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This essay comes first because it's got the best bang for the buck. It has taken me little effort to get it down, and it might be among the most useful things I have to say.



I am an emotional person. Though I may not show it if I don't know you well, I process the world more through my feelings than through logical thought. Being this way has its upsides and its downsides. On the upside, it gives me an affinity for communication, storytelling and performance – fields which are all about emotional hooks and emotional journeys. On the downside, it is all too easy for me to lose control of those emotions, and this lack of control has at times endangered my mental health.


I can waste long stretches of time quietly seething over insults, long after the person who insulted me has moved on. Usually my anger accomplishes nothing except to alienate others. And the more I think about what makes me angry, the angrier I get, and the more useless my anger becomes.


But worse than the anger is the fear. I can conjure a thousand fears from nothing, and worry myself sick over them. This path usually leads to anxiety and, worst of all, depression. I have lost a large fraction of my life to depression.


Yes, I’ve explored the usual treatments. I have spent years in therapy, but often found that talking about my anger and fear only served to make me angrier and more fearful. Sometimes my therapist could make me see that my emotions had run away with me, but this did not translate to better control over the roller coaster in my head.


I’ve also tried different medications and combinations of medications. None of them worked very well for very long. One even made me angrier for years and neither I nor my psychiatrist had the insight to realize that's what was happening. Another dulled my emotions to the point where creativity was a huge effort and I lost sight of my life's goals.


Nearly three years ago, when I felt near the end of my rope, I heard about an organization called Recovery International. Recovery is a form of cognitive therapy which was developed in the 1930s before there was such a thing as cognitive therapy. It was group-oriented, which was something I had never tried before. And it was free. [Technically, they ask you for a $5 contribution per session, but in my experience many participants give less than that, or nothing.] So I thought I had little to lose.


Recovery's approach was different from what I'd gone through before. It didn’t use therapy to dig up the hidden causes of my emotions, or use medication to adjust them. Instead, Recovery focused on developing my willpower so that I wouldn’t let my emotions rule me.


At the first few meetings, I was not bothered with questions or demands but rather was expected merely to lurk. I listened to several speakers tell of recent situations where they "worked up" their fear and anger until it became unhealthy for them, and then how they strove to "work down" those feelings until they were manageable again. Other members of the group then offered suggestions to assist the speaker, and by offering these suggestions the other members taught themselves how to cope with a similar situation. The meetings had no psychiatrists, psychologists or therapists, only lay people using the system to maintain their own – and each other’s - mental health. This felt very comfortable to me, so I stayed. And within a month after starting Recovery, I began to feel significantly better.


It has not been a steady climb. Over the past three years I have had some setbacks. And learning Recovery was only one of several things I did to help myself (later, I will talk about some of the others). But for me, it was the keystone to the better, happier life that I am building for myself.


Why write this essay first? Because I suspect some of the people I know in the arts and communications worlds might resonate with what I’ve written here. And of those, maybe some are even in the same place that I was three years ago.


Let me be clear: I am not saying Recovery International is the Platonic ideal of self-help or that everyone should try it. All I am saying is this: This system helped me much more than all my years of therapy and medication and at a tiny fraction of the cost. I think it can help others. And I think that, unfortunately, not a lot of people know about it.


Here are some links to tell you more.

(1) The website for Recovery International, which also goes by the name "Abraham Low Self Help Systems."


(2) The Wikipedia entry: Recovery_International


(3) "Self Help for Fear and Anger" -- a recently-published primer on the Recovery method, which I think is a better introduction to the system than the original books written in the 1930s by Abraham Low:


Be aware that Recovery has online meetings as well as face-to-face ones. If anyone reading this has any questions, please feel free to ask me, anonymously or not, and I will do my best to answer you.


My other blog: Bright Eye, Bushy Tale
 

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Beer Guardian
ENTP 5w6 So/Sx 584 ILE Honorary INTJ
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Very interesting essay! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
FYI, this essay is 7 years old and the author probably hasn't stuck around. Other than that...
 
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