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Mental Strength VS Tough Act

Mental Strength VS Tough Act

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Mental and emotional strength and stability are not always easy to develop, although many would say it is easier to fake. While some people do legitimately have a stronger sense of self naturally, others will live off a pattern of protecting themselves mentally and emotionally through acting tough. Acting tough may meet your needs as far as a quick fix, boosting the ego as a defense mechanism. Still, the tough act is not a strategy that is sustainable.

Mental strength is not to say you are stronger or smarter than anyone. Lacking in mental strength does not mean you don’t have the same capacity for thought and understanding, it just means when the pressure is potently applied there is more of a chance that you will suffer. Some people think that the tough act will help them improve their mental strength. However acting tough just fakes strength while not allowing people to grow.

Here are some differences between mental strength and putting on a tough act.

  1. Insecurities

The tough act typically has that element of outward ego that proclaims the individual as the best thing breathing. The person will have an overcompensating confidence that insists upon itself. However the truth behind it is the person is overrun with their insecurities. They refuse to expose any weakness, which hinders connection with others.

People with mental strength will actually admit to their faults and invest energy and time into self-improvement. These people realize that while they may fall, they are still able to grow.

  1. Failure

When it comes to falling down, the person using the tough act will insist that failure is not an option. They will never surrender or accept defeat, which means they cannot learn from their losses. The irony is that this attitude rarely prevents people from losing. Meanwhile it blocks them off from trying something new later because the ego fears the loss.

People who have mental strength understand that every failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Mentally strong individuals view every shortcoming as an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and build off their new perspective. These people know they fall so they can learn how to get back up.

  1. Denying the Self

The tough act has a pretty recognizable symptom in most cases- the individual only expresses their emotions when it comes to anger. This person will deny their pain, sadness, fear and even excitement. When it comes to pain they would rather grit and bear it then let anyone see them sweat. This again prevents them from growing through their pain and even from setting boundaries.

Mental strength will show itself for what it is. When this person feels fear or sadness they will be honest with others and with themselves. But just because they express these feelings doesn’t mean they let them dictate their lives. Their ability to be self-aware and expressive lets them monitor how their emotions impact their behaviors and their relationships.

  1. Control

This is probably one of the most common traits of people who try to act tough as oppose to actually having mental strength. The tough act will have someone trying to appear as if they are in control, having power over others and dominion over any situation. They try to force their will onto people and circumstances to make sure things go their way because it creates an illusion of strength and superiority.

However, true mental strength comes from having self-control, not controlling others. This individual wants to understand and manage their emotions by directing their own thoughts and perspective because they understand that they are only responsible for their own reaction to any given situation. They know their strength comes from their ability to adapt, not from trying to force life to go their way.

For people who rely on the tough act, it is not to say you have no mental strength, it just means you could build on it holistically to determine where you rely on a misguided ego instead of developing your mental and emotional muscles. The more practice you actually put into exercising mental strength the more you will let go of the act. By changing your strategy and adopting a new attitude toward these feelings you actually better prepare yourself for the journey ahead. When the tough gets going, the tough act doesn’t cut it without the mind to follow through.

In recovery from drugs and alcohol, mental strength is something we have to learn in order to grow and flourish. It is not always easy to break these habits, but if we can separate from the substance and get the foundation we need we have a great shot at becoming stronger than we ever thought possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

All the Feels: Emotions after Addiction

All the Feels: Emotions after Addiction

Photo of Author

Author: Justin Mckibben

Today I got a case of the feels…

From my experience having emotions ain’t easy, and can cause a lot of self-inflicted suffering… especially when we try so hard to mask them, or trick ourselves into thinking they don’t matter.

Drug addiction has earned a reputation for obstructing our growth and prompting a status of emotional immaturity, a status a lot of us struggle desperately to grow out of. But when we come out the other side of addiction, what does that mean for our understanding of those feely feels?

A lot of my addiction was the never ending search to feel nothing; to somehow chemically condition myself to be immune to my own emotions, but the beautiful part of this is realizing there is progress and possibility beyond what I have even begun to experience already in recovery.

