We share an intimate and unhealthy relationship with our dysfunction or discomfort that manifests in many ways. Let’s take a look at the most obvious ones non-conducive to recovery.
The tolerant relationship. Simply put, we recognize our condition is detrimental to a healthy and productive lifestyle, but we are too lazy, scared, or lack the moral determination to do anything about it.
The resigned relationship is borne by our expectation or acceptance of failure. Not only do we accept the problem, but we wish we could something about it. Because we don’t value our worth or ability (often a component of our dysfunction), we convince ourselves any attempt at recovery is futile. We have given up.
The self-pitying relationship is sadder, still. We welcome our unhappiness because we believe we have suffered more than is fair or reasonable. We wallow in our misery because it comforts us and confirms our victimization.
The assimilate relationship. We have become so acclimated to our condition, we adapt to it and absorb the poison into our system. This is the one relationship where we truly become one with our dysfunction.
The denial relationship. Refusing to acknowledge the problem in the irrational hope it doesn’t exist or will go away is a common escape mechanism. Our lie becomes so pervasive we begin to believe it. This drives the truth into our subconscious where it metastasizes, like unchecked cancer.
The guilt relationship. Guilt is a moral emotion that manifests in response to self-disappointment. It is self-consciously evaluated, meaning no matter the severity of the offense, explicit or otherwise, it is our personal assessment that matters. Until we forgive ourselves, we cannot expect to recover. Forgiveness rids us of the self-indulgent bile of guilt and opens us to possibility.
The cognitive distorting relationship. Cognitive distortions – common to anxiety, depression, and their comorbidities – are tendencies or patterns that twist our thinking. They are irrational perceptions that influence our emotions and behavior. We are all subject to cognitive distortions but, in their more extreme forms, they are a hindrance to recovery. These are a few of many:
- Magnification and minimization. Believing our accomplishments are inconsequential, or our mistakes excessively important.
- Overgeneralization. I made a mistake; therefore, I am a stupid person.
- Personalization. Taking responsibility for something that is out of our control. It’s my fault my lover drinks excessively.
- Disqualifying the positive. Dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation and ignoring the positive.
- Absolutism such as “always,” “never,” or “every.” I never do anything right. Everything I try, fails.
Those are just a few unhelpful and detrimental relationships. Of course, the healthy way to address our dysfunction or discomfort is to do something about it, but how we approach this is important. Most processes ask that we accept it, educate ourselves on its symptoms and impact, then challenge or confront it. Here’s why this is not the most productive approach.
The confrontation or challenge relationship is not a positive one, but one of hostility and retaliation. Confrontation is, by definition, an act of hostility, sowing discord. When we confront something, we oppose it, assault it, attack it, and threaten it. Our current condition is part of who we are, a component of our current being. In essence, we are expressing hostility against self.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, we are deceitful, unempathetic, manipulative, irresponsible, and incompetent. The American Psychological Association labels our condition distressing, irrational, obsessive, compulsive, dissociative, depressive, and exaggerated.
Fundamental moralists and the ignorant assume we are dishonorable or lack moral fiber. The public view our behavior as bizarre and illogical. The urban dictionary calls us silly and stupid. Adolescents derisively assign the term mental to the unpopular, different, and socially inept.
No wonder we feel we have to confront it with guns blazing. These negative and hostile aspersions on our character are supported by public opinion, media misrepresentation, and the disease model of mental healthcare. The general perception of the psychologically dysfunctional is a dangerous and unpredictable individual who should be isolated from society. So, our emotions tell us, the only way to fight it is to confront it head-on, a person possessed.
Our primary objective in recovery is the restructuring of our neural network. Every stimulus we input causes a receptive neuron to fire, transmitting a message from neuron to neuron until it generates a reaction. Our brain is an organic reciprocator. It doesn’t understand our motivation. Maybe we want to confront our dysfunction in order to mitigate its symptoms. Our neural network only gleans the unhealthy input of confrontation. Restructuring requires positive input to compensate for the years of negation. Hostility defeats the purpose. Only a conscious input of healthy thought and behavior reverses the trend.
By embracing our dysfunction or discomfort, we embrace ourselves. It is an act of love. Love is linked to positive mental and physical health outcomes. Love motivates change far better than hostility. What is there to be ashamed of? A dysfunction or discomfort is a natural component of human development. Think of it as an emotional virus. It is evidence of our humanness. After all, that’s who we are: a human being with a dysfunction. Embracing it does not mean we don’t want to transform to a healthy and more productive environment. It encourages transformation. Self-love is a fundamental component of self-esteem and the value of self-esteem in recovery is immeasurable.
Embracing is not acquiescence, resignation, or condoning. Acquiescence is accepting our condition and doing nothing to change it. Condoning is accepting it and allowing it to fester. Resignation is defeatism. Embracing is logically accepting ourselves for who we are, which is a person currently dysfunctional or discomforted, but one abounding in ability and potential. Embracing is recognizing our character strengths, virtues, and attributes that facilitate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to recover. We can never meet our potential until we truly learn to love ourselves.
Embrace you, know you, love you, then transform you.