Privileged access

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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.”

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Faith is given in sufficient quantities to communities

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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.”

(laughter)

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.

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Hope

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.

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Standing in awe, rather than judgment

awe

. . . 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.

Greg Boyle

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Hope and Recovery

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.

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hope is a function of struggle

From On Being, some insight on hope and how people can foster it or inhibit its development:

Ms. Brown: You know, one of the most interesting things I’ve found in doing this work is, you know, something the wholehearted share in common is this real profound sense of hopefulness. And as I got into the literature on hope, very specifically C.R. Snyder’s work from the University of Kansas at Lawrence, that hope is a function of struggle.

Ms. Tippett: Right. I think that’s one of the most stunning sentences that I saw in your writing.

Ms. Brown: Yeah, and that hope is not an emotion, but hope is

...Hope...

…Hope… (Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

a cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.

Ms. Tippett: Right, which is different from this pattern of having faith in us which means telling us everything we do is wonderful and shielding us from pain as long as they can.

Ms. Brown: Right. And, you know, I’m literally — I don’t even know how to talk about it. It really just floors me that, when I go out and I do a lot of talks for big corporations, you know, Fortune 100 companies, how many people tell me — like the HR folks who I end up — luckily, I love them and I get to talk to them a lot, who will tell me how often parents call to go over the performance evaluation of their children or to find out why they didn’t get a raise or a promotion.

Ms. Tippett: Really?

Ms. Brown: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Ms. Tippett: I mean, I just took my daughter to college and we got this lecture, the parents and the families who were there, from like the Dean of Students and it was so clear that they were dealing with that same thing, right? I mean, they basically said I need you to understand that we’re going to take great care of your gem and also that my relationship is to them and not to you. We got this lecture, which was clearly based on parents still trying to control. You know, again, it’s like, boy, we know this, don’t we, this desire that you have to create a beautiful world and life and experience for these people you love?

Ms. Brown: But you know what? I think we lose sight of the beauty. The most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath. You know, the moments I look back in my life and think, God, those are the moments that made me, were moments of struggle.

Ms. Tippett: Or I look back at things I did where, if my parents or I had understood how crazy it was, like if it had been me, I would have tried to intervene and rescue?

Ms. Brown: Oh, for sure.

Ms. Tippett: And you’re right. Those are the moments you become who you are.

Ms. Brown: You know, and I’ve seen how this research has really changed, you know, like I’ll give you just a very specific example. My daughter decides, you know, that she wants to try out for something that she’s really new at. You know, a sport or something that she’s just taken up.

And I think before, maybe even three years ago, before this research, not only before I wrote it up, before I started trying to practice it and live it, I think I would have been the parent who said, you know, either let’s get you in 34 camps before you try out so you’ve mastered it, or I don’t think you should try out for that because there are girls who’ve been playing this sport as long as you’ve been playing soccer …

Ms. Tippett: And you want to shield her from disappointment.

Ms. Brown: Right. And I want to take away that moment that I had. You know, it wasn’t the moment. When I think back and I talk to parents a lot about this, it wasn’t the hard moments that we don’t want to expose them to. It was the isolation and shame we felt around those moments because a lot of us didn’t have people to process them with.

Like I think when I went out for something and didn’t make it, I don’t think my parents were ashamed of me, but I think they were ashamed for me. I don’t think they knew how to talk about that. I don’t think we had a conversation. I know we didn’t have a conversation that I can have with my daughter today where I say, you know what, I’m so proud of you not only for trying, but for letting the people around you who you care about, you let us know how much you wanted it, and it doesn’t get braver than that.

Ms. Tippett: Right. Right. Well, I mean, here’s this other sentence that’s a corollary to the sentence hope is a function of struggle. You say you look at a baby, your newborn baby is hard-wired for struggle. It’s built in us that that is how we are going to shape, that that’s what we’re going to encounter, that’s how we’re going to shape ourselves. That’s actually a really hard thing to take in, you know, as a parent, especially thinking about those moments early on when you first meet this being that is going to have dominance over your life.

Ms. Brown: Yeah, because I think we look and think I can make this right. I can do for her or him what wasn’t done for me. I can protect them from the things that hurt me. I think we are so much more hard-wired for who we are than what people, especially parents, want to believe. And I don’t think our job as parents is to make everything right and perfect and beautiful and true. I think our job is, during struggle, to look at our kids and say, yeah, this is hard and this is tough and you’re hurt.

Ms. Tippett: And you’re not alone, you’re not alone.

Ms. Brown: But you’re not alone.

Ms. Tippett: I’m not going to fix it, but you’re not alone.

Ms. Brown: Right, you’re not alone and I want to make sure you understand that this doesn’t change the fact that you’re worthy of love and belonging.

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The adjacent possible and hope

I heard a radio show this morning about where ideas come from.

They interviewed a guy who wrote a book and gave a TED talk on the topic.

During the interview he discussed the concept of the adjacent possible and it’s importance in forming new ideas. During the interview, he described it as the building blocks of new ideas. Without the right building blocks, any innovation is not possible. He described it another way in a WSJ article:

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.

During the interview, he pointed out that it doesn’t matter how smart one is, it was not possible to invent a microwave in 1650, because the building blocks, the adjacent possible, just wasn’t there.

One factor is that the physical building blocks did not exist. The other factor is that the imaginative/inspiration building blocks did not exist.

This reminded me of a metaphor Bill White once used when talking about hope-engendering relationships offering kindling for hope.

I think this helps explain the resistance some recovery advocates have to interventions focused on something other than drug-free recovery. There’s a sense of how precious this adjacent possible is, and how easy it is to imagine a world where drug-free recovery is not possible because the adjacent possible has been lost.

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