Tag Archives: self-image

Thinking Of Ourselves, For Ourselves

by Bill

“Every man is a bit player in every drama but his own.”  ~ Moss Hart

The desire to control what others think of us is distracting. We concentrate on what we imagine that they think,  try to improve on that,  and forget who we really are.

But what others think is none of our business,  and trying to control it is fruitless. The life that we really lead is what determines who we are to others; the important thing is what we think of ourselves. Giving up our grand role in our own story,  looking within,  and living a mindful life is the way to resolve the question,  “Who am I.”

Shades Of Gray

by Bill

A poor self-image is connected to low self-esteem, and self-image is one of the biggest negative issues in recovery.  In order to recover, we need to avoid defining ourselves in terms of our “character defects” and “shortcomings.”  Yes, when working on the 4th and 5th Steps we need to consider these things, but as any good sponsor will tell you, we also list and discuss the good things about ourselves.  It’s not all one-way.  We bring positives to the table as well as negatives.

To think of ourselves in terms of the things we need to change gives them power.  Constantly dwelling on them makes them seem insurmountable.  It causes us to live in the past, which we can’t change, or in the future, which we can’t predict or control.  In recovery, our goal is to live in today (“Yesterday’s history; tomorrow’s a mystery”), and that’s really hard to do when we’re focused on the “things we cannot change” rather than changing the things we can.

Skillful or Unskillful?

Everyone has made mistakes, is making them daily, and will make plenty more in the future.  It’s part of the human condition.  God is the only being who is mistake-free (we won’t mention mosquitos), and we aren’t him, her or it.  Rather than focusing on the things we’ve messed up in the past and worrying about whether we’ll be able to do better in the future, we need to stay in the present and concentrate on our good qualities.  We can appreciate our abilities, whatever they may have been, and also those we are learning.  If we are angry and are able to recognize it and deal with it, isn’t that a huge accomplishment?  Celebrate it!

A couple of nights ago I was explaining to a sponsee the Buddhist concept of “skillful” and “unskillful” thoughts and deeds.  Buddhists don’t think of things as right or wrong, black or white.  The idea of one act condemning an otherwise pretty decent person to perdition isn’t part of their world view.  Instead, they think of thoughts and behavior as being skillful or unskillful.

If I am skillful at something, I can appreciate my skills.  Others may be more skillful, and some days I may not be skillful at all, but if I blow it I have a world of opportunity to do it better the next time.  If I am unskillful (instead of — say — bad or sinful) I simply determine that I will do better the next time, make any repairs or amends that I need to, and get on with life.  I’m not bogged down in guilt, shame and recrimination, because I am able to admit to myself and to others that I am a human being, fallible but able to improve, not a god.

We can support this view of ourselves in a few simple ways: positive supports instead of critics; affirmations; journaling on our achievements every day, even the little ones (Getting the laundry done on time is progress, isn’t it?); we can make lists of our good qualities and resolve to apply them to the way we live, and so forth.  You can probably think of several more.

Self-image is largely a point of view.  We have trained ourselves to have a pretty low opinion of us.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can admit that we’re unskillful at some things, and resolve to try and be more skillful in the future.

This, then, is the Middle Way
Not black, nor white, but shades of gray.



Re-writing ‘The Legend’ in our minds

We all have a self-concept that is mostly shaped by our perception of how others think of us. This is the “mirroring” that teaches us in early life how to view ourselves and the world. Over-protective parents can make us fearful of life, while strict, shouting parents can make us feel confused and unsure of their consistency and love. Abusive caregivers can cause us to feel worthless, or to pursue similar relationships in hopes of “getting it right this time,” or because they are familiar.

On the other hand, supportive behaviors that give us a realistic view of ourselves and our place in the world can foster healthy self-images and good self-esteem, affecting our feelings about our own stories – the Legends that we write about ourselves in our own heads.
Read more…

The Belly Of The Beast — Guest Post by Dr. Howard Samuels

The Belly of the Beast
By Dr. Howard Samuels,
Author of Alive Again: Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

One of my most powerful memories is of my sister crying.

Now, it’s important for me to tell you that I come from a very large family and that, over the course of our lives, I’d seen my sister cry many, many times. When you’re all living under the same roof, you learn a lot about each other — how to tolerate one another . . . how to love one another . . . and, in some instances, how to keep secrets from one another.

But, what made this time different — what burned this particular instance into my brain — was the fact that she was standing in a dirty city street with traffic everywhere while flashing lights rioted against her tear-stained face as I was being loaded onto the ambulance after o.d.’ing on heroin and cocaine.

