“It is not what happens to us that matters as much as our perception of what happens to us.” ~ Epictetus
Each person’s experience of reality differs based on his or her experiences in life leading to the present moment. That is why four people witnessing the same event will report slightly (or drastically) different recollections of the event. Our differing perceptions of reality are generally flavored by coping skills that have developed over our lifetimes (see previous posts on Awareness, Honesty, and Truth). These are designed, evolutionarily speaking, to motivate us into action. However, if we begin to use negative coping skills to justify our situation, we can become mired in repetitive cycles of blame, shame, and worry.
The Integrity Recovery Workbook (IRW) focuses on identifying and getting free of these more maladaptive coping skills; those that tend to bring their own consequences at the same time that they provide some secondary gains.
Three primary coping skills that can interfere in finding serenity or joy in life include anger, anxiety, and depression.
According to the IRW, anger allows us to blame others for aspects of our reality and in some ways to ‘pump ourselves up at others’ expense’. It generally focuses on the past or present, but removes us from our internal experience of the present by projecting focus outward.
Anxiety is a distraction from the present and generally focuses on the future through worry or fear. And depression most often focuses on the past and is like anger turned inward. We blame ourselves, perhaps through cognitive distortions (i.e., all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizations) and negative self talk for any unpleasant past experiences.
Secondary gains that we might receive for these coping skills include relief from responsibility of our present (through blaming others in anger) or from moving into our potential (by worrying about “what if . . .?” or shaming ourselves). Regardless of exactly what the gain is, these skills exist on a sort of feedback loop in which they appear to offer relief, but continue to affect our perceptions and so keep us from taking action to change.
In order to be free of these feedback cycles and to develop more trustworthy perceptions, we must begin to shift our reality – to be able to see through survival charades © and self-protective measures developed over a lifetime in order to live in the present moment and to experience peace and joy in our lives. This is the work of Integrity Recovery.
The Integrity Recovery Workbook (IRW) is designed to guide individuals through a journey to integrity, defined as a state of wholeness in which thoughts, beliefs, and feelings align with words and actions, through ten “levels” of work. Level III deals specifically with learning how to shift perceptions and reality.