Addict Immaturity

A lot of times we are told we stop maturing mentally and emotionally at the age we start using because drugs stunt our growth, and a lot of us start using at an age where our sentiments and our sense of self are moving through a critical period of development. We are caught in the only emotional maturity (or lack thereof) we understand in our youth, moving incredulously slow in our progression… if at all.

Looking at it in sobriety, I can see now where my life has changed in relation to how I understand and react to some of those feels.

Angry Feels

I’m told I was a happy child, but I am also reminded I had a serious chip on my shoulder. Before I was 10 years old I had already spent a few years in anger management therapy, and by the time I was a teenager I had taught myself to bury my anger to avoid unwanted attention, but it ultimately festered into volatile resentment that would burst through the surface impulsively.

In active addiction it became much worse, and at the most inappropriate and unpredictable times I would lash out.

I never saw myself as an angry person, and at worst others have described me as indifferent and disconnected, but anger was there and it went unchecked until it was too late and it spilled over onto others who did not deserve it.

In recovery, I’ve been taught to understand anger as something else entirely… ego and fear. Rage and aggression should have no place in my spiritual principles, because humility and acceptance need to be present for me to keep my sanity in sobriety.

If I am angry, it is because I want to force my will onto things that are none of my business. A lot of that came from being afraid, and anxiety ruled my life. Letting go of anger isn’t easy, but it creates an easier life.

Depressed Feels

Despite being remembered as a happy kid, my life in addiction was perforated with depression. Another extension of my negative ego and anxiety was the belief futility and hopelessness was at the very foundation of everything.

Depression isn’t rare when you are addicted to downers. Basically all my usual drugs of choice were depressants so of course when I got high, I actually felt lower than my lowest lows. Guilt, regret and loneliness existed in an endless cycle of me trying to suppress them, but ultimately inviting them into my heart like long lost friends. This led to suicide attempts and overdoses; desperate attempts to break the cycle.

It’s easy to hide depression behind a smile. In sobriety I don’t have to fake the feels anymore.

I still get depressed sometimes, but I’m reminded when I feel sorry for myself I am forgetting what amazing blessings have already been given to me. Clinical depression is an obstacle for some, but not an impossible one. When I appreciate my life, I remember it is OK to be sad, but not to forget the incredible relationships and circumstances life offers me.

Happy Feels

Sometimes I don’t even know how to handle being happy. I can wake up with bliss in my heart and it feels surreal, like when you put on your favorite shirt but it doesn’t seem to fit right.

In addiction ‘happy’ wasn’t really about feeling happy for me; it was about not feeling anything else. Happy wasn’t having truth or love in my life, it was getting high without immediate consequences; avoiding emotions and using manipulation to take advantage of everyone else’s. Happiness was based on how tolerable drugs made my life, not about life itself.

I’m still not happy all the time. The beauty in that is I don’t have to be. I have finally allowed myself to feel the things I never wanted to feel in addiction, and that in itself brings me serenity. Knowing the world wont come crashing down when I’m upset is a new peace.

Emotional Sobriety

Emotional sobriety is a foreign concept to me sometimes. I can still be anxious and afraid; I can still be selfish and angry, or depressed and ungrateful, but the evolution of my emotions has shown me how to treat myself and other people in spite of my emotions.

A wise man once said,

“You gotta ‘F’ your feelings before they ‘F’ you…”

In sobriety I understand this philosophy. Our feelings are part of the human experience, but they do not have to dictate our destiny. Our hearts and minds carry so much meaning, but even they can be fooled by our feelings. Your truth is your truth, but that doesn’t mean you have to live blind to the truth of the world, or of the impact you have on others.

Be ready to feel those feels.

Today, happiness to me is the love and appreciation I have for the incredible people in my life, it is the awesome opportunities I have to be a better person and the gifts I have been given throughout all my life, not just sobriety.

Sometimes I’m so happy it brings me to tears, because the beauty of this world passes too much of us by; because I live in gratitude and feel it so intensely after I spent years trying not to. Other times I get lost in feelings I just want to experience, and that’s OK too. I’m feeling some type of way today, and the fact I want to is amazing.