Now, it’s also important for me to tell you that even though I would go on to survive that overdose, it would still be years before I’d stop drinking and using addictively.


And it was all because I’d never really gotten a handle on my Beast.

And, it’s funny, I can feel you rolling your eyes at this, but, the truth is, everybody has a Beast. I mean, this isn’t a concept that’s exclusive to addicts and alcoholics. The Beast is an entity that lives inside of everybody; it’s your negative self-talk. It will create resentments in you, it will create judgements of other people, and it will create fear, it will create crisis — in my work as a psychotherapist, I can tell you first hand that I deal with people all the time who come to me and they turn little issues into huge, complicated problems — because that’s what the Beast does. It doesn’t matter if you’re a “Normie” (someone who doesn’t have addiction issues) or an addict/alcoholic, chances are you have this thing inside you already and it is informing your decisions.

The difference between these two groupings (Normies and addict/ alcoholics) is that, if the addict/ alcoholic listens to their Beast and gets seduced by their Beast, the addict/ alcoholic, in order to deal with their Beast, will go out and medicate themselves (whether its alcohol or heroin or weed or whatever). And they will medicate themselves to such an extent that they will lose control of their lives and, still, they will continue to use their “medication” to quiet the noise from the negative Beast within.

The Normie isn’t quite so driven to self-destruction. Normie’s will usually tolerate their Beast; they’ll just live with it and put up with it. They will become depressed or try to repress it; they may have issues in relationships (maybe they’re in a bad relationship and are afraid to end it), maybe they’re in a job and they’re scared to move onto another job, so they stay in that job and get depressed . . . they’re fear-based, but their Beast doesn’t allow them to grow. The Normie, unlike the addict/alcoholic, isn’t motivated to change. Many of them eventually do, but it isn’t as if they’ve got a gun to their head.

When a Normie gets seduced by their Beast, they become unhappy and lead grey, dull, repetitive lives that are still punctuated by moments of joy and self-awareness.

When an addict/ alcoholic gets seduced by their Beast, they get loaded and they die.

Now, truth be told, I don’t remember much about that night in the ambulance. I can tell you that the men who took care of me — who kept shouting at me to hang in there, buddy, you’re gonna be okay — they did their jobs well, and I owe my life to them. It is a thankless job, I think, being a First Responder, but if, by some miracle, the EMT’s who rescued me are reading this missive, I want them to know — on behalf of myself and my wife and my three beautiful children — that I am very grateful to be alive today; and that I do not for one minute kid myself about how close I was to never experiencing any of this on that hot summer night.

And that’s why I think most addict/ alcoholics become grateful to be addict/ alcoholics: it’s because they’re learned that they have to deal with their Beast and work through all of the fear and the negative thinking and change it all if they are going to survive. And I can tell you first-hand that there’s real freedom in that notion, but (more often than not) it’s commensurate with the work: You get out of it what you put into it.

But, then, YOU get to reap the rewards.

The poet Maya Angelou says that we all come into this world trailing wisps of glory. She’s not talking about any one group of people; she’s talking about all of us. Everyone has greatness within them. But the Beast? If your Beast is anything like mine, it doesn’t want you to live your dreams. The Beast doesn’t want you to be in a successful relationship. It doesn’t want you to be the best you can be.

It doesn’t want you to be what you were destined to be.

And, so, the challenge, then, is re-educating yourself and learning how not to listen to that voice that plays you out of pocket every time. And, in my experience, nobody does that alone. It takes work to create a space where you can investigate the validity of the voices that motivate and inspire you — and to transform those voices into voices that motivate and inspire you in a positive way. For the addict/ alcoholic (again, in my experience) this is accomplished with treatment and the advent of a twelve-step program. For the Normie, many times it simply takes a round of good old-fashioned therapy.

Because no one defeats their Beast alone. Believe me, I’ve tried, And every time I’ve tried to do it alone, I’ve found myself in a jail cell or sitting in the back of a speeding ambulance breathing through a tube.

WE decide how we want to live and WE decide what we want from our lives. But that’s only possible once we’ve made a conscious commitment to stop being human piñatas — stop being victims — and truly take responsibility for our lives and face our problems head-on; because it is then, and only then — whether we’re addict/ alcoholics or Normies — that we can truly slay the Beast within.

© 2013 Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D, author of Alive Again: Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

Author Bio
Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D.
, author of Alive Again: Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, is an internationally renowned recovery expert. He is the founder and president of the prestigious The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles and he appears regularly on national TV news shows about the challenges of drug addiction.

For more information please visit http://www.thehillscenter.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter