Recovery International (RI) found at http://www.lowselfhelpsystems.org/ is by far one of the best self-help systems out there for people with mood disorders like Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and anger management issues, as well as average everyday people who are a little down, not too thrilled with their sense of self-esteem, feeling stressed out, etc. I also highly recommend this program for spouses and parents of people with Depression, and even perhaps a best friend. Because once you start using the Recovery lingo, known as Spottings, your communication issues will fall away. If you follow Recovery practices it will become very difficult to get into arguments and fights.
The Recovery Method is a simple 4 step process (download PDF here) that can be quickly learned in local group meetings, via telephone meetings, and online via the Internet. Once you are familiar with the process and the Spottings and terms you can practice and use the Recovery Method completely on your own. You simply answer four questions as instructed (download an example worksheet here), stick to using the rules, use the lingo (Spottings), and you’re on your way. The hardest part is remembering the Spottings, but that’s okay because as part of the method, the group that you are with will offer Spottings to you, and you have the right to accept or reject these spotting in your own mind. Additionally, learning the Spottings over some time will make them a part of your long term memory. If you simply get a cheat sheet of all the Spottings, it may make you look good at a meeting, but it’s not going to help you to integrate this lingo into your everyday thoughts and self-talk, which is essential. The reason that these Spottings are so important is because the language used is specifically designed to be brief, to the point, logical, pragmatic, non-judgmental, non-aggressive, non-temperamental, non-self-deprecating and non-self-sabotaging. When you first hear the Recovery Spottings you may think that they sound odd, but believe me, they are worth learning and using.
Let me tell you something about this method that is amazing. If you practice and use this method consistently with the most mundane and trivial examples as you go through the course of your daily life you will begin to develop a sort of sixth sense. I am not talking about intuition or metaphysical powers that are usually associated with that term. I am talking about an acute awareness of your body that will enable you to know that you are getting worked up, pissed off, scared, angry, agitated, nervous, down, etc. before it happens! Once you have access to this awareness you are no longer a slave to your emotions. You will now have choices:
- You can ignore it, which is what we all currently do, resulting in emotional pain
- You can catch yourself in the act of getting anxious, getting depressed, losing your temper, or acting out in any other unhealthy way, and put it to a stop immediately by Trigger Spotting.
- You can stop a problem before it ever becomes one.
Here is how this magic works: Whenever your mind perceives danger your sympathetic nervous system triggers its fight or flight response. I actually believe that the sympathetic nervous system response is freeze-flight-fight based on the excellent book What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People. But either way, when this response happens your body is screaming at you that something just happened that made you feel a sense of danger and you didn’t even realize that it happened, or that it is happening. The Limbic System, the old instinctual part of the brain has already sounded the alarm to your entire body, and you are about to respond; but how will you respond? Will you respond the way you always have by instinct, or will you engage the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain, the part where our consciousness and decision making abilities reside? Up until now you thought that you didn’t have a choice, right? You practice this Recovery Method and you will see that you do have a choice!
Can you imagine that kind of empowerment? Can you imagine yourself having that much self-control? Most people who don’t even have mood disorders bungle this in their daily lives! You will become much more confident in your ability to handle your thoughts and emotions. You will be able to shut down the freeze-flight-fight response. You will settle down your disturbing physical sensations. You will become self-confident and feel a sense of self-efficacy, self-mastery, and self-confidence that you probably believed you never would. This is possible for everyone who can think. The more you practice this 4 step process, the more it becomes ingrained into you and one day it becomes second nature, you just do it automatically.
Before I present a video from the Recovery International YouTube Channel that shows you the 4 step method in action, I want you to bear something in mind when you hear this example: Notice that the gentlemen giving the example is telling us about a somewhat trivial incident that took place. Dr. Low called these trivial incidents “trivialities”, and he only wanted us to talk about trivialities because trivialities occur on an almost constant series to all of us every day of our lives. This is routine life. And by practicing this technique when dealing with trivial matters we will have a much easier time of being able to think clearly and not get “worked up” into temper as we give our examples. Feelings of being annoyed, agitated, angry, fearful, hurt, etc. are all emotions that can be classified as temperamental. Thoughts that are directed at outside environment (people, places, things, events, God, your children, etc.) are classified as “Angry Temper”. And inner thoughts such as self-blame, self-disgust, self-loathing, and depressing thoughts are referred to as “Fearful Temper. There are different Spottings for Angry Temper and Fearful Temper, but they are both referred to as “Temper” by Dr. Low, and as one of the major Spottings says: “Temper is the sworn enemy of mental health”.