The rain is just as beautiful as the sunshine.

In sobriety I get all the feels, and I like to feel ‘em because feeling feels is my favorite feel… ya feel me?

Sobriety has given me a lot, but I remember feeling trapped in addiction. Drugs and alcohol misuse our feelings and keep us sick, but recovery is possible, and mine began at Palm Partners. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135  

How Angry Music Makes Happy People

Can Angry Music Make Happy People?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Ever have someone ask you why you’re so angry? Naaaah, me neither.

Not because you are, but because of the music you listen to? Have you at least had people look at you sideways because they never figured you would be the one blaring heavy metal, punk rock or even rap music in the car? I know people are typically surprised when I have Bring Me the Horizon at full blast in my headphones during my workday, and they always say “you seem like such a calm guy.” Well, reading online all morning about a dress and how no one knows what color it is gets a little frustrating.

What if I told you that a lot of times that so-called ‘angry music’ is usually listened to, and even made by some of the calmest and most cool minded people? Or, in fact… that the theory about listening to ‘angry music’ for positive results is actually backed up in a recent study conducted by Maya Tamir and Brett Ford, researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

The study about the science of loud and ‘angry music’ was conducted using 175 people, who were asked to participate in role-playing exercises where they had to either confront a person (one example of these imagined scenarios was a cop interrogating a suspect) or they were asked to collaborate with someone. The music came in before the role-playing began, when the subjects were allowed to choose from a selection of music to aid in evoking the emotions they would need, including the basics:

  • Anger
  • Happiness
  • Neutrality

The subjects of the study were also asked questions about other factors about their personalities, such as:

It was up to them to decide on the music they would hear before beginning the exercise with the other individual. Tamir stated,

“Music is often used as a way to manipulate emotions, I just had people decide how to manipulate their own emotions,”

In all reality, it is not that abstract of a concept for someone to pump themselves up with aggressive music before engaging in a tough task: Like sports teams or professional fighters playing loud aggressive music to make dramatic entrances. So it should come as no surprise that the individuals who chose ‘angry music’ had no problem completing their tasks. But that’s just one side of the coin.

Tamir also found that the people who actually chose ‘angry’ or ‘aggressive’ music actually showed an over-all greater sense of well-being than the people who avoided feelings of unpleasantness or confrontation. So really the answer isn’t so black and white. Through this Tamir concluded,

“Rather than seeking happiness at all times, it may be important to seek happiness at the right time. Encouraging people to seek happiness and shun unhappiness irrespective of context may not necessarily be adaptive in the long run.”

So basically by constantly trying to shield ourselves from being unhappy or depressed we expose ourselves even more, becoming more vulnerable when the time comes that we have no choice but to hurt, when we are truly unhappy and we have no conditioning to face it.

So Many Feels

Tamir’s study actually reinforces the idea of engaging in what Frederic Luskin, a Stanford University professor and co-chair of the Garden of Forgiveness Project at Ground Zero, calls “constructive anger”. Professor Luskin has actually lectured on this very topic at great length, and he usually states that unlike destructive anger, constructive anger is the type of anger that aims to actually fix a problem.

“Constructive anger usually leads people to feel that they’ve accomplished something somehow. They’ve protected somebody or solved a problem.”

So when you listen to GWAR at top volume in the office until you finally ask your boss for a raise, that’s a form of constructive anger. You’re building a form of aggressive emotional leverage, and it gives you the courage to solve an issue.

But it’s not all sunshine and smiles, dude!

Luskin is careful to say there’s a line between listening to something that inspires aggression and actually acting out on that anger. Needless to say, he is one guy you won’t catch throwing elbows in a mosh pit anytime soon. Luskin believes that when you enter the mosh pit and start engaging in violence, no matter how fake it might be (or how understanding the people you punch are) that’s where the line between constructive and destructive anger is being crossed.

As far as pumping up the volume, Luskin says there could be some value in the idea that people who enjoy getting blasted by guitar riffs and drum solos while screaming at the top of their lungs in a crowd of thousands of other heavy metal fans are actively engaging with their anger in a safe, temporary and controlled way. He says,

“It could be nothing different than doing other sorts of thrill-seeking. When people go bungee jumping…it stimulates adrenaline, it gives them a sense of adventure. It serves as a wonderful discharge for certain energies. It’s different strokes for different folks.”

