Saturday, November 7, 2009

Applying Recovery

One message I have heard at my Recovery meeting lately (or that has caught my attention) is that “You can’t think your way out of a problem.” During the past six months I’ve learned a lot about Recovery, but knowledge isn’t enough—applying the method is what really counts. As Dr. Low said,

“Understanding alone will not help and has not helped any patient that has developed a long-term nervous problem. The only thing that will help the patient is training, persistent training.” (1)

This means “moving the muscles.” For example, for a long time I feared that my car’s lights (headlights or dome light) were on, so I would constantly look back after arriving at my destination to reassure myself that my battery was not being drained. Sure, I could have told myself that “feelings are not facts,” that “anticipation is usually worse than realization,” that a dead battery would be a triviality, but all of these tools wouldn’t have done any good if I sabotaged my efforts by looking back at the car. I needed to apply the method, not just think about it.

I’ve struggled with doing this with insecure thoughts. Although I continually do things that make me anxious, the nervous feelings have not disappeared, despite my refusal to let anxiety drive my behavior. I believe Dr. Low would tell me that I’m still associating danger with these activities, and as long as I do that I will continue to feel tense—and thus have symptoms. So I’m still struggling with how to apply the method to decrease insecure thoughts while not trying to think myself out of this problem. From what I’ve learned about Recovery so far, I think the answer is to continue to “do the things I fear and hate to do,” think of secure thoughts, and challenge myself to apply the method whenever possible. And, of course, I should lower my expectations: These problems did not develop overnight, and they won’t go away that quickly either. In fact, I do recognize the small gains and by taking the total view I see just how much my life has indeed improved since joining Recovery. This is an endorsable moment!

1. Low AA. Manage Your Anger, Manage Your Fears: A Psychiatrist Speaks. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1995.


Anonymous said...

Your post is thoughtful and insightful, Doug. I especially like your realistic attitude about how long it might take. I wonder if you may have changed more than you're aware of? Some people (not necessarily in RI--though it's an "objectivity" tool) rate their anxiety levels (or lowered feelings or whatever troubles them most) every day. This can get us away from black-and-white thinking (wonder what the RI spotting is for that-total view?). Thanks for your posting!

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