Self-pity is an adverse way of thinking that is destructive on an emotional level and leads to destruction on a physical level. When a person suppresses their emotion (suppresses their connection to love, joy and peace) they drain away their personal power, and those who regularly indulge in such thinking will have a very dim view about the future.
Those who are preoccupied with self-pity feel victimized, and the world becomes a terrifying place where they believe they have no real control. Loss of self-control gives the individual the excuse to not even try to improve their own life situation. Continued adverse thinking ultimately leads to a form of learned helplessness where the individual becomes completely dependent on other people.
This is a real challenge to loved ones and people who become caught up in caring for the person with the addiction. Often they find themselves in a role of providing “tough love” in order to survive.
You see there are two addictions at play here, firstly the person with addiction becomes entrenched in adverse thinking about themselves, causing inner discomfort. Then they project these feelings of discomfort onto others and the world, feeding and increasing the inner feelings of discomfort. Then they turn to another learned addiction of self-medicating to relieve the discomfort that they created through their own adverse thinking, and turn to alcohol, drugs, and anger (anger provides more drugs i.e. adrenaline and other hormones).
Alcohol and drugs offer a temporary reprieve from life where addicts use feelings of self-pity to justify their substance abuse. This addictive cycle occurs when the person has not developed effective coping skills to deal with the normal ups and downs in life. If this person becomes sober, and they continue to indulge in excessive adverse thinking and turning that to self-pity, it could prove to be their downfall.
It is important then to address the adverse thinking through firstly noticing when it is happening, learning to step back from such thinking, and most importantly bringing correction to those thoughts replacing them with truth. Truth always has a foundation of love. When one is experiencing love, peace and comfort there is no need for medication, alcohol or drugs. The secondary addiction takes care of itself!
The dangers of adverse thinking for people in recovery from addiction include:
- Adverse thinking provides an excuse to return to alcohol or drug abuse. Projection by blaming uncomfortable feelings on other people, places, or things allows the addict to justify their discomfort and their need to alleviate their discomfort.
- Adverse thinking suppresses emotional flow, causing feelings of powerlessness. In turn, the lack of motivation will get in the way of building a good life free from the need to self-medicate.
- Adverse thinking reduces the person’s self-esteem, you cannot be in a space of attack and a space of love and peace at the same time. Feeling worthy of a better life comes from a space of love and love is just not available to a person who is in attack mode. Low self-esteem is a common problem for substance abusers, and this type of negative thinking can follow them into recovery.
- Attacking the attack thoughts is to bring more attack to attack and increase the cycle. It can cause people to become stuck in their recovery. This means they will feel uncomfortable and will be tempted to turn to maladaptive behaviors as an escape from this.
- An occasional brief episode of adverse thinking and self-pity is perfectly normal but some people can become trapped in this mode of thinking by repeating it so often that it becomes an automatic unconscious habit.
- Adverse thinking will mean the individual will struggle to develop meaningful relationships. Relationships are built through love and connection, and again, this space is simply not available to one who is stuck in attack mode.
Adverse thinking is a behaviour that addicts tend to indulge in. If they indulge in the same pattern of thinking when they are sober it will prevent them from finding happiness and may cause them to relapse.
How to Overcome Adverse Thinking
There are things that people can do so that they do not fall into the trap of adverse thinking, or if they are caught up in adverse thinking there are new habits to be learned to enable escape to joy. The first thing that people need to do is recognize the uselessness of this type of adverse thinking and the affect that it has on their inner flow of love and peace. They should view it as a danger to their health and their sobriety, therefore being something to be avoided and replaced as much and as often as possible.
In order to overcome adversity, the individual needs to concentrate on what they can do rather than what they cannot do. The only way one can avoid the misfortunes in life is to focus on the positives and see positives in all things. What you focus on increases!
One of the main goals of recovery is to increase self-esteem. By stopping adverse thinking in its track and replacing adverse thinking with positive thinking, new habits are built. The individual can start off by achieving small goals but over time they will feel confident enough to tackle larger goals.
Emotional sobriety is the uninterrupted flow of love, joy and peace, and is the ability to face life on life’s terms. It also means not being afraid to feel emotions. It is possible to become physically sober in a matter of hours, but emotional sobriety will take time, practice and repetition.
Activities such as mindfulness meditation, journaling and counselling with an emotion focused therapist can help people develop emotional strength and regain their inner power. Exercise can also be a good way to increase inner power. Just going for a long walk, while holding a positive focus, can be enough to allow people to see the bigger picture and get beyond feeling sorry for themselves.
Everything happens for a reason and the reason is always for good. Each time you are faced with an adverse thought, causing discomfort within, say to yourself, “Yes, another opportunity to practice positive thinking!” Rather than viewing the challenges in life negatively it is better to see them as a chance to grow.
It is important for carers of people with addiction to demonstrate this skill at every opportunity. As social beings, we learn through the observation of others. All too often carers can be caught up in the cycle of adverse thinking too as carers too learn from our charges. Be vigilant with your thoughts and correct them at every opportunity.
Asking yourself, “How would love see this?” and “What would love do now?” are two of the most useful questions when faced with adversity. Sometimes love would look after you by taking some time out, connecting with positive focused friends, counsellors, life-coaches and support groups. Self-care is a major step in maintaining self-esteem.
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