Emotions are essentially something that we humans know how to use strategically; I mean how many times, when you’re honest with yourself, have you wanted to feel a certain way and when the feeling came you kept it going with music or behavior, even if it was an angry or sad feeling? Essentially what we’re saying is that avoiding being angry or hurt and only seeking ‘happy thoughts’ really won’t get you anywhere.

I agree, because I know the times I feel more intense feelings are the times I grow the most. Tamir has stated,

“We all have a deeply ingrained belief that we want to feel emotions that feel good and avoid those that feel bad at any cost. But emotions do much more for us than merely provide pleasure and pain.”

In my opinion, there is something very enduring about cranking the volume on your headphones to something that shakes your heart like a house in a hurricane. The paradox is that sometimes the more we try and shelter ourselves from the bad feelings, the more sensitive we become to them. Then they have the potential to do more damage, because we can’t face them with a smile.

Truly experiencing the painful or vexatious feelings through music is a constructive way to identify the feeling; to let that honest expression pass through you can be cleansing, and ultimately letting it be guided into growth is an experience we chose for ourselves that can actually cultivate our resilience.

Say word?!

Music is one element of the outside world that can have some influence on how we feel, and sometimes separating ourselves from the things that hurt us the most means we need to change those elements. Learning to create healthy emotional responses is one way we train ourselves to be healthier people, but for addicts it often means a lot more. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

10 Reasons Addicts Make People So Angry

10 Reasons Addicts Make People So Angry

the author’s favorite comedian, the late Mitch Hedberg

By Cheryl Steinberg

It’s true, when it comes to our loved ones, addiction is a maddening disease that causes frustration to the point of anger. You’ve heard it, “Throw them all in jail” or “put them all on an island” so that they can destroy each other. The glaring problem with that is that there will always be more addicts. I always say, if you go into business, make it a funeral home or else a rehab because there will always be people dying and there will always be addicts.

All of us in our active addiction – whether we’re willing to be honest with ourselves or not – did some pretty terrible things so, it’s no wonder that people become fed up and angry when dealing with an addicted loved one. Here are 10 reasons addicts make people so angry.

#1. Being lied to

Addicts lie. Plain and simple. It might be about where they were last night or what they did that day. And, when it comes to borrowing money (see#9), addicts will fabricate some of the most creative and detailed lies. You know the joke, Q: How can you tell when a politician is lying? A: His lips are moving. Well, the same can be said about someone who is actively abusing substances.

#2. Being stolen from

Addicts also sink to pretty low lows and do things that even go against their own value system, such as steal from their loved ones and strangers. The desperation that comes with full-blown addiction will lead many an addict to steal money and valuables from friends and family in order to support their habit.

#3. They continue to use even when you’ve expressed concern

You constantly wonder, “Why can’t they just stop?” For many non-addicts (“normies”), it’s difficult to grasp the concept of addiction and just how intense the obsessive thoughts and compulsion to use can be. To many, addiction is a matter of willpower; not a disease that needs treatment and recovery support.

#4. Their sense of entitlement

Often times, addicts are quite immature in their thinking because their emotional age is that of the age when they first started using. So, for example, a 50 year old alcoholic who started drinking at 14 pretty much thinks and acts like a 14 year old. And, just like most adolescents, they usually have a certain sense of entitlement, thinking that they have something owed to them because their life is so terrible. It’s no wonder addicts make people so angry.

#5. They use in front of their loved ones, even their children

Another one of the reasons addicts make people so angry is that they drink and use drugs in front of their concerned loved ones and, if they have children, they might even use in front of them, too. And, if they are still hiding their use, they still come around all high and messed up, which tends to aggravate people.

#6. They cause you constant concern and worry

As the friend, family member, spouse, or otherwise loved one of an addict who still uses, their self-inflicted problems will cause you to worry about them. This sort of thing tends to frustrate and anger people. This can develop into resentment for how selfish (see #8) they seem to be acting – constantly using and even flaunting their use.

