 

I’ve injured myself running. It doesn’t mean I don’t get to run anymore. It means I have to wear a knee brace. Maybe some cushioning insoles. It means I have to change my running form to compensate for my injuries and avoid new injuries. 

The most important thing we can do when we are interacting with triggering family members is pay attention. 

Pay attention to how we feel— both in our mind and in our body. 

Pay attention to the images that are passing across our mental movie screens. 

Pay attention to the urges that are showing up. 

Pay attention to how and where our body is getting tense. 

And, it’s really, really important we provide ourselves with SOME means of escape from the conversation or interaction— and that we give ourselves emphatic permission to TAKE that escape route if we need to. 

If we don’t give our nervous system a realistic escape route from a dangerous interaction, it will create its own escape route via dissociation— and we won’t be able to control that escape plan, even if it creates different kinds of danger for us. 

Overall, now that you’re not “weak.” You’re not “immature.” You’re normal, and you’re trying to cope with what most people experience as a very difficult, painful situation. 

Cut yourself some slack. 

Give yourself some options. 

And, whatever happens: be cool to yourself and have your own back. 

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You and your anxiety: a love story?

Sometimes our anxiety is so used to playing tug of war with us, it takes awhile to convince it that it can drop the rope. 

Our anxiety pesters us because it TRULY thinks it has important information for us. 

Important information about what, it’s never quite sure. But our anxiety’s pretty convinced of how important is the stuff it wants us to know. 

We often have anxiety because a part of us really, really thinks we have to be aware of something. 

That part of us is often trying to protect us— to keep us safe. 

The part of us that is constantly ratcheting up anxiety might truly think that if it calmed down and DIDN’T torture us with anxiety, we would let our guard down…and that would be bad. 

We might not be ready to defend ourselves. We might get hurt. 

One of the physiological consequences of anxiety is, we feel that we are CONSTANTLY in fight or flight mode. Very often anxiety spikes our physical reactivity such that we CONSTANTLY feel on edge. 

That part of us thinks we NEED to be on edge. 

That part of us thinks that if we AREN’T on edge, we’re going to be hurt or worse. 

It’s not enough to tell this part of us that we’re safe— that we’re not in danger right now. The part of us that governs our anxiety simply doesn’t believe us. 

In fact, if we respond to that part of us screaming “WE’RE IN DANGER” with “SHUT UP NO WE’RE NOT,” that part ISN’T likely to say, “Oh…you’re right, my bad.” 

Rather, that part is likely to ratchet up our anxiety even more. Because OBVIOUSLY we haven’t gotten the message. 

If we’re gonna lower our anxiety so we can function, we can’t be constantly getting in a tug of war with the part of us that thinks we NEED to be anxious in order to be safe. 

We have to learn to work WITH that part of ourselves, not against it. 

We have to learn to listen to that part of ourselves in such a way that it actually feels heard. 

We have to learn to think of that part of ourselves as an advisor— maybe an advisor that’s a little biased and a little overzealous, but whose heart is in the right place and who does, in fairness, sometimes have a point. 

If we want our anxiety to leave us alone enough to function, it has to trust us. 

It has to trust that we will not take its advice or priorities for granted. 

It has to trust that we are doing what we need to do to be as safe as possible out there in the world. 

It has to trust that it doesn’t need to dominate our thinking and physiology for us to pay attention to it. 

I know, I know. We often don’t feel we have time to do stuff like self-talk and internal communication. 

But the truth is, if we don’t communicate effectively with ourselves— especially that part of us that spikes our anxiety— it’s going to be far more hassle and pain in the long run than just doing the self talk and internal communication. 

We can talk to ourselves in a journal. We can talk to ourselves in meditation. Sometimes effective internal communication can even be found in expressive arts like painting. 

The important thing that we actually LISTEN. 

Our anxiety WILL pester us until we acknowledge it. 

And the thing is, it SHOULD— because its point of view is valid. Maybe a little exaggerated because of our past experiences, but the truth is, we SHOULD pay attention to how safe we are in the world. 

Listen to yourself. Communicate with yourself. Invite all the parts of yourself, of which you are aware, to sit down at the table with you. 

Even the parts that are kind of a pain in the ass sometimes. 

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Movie magic in your mind.

Visualization is not about magic. 

It’s not about imagining that the things we see in our mind, are going to appear in reality through the power of our thoughts. 

It seems a lot of people who are interested in serious coping skills, kind of discount visualization, because it has a reputation as being somewhat oversold as magical or mystical in various self-improvement traditions. 

There are absolutely traditions that believe, literally, that the things we see in our mind’s eye, take shape in the external world. That our thoughts literally, physically create our reality. 

