Some people have the idea that you can simply cut short the hard work necessary for achieving lasting happiness by identifying the negative aspects of life and then avoiding them. Although, there is some truth to this, there is more to it than that. Negative events and habits don't consistently motivate personal change because all negative motivators, by their nature, produce limited, temporary results. Negative motivators are constructed in fear; and fear-based avoidance is not nearly as effective as a drive towards positivity, which can last for an entire lifetime. Fear exists to drive us immediately to a safer position. Once there, we are quite naturally motivated to move beyond mere safety to something "better." Think of the lion story in Chapter 4.
A substance user who has had a recent near fatal drug overdose and is afraid of dying may stay away from drugs for some period of time, only to return to using down the road. Why? The simple explanation is that their desire for happiness (i.e. getting high again) outweighs their fear of overdosing again. Even people who are temporarily driven by fear will soon begin to seek either instant pleasure or a more contented existence. The fear fades and their desire for happiness and the quick fix re-emerges. It is what they know. With limited options and experience comes a limited perspective on what possibly could bring happiness.
A threat from your boss will fade with time, and the behavior problem that got you in trouble at work in the first place may resurface. Advice from a doctor to change your diet, get more exercise, and lower stress after a near fatal heart attack has limited long term effects. Over half of those who have heart attacks change their behaviors because of their fear; however, as time passes, their habits of poor eating and sedentary life style return. These are examples of negative motivators having a temporary positive effect, followed again with the same behavior that produced the problem. Moreover, regression to the same behavior that was the original cause of the trouble is most likely to be of the "quick fix" variety. Not knowing other options is the problem. Had the heart attack victim been offered alternatives to the perceived pleasures of sedentary living, and greasy foods he might have had a change of habits, thus adding longevity and a better quality to his life. Until these options are understood to exist and their benefits recognized, the decision to change may never occur.
But it does not have to be that way! Many people learn from their mistakes and stop having to run from the lion over and over again. They create ways to get through the mountain passes to a place where they have heard no lions exist. They are driven by a vision of walking without fear of an attack...
...If you really make the decision to change your life, but the fear that motivates you at that critical moment is not converted to something positive, your chances of moving past your poor habits are minimal, at best. So how do you interrupt this vicious cycle?
The answer is that your initial fear and depression must be replaced by enthusiasm for, and commitment to, your future. It is the goal of this program to help you understand that you can live your life empowered and independent, not powerless and relying on support networks, meetings, and the like. First you need to believe in a positive future. Remember that your brain is wired according to established habits. If you have spent days, weeks, or even years being negative or fearful about your future and have a generally gloomy outlook, those thoughts are now supported by the brain's neuron memory and structure. You can change this by consciously choosing to learn positive thinking thereby creating new options for yourself.
Conventional treatments such as AA and NA are designed to do just the opposite. They teach the scared and vulnerable to fear their own thoughts. This creates a need for perpetual support from others. Predictably the support provided at AA and NA reinforces their own paradigm, making the person dependent on that model for the rest of their broken lives. This is counterproductive neuroplastic change. Through AA and NA the brain learns to support fear-based, self-limiting thoughts.
The notion that you are "sick" is false and leads to failure. You are not sick. You might be scared and have little confidence, but you are definitely not beyond hope. You must learn how to choose better alternatives for yourself. Confidence and a new self-image must replace your current fear and self-pity.
To rewire your neurons to support your new ideas, you must learn how to think creatively and positively, even when things look darkest. A deep desire for happiness must begin to dominate your thoughts. The purpose of this program is to build motivation, confidence and to stimulate courage from within and faith in yourself to overcome fear. After all, no one is going to be there holding your hand. Your dedication to this program is a way of saying "Enough is enough. I will choose better for myself and for those I love." To begin the process you must form a renewed self-image. Remember that all action and change in life begins in your mind. Imagine your new self-image and for that instant, you have already changed. You are what you think. After that, it is just a matter of time and practice before that new self-image is, in fact, you...
...We are talking about unavoidable truths, about being human and struggling. When one is immersed in a life of unhappiness, it is important to open the mind to ideas that are different from, and possibly better than, your current thinking. In the previous chapter we discussed the idea that the only constant is change. For many, ideas that challenge their current thinking become a stumbling block to the maturing process. At this stage there is nothing that makes attaining a joy-filled life harder than a closed mind. No matter what has happened in the past, we have full confidence in you and your ability to overcome your internal disadvantage. People do it every day and you can, too. Let us now move to the work necessary to overcome your past and build anew.