The corners of recovery
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Fran Roberts BSc PGDip MBACP
18th August, 20160 Comments
What does ‘corners of recovery’ mean? During recovery there are always different stages, denial, guilt, anger, sadness, acceptance and many more. These have been well documented but what is heard in session again and again are the stages between the stages. When you are feeling sad and you transition to anger, what happens? When you are coming to the end of the recovery and moving towards acceptance, what happens?
What is heard is a variety of uncomfortable experiences and feelings. People say, ‘I am so bored of myself right now. I am always sad.’ Or ‘I’ll never meet anyone ever again. I had my chance and I blew it. It’s too late.’
What these statements say to me are that you are about to turn a corner. You are moving from one stage of recovery to the next. And the only way this can happen is if you no longer need to be in the present stage. The only way to know this is if you feel it but the thoughts that come with these feelings aren’t always helpful. Psychologically we know that we have finished with the stage we are in and the only way we can let ourselves know this is by changing how that stage feels by throwing in feelings that make the stage feel uncomfortable. Because the feeling is uncomfortable we assume it’s bad or our mind does. Something is changing and we do not recognise it, it’s a new experience. It is taking us away from what we are used to, even if that place is uncomfortable.
At this point it’s easy to get stuck. We believe what our mind is telling us and often this is that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t strong enough to move on. We listen to the thoughts and we agree with them because they have feelings attached. That means they must be true.
But what seems to happen again and again is that we believe the thoughts and we stop. We stop our progress and we start to ruminate on why. ‘Why am I not good enough, strong enough, desirable enough?’ And when we start looking we always find answers. This then confirms the thoughts. It becomes a spiral of unhelpfulness. We have misunderstood why these thoughts came to us in the first place. They come to us expecting us to fight/challenge them. Prove them wrong. Show them that we don’t have to stay sad/angry/single etc. That change is possible and necessary.
Our natural ability as humans to not question what our minds tell us keeps us trapped in these cycles.’ I am single because I am unlovable and it’s too late’. This becomes a fact even though this is just our mind’s opinion at this time. How can we know that we will never meet someone when the future has not happened yet? We don’t even know what will happen tomorrow, let alone every day for the rest of our lives. But we don’t question these thoughts, we succumb to them, allowing them to become facts. And the longer we succumb the more real they feel, and often, the more real they become.
What is infinitely better is to sit with these thoughts and feelings and to understand that the discomfort they bring are just indicators telling us that it is time to move on. They are designed to make us question why our present state is no longer working and find one that is more helpful to us. That may be returning to a previous stage temporarily or moving to the next stage. But ultimately we want to be moving in a direction that makes us feel better.
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