I have no idea if that’s true or not. I know that the “science” cited by some people who teach this, who often invoke terms like “quantum physics” to back up their assertion, has been publicly questioned and debunked by people who would actually know. 

I also know that concepts such as the Law of Attraction have been HEAVILY marketed to people who are enthusiastic about self improvement, and visualization is often taught as one of the core techniques of “harnessing” the Law of Attraction. 

All of that is above my pay grade. I’m not a quantum physicist or a metaphysician. I can’t tell you if your thoughts literally create your reality. 

As a psychologist, though, I CAN tell you that what we see on the movie screen in our mind, ABSOLUTELY impacts our mood, our motivation, our self-confidence, and our behavior. 

From a psychological point of view, visualization is not about magic. It’s about attention and self-concept. 

Movies are made the way they’re made because the people who make movies want us to think about certain things, believe certain things, and feel a certain kind of way. 

Movies are made to manipulate our attention and our emotions. 

To do this, movies choose what we’re gonna see, how we’re gonna see it, how bright or dark the image is, how loud or quiet a scene is, which characters get screen time, which characters get sympathetic portrayals…and that’s to say nothing of the music that’s always playing in the background. 

Movies are really good at getting us to feel exactly what they want us to feel. 

The same processes that make movies so emotionally effective, happens in our head. All day. 

We’re telling stories to ourselves all day. We’re paying attention to certain characters. We’re looking at and remembering things from certain angles. 

And we’re very often choosing music to go along with our narratives. 

A well made movie can be inspirational— or horrifying, depending on the goal of the director. 

Very often we have let OTHER people direct the movies that play in our head. 

People who may or may not share our goals or values. 

The skill of visualization is just about becoming the director of the movies that play in our head. No more, no less— and no magic. 

We can influence how we remember certain events. 

We can influence how we expect future events to occur. 

We can turn the brightness up. We can turn the volume down. We can flip from black and white to technicolor. 

It takes attention and practice, and it’s often very helpful to have coaching. But we are NOT at the mercy of how our brain chooses to remember something, and we’re NOT at the mercy of our brain’s default interoperation of our narratives.

Many of us have been told that we are basically helpless to influence how we experience the world. Most of the time we’re told that by people who very much want us to think that we CAN’T influence what we think, what we feel, or how we function, so THEY can exert more influence over us. 

We are not helpless. 

We are not masters of the universe, either. 

We have exactly as much influence over the movies that play in our head as we do— and, as it turns out, with practice, the skill of visualization can be dramatically improved. 

That’s why reading books can be so essential in recovery. 

Books get the machinery of our imagination turning again. Books kick open the door to different ways of constructing our narratives. Books free us from the perspectives we grew up with and remind us that WE can direct the movies in our mind. 

Yes, visualization can be oversold— just like any potential skill. 

Don’t toss it out. Take it and use it for the straightforward emotional management skill it can be. 

And practice, practice, practice. 

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It’s head, body, AND gut, not head OR body OR gut.

Listen to your gut, listen to your body. They have things to tell us that our brain can’t quite put into words. 

But remember, too: your gut and your body are meant to work together WITH your head…and sometimes any of the three can be manipulated. 

One of the reasons it’s important to check in with all three is BECAUSE any of the three can be manipulated. 

Checking in with your gut, your body, and your head can alert you to when something’s wonky with one or more of the other two. 

There have been times my body has tried to BS me. I run marathons. My body has told me PLENTY of times that I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT RUN ANOTHER STEP, that my legs are GONIG TO FALL RIGHT OFF. 

But my body was wrong in those moments. Turned out I just needed to slow my pace, hydrate a little, breathe correctly, and what do you know: there were a LOT of miles left in my legs. 

There have been times my head has tried to BS me. Sometimes something will shift, even slightly, in a relationship, and my brain will FLOOD me with thoughts about how this person no longer likes me, how this person is now mad at me, how the relationship is now OVER. 

But my brain was wrong in those moments. When I checked in with the other person, it turns out they had something else on their mind, that didn’t involve me at all. 

There have been times my gut instincts have tried to BS me. Some nights my gut will tell me something’s just not quite right out there, and what I really need to do is take my substance of abuse, that’ll make me feel better, that’ll make the WORLD feel better. 

But my gut was wrong in those in those moments. Turns out my addiction had manipulated my gut into trying to pull me into relapse. What I actually needed in that moment was to  ignore my gut (which was, at the moment, SCREAMING that I ABSOLUTELY NEEDED TO USE in those moments)— and the urge to relapse passed. 

The point is NOT that we “can’t trust” our head, our body, or our gut instincts. 