Dr. Low used to say that it was not the major things in life that affected us as much as the trivial things that happen “almost every second of the day”. It is our constant danger response to life’s trivial events that chips away at us, weakens us, and can cause us distress. By the way, Dr. Low said that “symptoms were distressing but not dangerous”. The thought of danger that you don’t even realize you are having is firing off your ancient survival instinct reaction of the sympathetic nervous system. You are physiologically having the same reaction in your mind and body that you would have had if you lived in the ancient past and encountered an angry lion. This constant triggering of this freeze-flight-fight response by events in our lives that are in no way dangerous, are wearing people down psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically. It weakens the immune system, lowers or impedes our ability to think clearly, lowers our tolerance stress, and manifests all kinds of chronic illnesses. If you have any illness with the “itis” in it, there is a good chance that this chronic inflammatory condition is the result of this whole perception of danger. And once you get this Recovery Method working for you, you are going to see your physical health improve as well. Here ya go:
So now that you’ve seen the Recovery Method in action I hope that you will visit Recovery International (Abraham Low Self Help Systems) now and start to take control of your your mind, your body, your emotions, and your life. Local meetings are everywhere, and they are FREE. They do encourage you to make a donation at the end of the meeting, but it is not mandatory. This is a not-for-profit organization and believe me they used to be as low tech and grass roots as you could get. It was a miracle that I found them back in 1991. One thing that I never loved about Recovery meetings is that they are usually held in dark and dingy rooms of local churches and libraries because those spaces are donated for use by the organization. I am very sensitive to my environment and that was just something that I had to deal with. There were not telephone or online meetings back then. Another thing to be aware of is that these groups are going to be made up of various people in varying degrees of mental health. Some people will be out on disability and others could be corporate executives. That should not be your concern. These meetings work regardless of the demographic.
Eventually you will need to purchase one of Dr. Low’s books called Mental Health Through Will Training: A System of Self-Help in Psychotherapy As Practiced by Recovery, Incorporated. It’s a great book but it probably won’t help you much if you don’t participate in a group, either in person, by phone, of via the Internet. I also want to strongly recommend that you purchase this small book called The Wisdom of Dr. Low Words to Live By. This book is precisely the kind of book that I had hoped to write about the Recovery Method but never got around to it. The book can help get you up and running very quickly. But please understand that this method must be practiced. There are no instant shortcuts. This needs to be practiced daily until it becomes a part of you. It must become second nature for you to have self-mastery, but the road to that self-mastery is an exciting experience because little by little you quickly begin to see that you are in control, and that you can do this. With that said, I was definitely fully participating and reaping the benefits of the Recovery Method by my second meeting. And if it worked for me it can work for you.
One last resource for now is a number of recordings of Dr. Low’s talks at some of the Recovery Inc. meetings. His book called. Manage Your Fears Manage Your Anger: A Psychiatrist Speaks
is actually a transcription of these recordings, the I love to listen to the recordings themselves. You get to hear Dr. Low deliver these talks in his Austrian accent and with his stern yet compassionate words and tone. You might find a laugh or two in there as well. You can purchase some or all of these CDs on the Recovery International web site here.
Postscript: In my opinion Dr. Low, the founder of the Recovery Method and Recovery Inc., now called Recovery International, is the rightful true father of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and should be recognized as such. Dr. Abraham A. Low, an Austrian born Neuropsychiatrist educated at the University of Strasbourg took over the position of Chief of Psychiatry at University of Illinois Psychiatric Institute in 1931. Within a couple of years Dr. Low had became very frustrated with the the high percentage of psychiatric patients who were sent home from the hospital in good mental health but then quickly relapsed and needed to be readmitted hospital. He needed to come up with a solution that would help to keep hundreds and eventually thousands of people mentally healthy post hospitalization without him having to do all of the work. There was no way that Dr. Low could run this psychiatric hospital and then do out patient treatment with them himself. There were just too many patients for one doctor to handle. Dr. Low was apparently a very compassionate man. He always referred to his RI members as “My Dear Ones”. He was also keenly aware of prohibitive medical costs, and he sincerely wanted to put together a system that could be run by trained volunteers on a donation basis only where no one would be turned away because they didn’t have the funds. So in 1937 he started Recovery Inc. as a not-for-profit volunteer organization run by his healed patients whom he referred to as “nervous persons” because he recognized that we all are to some degree out of balance, for his “nervous patients” who where those who still needed a support system to keep them healthy. This small fully volunteer group that used to meet in people’s homes in Chicago has now blossomed into a world wide organization helping millions of people. And i am most grateful to be one of them.