Monday, September 10, 2007

Building a Cognitive Life Raft

Outside help. Yes, still, after 20-plus years in recovery I take advantage of what is euphemistically referred to as “outside help”. It is therapy and now, the full continuum of alternative care: acupuncture, Reiki, energy healing, groups, retreats, spiritual direction. The 12 steps may be a core but—since some are sicker than others, and yes since I’m still impatient and a perfectionist—I take all the help—and all forms—that I can get.

But the reading. Self-help reading sometimes takes a beating in AA. But I’m ever grateful for self-help books because that’s how I got here. Robin Norwood’s “Women Who Love Too Much” pointed me to AA, OA, ACOA and Al-Anon. Since then I have read across the genre. Recently the new memoir lit has intersected self-help and I have loved books like “Here If you Need Me” and “Eat. Pray. Love.” A smart woman learns from her mistakes; a wise woman learns from other people’s mistakes. So give me books and all your stories: what you did and what happened.

Building a Cognitive Life Raft: I learned that phrase a long time ago and I love it. A cognitive life raft. When I thought that I was wasting time reading self-help or psychology books I really was building a layer to help me thru the sea of pain that would accompany the next change. We’re supposed to “feel our feelings” and “do the grief work”...yes I have done it all and it works: pound those pillows and scream, break the tennis racket on the couch, write the letters that never get mailed. Buy yourself a Teddy Bear and a doll and re-parent yourself for years. But I also found that I needed to lay down a theoretical base, to build a cognitive structure to support all that, so psychology books and self-help built a raft for me to ride the river of emotional healing.

I still do this. I’m struggling now because I need to change a relationship. I’m sad and scared. I write about it and I talk about it and in the car I play Brandi Carlisle and Bonnie Raitt and I cry, but I also read about abandonment and cognitive schema’s (Thank you Oprah) and I read Robin Norwood again…lay an intellectual foundation, build my cognitive life raft…then bring it: the pain that inevitably accompanies growth.

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