The point is that none of these systems are meant to function on their own. 

We’re not supposed to make decisions JUST with our head, or with our gut, or by listening to our body. 

I HATE when I see people encouraging others to ignore their head and “listen to their gut.” I HATE when I see people encouraging others to block out their body’s signals and go with what they “know” is true. I HATE when I see people encouraging others to “think, don’t feel.” 

I want us listening to each of these systems— and using each of these systems to conceptualize and reality check the others. 

A LOT of recover is about tuning back into ourselves. 

Depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma— they have a way of isolating ourselves, from ourselves. 

If we get into the habit of listening to one part of ourselves, but ignoring other parts of ourselves, we’re reinforcing that isolation. 

We’re not gonna heal while denying and disowning important aspects of who we are. 

We’re not gonna integrate by throwing up walls between parts of ourselves, between intellect and instinct, between body and mind. 

All of you is in recovery: head, body, gut. 

They’ve all taken hits, and they’re all in need of healing. 

Part of coming back to ourselves means learning to tune in to our head, body, and gut— and also to recognize when those systems are more or less trustworthy. 

There’s ABSOLUTELY wisdom in every dimension of who we are. 

But we humans are integrative, multidimensional creatures. 

The more we remember that, the more effectively we heal, the better we feel, and the better we function. 

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Recovery has levels.

What we need to feel and function better is often a little more complicated— and sometimes even contradictory— than we’d prefer. 

I know I, at least, would prefer that my struggles all fit neatly within one or two categories, so I could choose the most straightforward plan of action to deal with them, and not have to worry about, you know, all these NUANCES. 

Alas, nuances exist. 

Most of us have challenges that exist on multiple levels— and we have to figure out how to address them on multiple levels. 

Taking myself as an example: one level on which I struggle is my attention difficulties. I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, inattentive subtype, and so one of the levels on which I have to center my recovery is the fact that I struggle to follow through on tasks, I struggle with planning and thinking ahead, I don’t instinctively manage time well, and I often struggle to prioritize things when they’re not sufficiently stimulating. 

All that, in itself, could be the focus of an entire treatment plan. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

I also have a history of having been abused. This fuels issues with self-esteem and self-image, as well as difficulties with trust, boundaries, and intimacy— not to mention strong impulses toward self-destructive behavior when those symptoms are particularly inflamed. 

Again— enough there to build an entire treatment plan around. BUT WAIT!

On top of those struggles, I struggle with depression, which is probably fed by my genes, my biochemistry, and my history. 

Oh, and on top of THAT, over the years I developed chaotic patterns of addiction behavior that seemed to overwhelm anything ELSE I happened to be struggling with or trying to manage at the time. 

An effective recovery plan for ME needs to address, in some way, all of those areas: attention, trauma, mood, addiction. 

While entwined in multiple ways, those are four distinct levels on which a recovery plan needs to touch— or else the neglected levels will likely undermine the levels that ARE addressed. 

Thing is: I’m not particularly unusual. 

MOST of us have some variant of the situation I’ve just described: For most of us, our challenges exist on multiple levels, and need multiple types of interventions. 

We can’t just decide we’re going to ignore a major chunk of what’s f*cking up our life, and hope for the best. 

We need to be realistic. Our problems are usually more complex than we want to admit. I know mine are. 

It can be intimidating. It can be disheartening. Who wants to admit that they have complicated problems? 

The good news is: by getting clear about the various levels on which we struggle, we can actually design a recovery plan that has a chance in hell of working for us. 

Our complex problems will exist on all the levels they exist, whether we acknowledge their complexity or not. 

The only question is whether we’re gonna give ourselves a fighting chance to actually solve ‘em, or whether we’re going to let them get bigger and hairier by refusing to acknowledge they exist. 

We actually don’t have anything to fear by acknowledging how complicated our problems are. 

After all, for as complicated as they are: we’re managing them, somehow, some way, right now. 

The ONLY thing acknowledging our problems— complete with all their contradictions and complexity— will do is help us get clearer on what we need. 

I know for YEARS I tried to solve my addiction problem— while not realizing that I wasn’t gonna touch it without addressing my attention problem. 

For YEARS I tried to solve my depression problem— without realizing that it had a lot to do with the abuse stuff I wasn’t interested in looking at. 

By actually looking at our stuff and identifying their various levels, we can finally, FINALLY start to craft a life plan that WORKS. 

And we don’t have to deal with the anxiety of knowing we’re shoving part of our struggle in the closet— where it’s probably doing nothing but getting bigger, more painful, and less manageable, the longer we leave it there in the dark. 

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