Why Self-Awareness Is The Cornerstone Of A Successful Recovery

Self-awareness is the one skill that makes or breaks your reboot.

It’s what stands between you and insanity.

And I mean insanity in its definition of: doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

Self-awareness is not self-criticism

Most people feel that they are very self-aware.

After all, they are constantly critiquing and berating themselves.

Their self-talk revolves around their respective lacks and failures. How could they not be self-aware?

But having introspective self-awareness is a far cry from self-criticism. In fact, they can be considered the two opposing sides of the spectrum.

Self-criticism focuses on the negative aspects of your personality and aspect.

As far as that nagging voice in your head is concerned, you are not doing anything right. It might quiet down every once in a while when you are having a great time, but it never has anything good to say.

This results in unbalanced feedback, which is difficult or impossible to use toward improvement.

It’s not constructive.

Hard truths to hear

Self-awareness is more like a gentle best friend than a vicious enemy.

It acknowledges shortcomings and failures as well as successes and strengths.

Finding the lessons and opportunities in even the worst things in life allows you to regain a measure of control through your attitude.

“It’s not the events in our life that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” – Tony Robbins

Words to live by. If Big Tony says something, both you and I better listen.

But all this doesn’t mean that the negatives won’t be aknowledged. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with self-awareness. A good friend would be the first to admit where “shit is fucked”, forgive my colloqualism.

While the negatives are aknowledged with no reservation, they are done so levelly. Stated as neutral facts, neither too optimistic or pessimistic.

Said out loud, these facts might be hard ones to hear. They may shed light on personal shortcomings that you have been unwilling to consider before know. They might also force you to take a more optimistic outlook on some things.

But remember: the truths that sting are the ones you need to hear the most.

We beat ourselves up more than the rest of the world combined. If your friend talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you’d never be friends with him!
Recovery advice from a friend

Let’s clarify this concept with a real life example.

If you relapse, how do many of us react to it?

“Everything’s fucked! I suck so bad, I can’t even reboot properly! Why can’t I manage to get this done, I’ve been at this for so long already. It’s ruining my life, and now I’m back at square one. I have to start again and I’m never going to get back to where I was just now. I’m such a loser, I might as well watch more porn…”

I would call that thought process less than helpful.

It almost guarantess the lapse turning into a re-lapse and a long binge. Not good.

Now image, how would your accountability react to your relapse?

“You relapsed? Well that’s not good. You will have to take extra measures not to binge today! That’s where real damage is done. And don’t be too hard on yourself, you had a good streak there, that’s solid progress! This is the perfect chance to improve on your approach to rebooting. Why did you relapse, is there something you can do proactively to prevent it happening next time?”

Now that is what all of us should be thinking post-relapse. Let’s break down what’s happening in that paragraph:

  1. Aknowledgement: Our mystery friend starts off by aknowledging that relapsing was a mistake without making it the end of the world.
  2. Damage control: He goes straight into a reminder that measures need to be taken to not make matters worse.
  3. Silver lining: He reminds you of the good in the bad. You had a good streak and that was still forward progress.
  4. Positive meaning: He gives the relapse a new meaning. Instead of a stinging mistake it’s now an opportunity to improve.
  5. Proactive action: He asks what actions lead to the relapse, so you two can figure out together how to break that pattern.
Constructive feedback

This is where I am driving at: constructive feedback.

Instead of going off the rails by blowing the whole thing out of proportion, self-awareness gives you mental clarity to the situation at hand.

A realistic assessment of failures, successes, opportunities and possible threats sets a solid stage to plan and execute proactive corrective action.

Not only is it then possible for you to undo the damage done, but improve upon your previous best. 

But this is almost impossible to do if you do not have a clear grasp of the issue at hand. Blind generals lead their troops poorly.

It also requires you to put your ego aside. A seemingly simple task, but it will be much harder than you expect.

Your ego will not want to admit that you have been going at things the wrong way. Hell, your ego won’t even want to admit that you’ve been doing things well, but that there’s an even better way to do them.

This is especially true if you have been attempting rebooting for months or years already.

The mere fact that you’ve unsuccessfully been at it for so long is a clear sign that your approach has room for improvement.

If you are sick of the never ending relapse cycle, then wipe the slate clean and start taking a all encompassing look at your approach with a very critical eye.

Self-awareness is Kaizen

Now we come to the part about how self-awareness relates to rebooting from porn addiction itself.

The example of self-talk versus an imaginary accountability partner is only part of the equation. In that situation, self-awareness is applied to the aftermath of a relapse. An unfortunate situation and one every one of us wishes to avoid.

And we can.

Self-awareness can and should be applied to one’s live proactively before destructive mistakes are made. Certainly relapses, setbacks and adversity are very good (and sometimes unavoidable) signals that improvements are due.

However, the bulk of the focus should be on tweaking things when everything is going well. This is Kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese word formed from Kai (change) and Zen (Good). Together they mean “change for the better”.

Effectively, Kaizen means constant and never ending improvement. 

If self-awareness is the knowledge, then kaizen is putting it into action.

(Source: https://kaizeninstituteindia.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/kaizen.jpg )
A two-part process

Before we get into putting all this into action in rebooting from porn addiction, let’s take a look at self-awareness itself.