#7. They relapse again and again

For the loved ones of an addict who is a chronic relapser, the repeated cycle of them getting clean – which gives you hope – only to relapse again, is like being on an emotional rollercoaster for our loved ones. When people are made to feel such emotional highs and lows, they can certainly become angry and resentful of what you keep putting them through.

#8. They’re selfish

When addicts lie to and steal from you, it’s hard not to take it personally. They seem so selfish in their actions because they’ll do anything for that next fix even if it’s at the expense of others. Related to this is another way addicts make people so angry in that when they end up in the hospital or dead from an overdose, we think, “how selfish!”

#9. They ask you for money and never pay you back

If they’re not stealing money from you, they’re constantly asking you to “loan” them some. And by that, I mean, they expect you to give them money; they rarely – if ever – pay it back.

#10. Their extreme denial

How infuriating is it to watch someone run around in circles in their addiction and be able to get them to see what you see?! It’s maddening and frustrating to be the only to see that someone you know and love has a real problem of which you cannot convince them.

If you or someone you love is dealing with an addict and you don’t where to turn, there is help available to you and them. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist to learn about ways to cope, support groups, and how you can help the addict in your life. You are not alone and help is available. Call day or night.

8 Ways to Identify Toxic People (and How to Set Healthy Boundaries Once You Do)

You ever had that person in your life you felt was poisoning your day on a regular basis? This is someone who has a real talent for bringing you down spiritually, emotionally or socially and takes more away from your life than they ever contribute. Some people are just flat out toxic in certain stages of their own life. Not necessarily bad people, but just people who have more potential to harm you than help you. I know if you’re in recovery, it’s pretty easy to assume you know plenty of these people, or have even been that person once or twice in active addiction.

8 ways to identify toxic people (and how to set health boundaries once you do)- With the help of my favorite bad mouth robot, Bender (aka The Greatest) of Futurama!

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

1. They hate it when you’re happy

Jealousy is toxic, and toxic people cannot stand it when you are in a good place.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

The best thing to do when facing someone who is upset just because you’re not, make sure not to let them say or do things that will diminish your smile.

2. They love it when you’re unhappy

Toxic people tend to be in a better mood when you are at your worst.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

If you find yourself in a bad state, and someone is more than happy to make matters worse, then you should make sure to let them know in moments of weakness you cannot be influenced by negative energy.

3. They are openly judgmental

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

 Set your boundaries by not feeding into gossip and promoting humility.

4. They value violence or intimidation

Being a verbal or physical bully is a character trait of a toxic person. They typically try to make themselves a reputation with threats or assaults.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

The best boundary you can set with this type is to speak out against their intimidation tactics, or avoid them altogether. Pick your battles.

5. They are more than a little selfish

Self-seeking and inconsiderate people often don’t see how toxic they are because they are so self-centered the effects they have on others are in their blind spot. They will ignore the needs and concerns of others, and expect more than their share of consideration.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

You can set your boundaries with these people by emphasizing your self-worth and do your best not to let them rent space in your head.

6. They take emotional hostages

Misery loves company, and toxic people usually don’t know how to deal with their emotions. When they are in a fit they will abuse the emotions of others or force their own issues onto you in order to spread their grief or negative energy.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

You can support others emotionally, but make sure to always keep your emotions protected from those who would use them against you.

7. They blame everything on everyone else

A toxic person will do something that hurts them or others and then give any reason to put the blame on you or anyone else to avoid responsibility.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

Setting healthy boundaries with these people means doing your best to keep them accountable, and don’t let them use you as a scapegoat for their problems.

8. They have a disturbing lack of faith

Believing in themselves or others is something that a toxic person has an intensely difficult time doing. They are the ‘no you can’t’ or the ‘I give up’ types who drain all hope and optimism out of every situation.

Some people just want others to know exactly what they think of them all the time. Toxic people usually make comments consistently about the faults in others and quite often want to influence you to do the same.

The best way to set a boundary here is to keep your aspirations alive and express to them that the only criticism you can accept has to be constructive.

 If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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