Peg O’Connor offers an interesting perspective on self-trust in addiction.
Complicating the matter is the belief that each person knows herself better than others can know her. In philosophy we call this “privileged access.” On this view, each person has an access to her beliefs, desires, thoughts, emotions that no one else can have. Each of us can turn a light to even the darkest, most remote corners of our mind; no one else can see those corners and what lurks there. On that basis of privileged access, each person can say, “I have the best perspective on Who I Am.”
However, the relationship between privileged access and perspective is muddy, and confounds the question of how much trust to have in myself.
I found myself experiencing a little ambivalence reading this. Reflecting on my own behavior and those of clients, so many decisions look and sound like acts of self trust. Running our lives into the ground, asking for help and then disregarding other’s experience and advice looks like hubris
In truth, when I disregarded suggestions given by others, it wasn’t that I had so much trust in myself. Rather, I had less trust that others fully appreciated my circumstances, options, needs, goals, motives, etc. On a scale of 1 to 10 my self-trust may have only been a 2, but my trust in your accurate understanding was only a 1.5.
However, it looks like there isn’t an way around the matter.
So, given all these complications, how can one end this vicious cycle of unreliability–>lack of self-trust –>untrustworthiness –>unreliability…? It involves embracing something of a paradox. Sometimes one has to trust others before she can trust herself. In a sense, one may have to borrow the trust someone else has in her until she can begin to generate it for herself.
The person who sees herself as untrustworthy may need to grant that someone else may have a useful perspective on her. Another has some distance and hence perspective on us. This is the equivalent of holding the printed page further away from the face.
That reminded me of two things:
First, Nadia Bolz-Weber’s observation, “I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities.”
Second, Bill White talking about the recovery coaches of Project Safe and their process of developing “hope-engendering relationships”.
It strikes me that we’re asking these very scared and frightened people to grant us “privileged access.” This is an honor and a gift. Helpers who treat it as an honor and a gift are much more likely to earn that trust.
O’Connor tosses in a little folk-wisdom from Aristotle:
More concretely, Aristotle has some useful suggestions. If we become who we are by what we do, we should act in different ways if we want to become different people. Aristotle instructs us to act as a virtuous good person does even if we do not yet have the same character. By mimicking, we can begin to act in ways that can become virtuous as we begin to develop a virtuous character. This is the philosophical forerunner of “fake it until you can make it.”
I recently listened to an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber. There were a lot of keepers in the interview (even for a non-believer). She’s described as a recovering drug addict. Her recovery shines through in this, “fake it till you make it” discussion:
Ms. Tippett: So a sermon of yours I wish I could have heard is “Loving Our Enemies Even If We Don’t Mean It.”
Ms. Nadia Bolz-Weber: Yeah, I think meaning it is overrated. I mean, I think …
Ms. Tippett: I think this is profound. I really do.
Ms. Nadia Bolz-Weber: No, I’m serious. Like, my gosh, if God’s going to wait till I mean it, that’s going to be a while, right? So I think that the key is praying for them, not like feeling warm feelings towards people who’ve hurt you or towards your enemy. I don’t think it’s about feelings. I think it’s about an action.
That was kind of neat, but what she said next really leapt out to me. [emphasis mine]
…I think that’s what the sort of love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you means. I will actually ask other people to do it for me sometimes, like it doesn’t always have to be us. And so it’s like this thing like I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities.
Wow. It reminds me of my persistent despair many months into my recovery and Dave H. telling me, “It’s okay if you don’t believe it’s going to get better, just believe that I believe it’s going to get better for you.”
This reminds me of an aha moment I had when listening to Bill White describe the recovery coaches of Project SAFE. I remember listening to him and thinking of the clients in those stories as having no protective factors–none!–only risk factors. He went on to describe the assertive support and engagement that these workers provided. I realized that these workers were becoming and creating protective factors in the lives of these women.
It also reminds me something my friend Ben often says, “Too often I fail to notice how much of the time I’m carried by others.”
What a gift it is for our profession to have access to a recovering community that, a group and one-to-one level, provides so much hope, faith and tangible support.
I’m reading a book that has nothing to do with addiction but is a father’s search for reasons for being hopeful about the future, so that he can share them with his son.
We talk a lot about the role of hope in initiating recovery at Dawn Farm, so I thought a few snippets from the book might be worth sharing.
One one woman’s awakening[emphasis mine]:
I remember talking with a woman from Chicago who told me she was astonished to have reached the age of thirty. She started doing drugs at age ten, joined a gang at twelve, killed a rival and went off to prison at fifteen, and never expected to reach eighteen, What preserved her, she said, was a rehabilitation program that took her and other young inmates on day-trips into the Indiana dunes and on week-long canoe trips into the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. In those wild places she felt safe for the first time in her life: “There was nothing and nobody hating me or wanting to hurt me. Even with all that dirt, sand and rock, those places were clean, they were alive, they looked like they might last.” Having seen parts of the earth that promised to endure, she came to believe that she herself might endure, and that belief saved her. Now, at the improbable age of thirty, this woman was leading groups of juvenile offenders on wilderness journeys.
On the nature of hope:
Hope is like memory in its action: memory grips the past and hope grips the future.
Quoting Vaclav Havel:
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
. . . the measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship. And so that means the decided movement towards awe and giant steps away from judgment.
So how can we seek really a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it? And I think that’s sort of the key here. That’s the place of health in any community, forget Christian community. In any community, that’s how you know that you’re healthy.
Pat Deegan reflects on her own experience an shares about the need for hope in recovery:
He said, I should retire from life and avoid stress. I have come to call my psychiatrist’s pronouncement a “prognosis of doom”. He was condemning me to a life of handicaptivity wherein I was expected to take high dose neuroleptics, avoid stress, retire from life and I was not even 18 years old! My psychiatrist did not understand that boredom is stressful! A life devoid of meaning and purpose is stressful! A vegetative life is stressful. A life in handicaptivity, lived out within the confines of the human services landscape, where the only people who spend time with you, are people who are paid to be with you – that is stressful! Living on disability checks from the government is stressful.
When I was diagnosed I needed hopeful messages and role models. I needed to hear that there were pathways into a better future for me. I needed to connect with others who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and who had recovered lives of meaning and purpose. I needed to find others who had completed college and who had jobs and who got married and had families, and had an apartment and a car.
Why is hope important to recovery? Because hope is the root of life’s energy. In order to recover, I had to turn away from the wish that psychiatrists could fix me. I had to turn away from the myth that psychiatric treatments could cure me. Instead, I had to mobilize all of the energy I had. I had to become an active partner in my recovery. I had to learn to work collaboratively with my treatment team and to draw strength from the wisdom of my peers. I had to begin striving for my goals, not when I was “all better”, but from day one. I had to believe that there was a life for me beyond the confines of the mental health system. That is hope. Hope is the tenacious pursuit of pathways to a better life, despite the odds. Without hope, there is no recovery.
Amen. Please go and read the whole post at her blog and spend some time poking around her posts.