Because most people live in a maelstrom of harsh self-critique, they lack the self-awareness.

Luckily, it is a skill that can be developed. The more you start to use it, the more it will become ingrained into your day to day thought pattern.

However, self-awareness has two distinct parts to it: awareness and breakdown.

Breakdown is the easy part. It’s putting all your current actions (preferrably) onto paper. You then break it down piece by piece and separate what works from what doesn’t.

You take what is not working and figure out another way which does. Hell, if you are going all out, you take what is working and improve upon that too.

Awareness is the tricky part. It is becoming conscious of all the thoughts you are thinking and actions that you are taking.

We live in automation

As being aware of your thoughts and actions may seem like a piece of cake, so let me demonstrate the contrary:

What are the exact steps you take to make coffee or tea in the morning? And approximately ow long does each action take?

Take a moment to ponder that. Don’t actually make the coffee, just think through the whole process.

Even for a relatively simple task as brewing a hot cup of joe takes a surprising amount of mental work to figure out.

You probably also noticed that you skipped a step at some point and went back to add it to it’s proper place. Furthermore, if you now went and made coffee or tea you might notice that you still missed out on a step or two.

That’s because you do it in automation. It’s unconscious competence. You don’t think about it, you just do it.

This same principle applies to our lives at large. Over 90% of our thoughts and actions are on repeat. They are the same things we do day in and out. Our morning routine is the same, we think the same thoughts, talk to our friends the same way, cook the same few foods over and over.

And from this we need to figure out our own action and improve upon them. What’s worse, for true success we should also find a way to see our own blind-spots: the self-defeating and self-sabotaging thoughts and actions all of us take constantly.

Rebooting 2.0 through self-awareness

The good news is that you have a very finite area of your life to focus on: recovering from porn addiction.

That means you can safely brutally ignore everything that couldn’t possibly relate to rebooting.

Furthermore, here is where our automated life works in our favor. Since most of our days are more or less the same, we only need to figure out the best way to live one day for optimal recovery.

Talk about taking it one day at a time!

While life is messy and has infinite possible events, the principle still applies because it all comes down to habits.

Are your daily habits constructive to your recovery efforts, or destructive?

Do you meditate or do you mindlessly browse Reddit? Do you eat balanced, healthy meals that provide clean energy and nutrients for your body and brain? Or do you eat candy and trash food?

Does your daily meals look like this, or closer to a McDonalds advertisement?
I lack self-awareness, how can I get more of it?

There are probably many ways to accomplish this, but I will focus on one: meditation.

I have already hyped meditation up in this blog, and will certainly continue to do it in the future. Because the truth is, it’s like the master key to may problematic locks.

But what do meditation and self-awareness have to do with each other?

Meditation and self-awareness are like the gym and a muscle. Meditation trains the muscle of self-awareness, so that it is strong in your day to day life.

In other words, meditation is self-awareness. At least mindfulness meditation is, which is what we are going for here.

When meditating, you observe your thoughts. This separates you from them, allowing you to be aware of them, yet unattached from them.

This unattached observation is what allows you to be self-aware of your daily thoughts and actions. It helps you pause and ask: what am I doing and why am I doing it? What am I thinking and why am I thinking it?

That pause brings you the power of choice. The ability to decide your actions, to allign them with your goals.

And that’s the road to wealth, health, love and happiness.

Implementing self-awareness to your recovery

Now let’s put rebooting and self-awareness together. This is the nitty gritty how-to section.

Start by living a more or less regular day of your life. Simple enough.

The next day, painstakingly go over it in relatively close detail. Write down your whole day starting from the morning and ending to falling asleep.

Start with the time you woke up and the hours you slept. From there on, progress one action at the time. If you brushed your teeth right after getting up, write that down. If you took a shower instead, write that down (and whether it was hot or cold!).

To be honest, this process will probably be a fucking bitch. Your hand will be aching before long because we have a surprising amount of small things we do in a day.

It will probably seem excessive to write it all down like that, but take heart in the fact that you only need to do the process this closely once.

The reason for doing this in such detail is to prevent any blindspots that might happen. When written down action by action, your whole day will be splayed in front of you.

When that is done, it’s time for the dissection.

The goal is (obviously) to reboot from porn. With that in mind, go over each listed action in your mind. Did it help your recovery? Did it hinder it?

Note any actions helpful to your reboot. These would be things like healthy meals, cold showers, good amout of sleep, exercising etc.

Now note any hindering actions. Trash food, procrastinating, going to sleep late, mindless browsing on the computer etc.

Putting the roadmap to good use

Now you have a road map. Eliminate the bad habits. Keep and add to the good habits.

If you want to go a step even further, consider what would a really helpful day to recovery look like? What would it involve? List those ideas down and start to replace the bad habits with positive ones.

On a final note, it’s important to remember that completely changing your whole life will be impossible. Focus on one or two actions at a time. For example, choose one negative habit and replace it with a positive one.

If you re-do all your daily routines at once, you will not be able to adapt to it. You’ll be so far out of your comfort zone that you not only will revert back to old habits, but might even seek the comfort of old vices and relapse. Slow and steady wins the race.

Actions
  1. Start a habit of 5-20 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day
  2. Analyze your daily life to find out self-sabotage and missing constructive habits
  3. Start replacing your bad habits with good ones one at a time

 

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