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  • Writer's pictureEric Fisher

Balance theory of recovery

Updated: Jan 29

Extreme West True North Extreme East

An arrow for a spectrum on the balance of recovery.

Hypervigilance Awareness Justifying

Impatience Patience Compliance

Overdoing Action Reversing

Maintaining balance is essential in martial arts training. With balance, proper form can be established. Balance allows me to employ the appropriate technique. I have a more stable base with balance. Developing adequate balance in martial arts takes awareness, persistence, and a good understanding of the environment around me.

Balance is also essential in the recovery from substance use or process behaviours (e.g., gambling, work). One aspect of balance with recovery is striking a pendulum swing between being and doing. I cannot actively pursue recovery with activities and events without pausing every so often to simply be, whether through reflection, meditation, attaining proper sleep, or any other activities that switch on the parasympathetic nervous system (i.e., rest and digest).

For this post, balance is viewed on a spectrum with "Extreme West" on one end and "Extreme East" on the other. "Truth North" is the sweet spot between the two extremes. When it comes to balance, we'll look at each extreme and why the three principles in the middle section claim to be the most healthy and practical for recovery.

First, we'll inspect the far western area: hypervigilance, impatience, and overdoing. Hypervigilance is a chicken or egg phenomenon in relationship to stress. Stress induces hypervigilance. Acting hypervigilant can bring on increased stress. Being on high alert means I am looking everywhere but within myself. Hypervigilance can tell I am on guard for what's in the environment. However, I may pinpoint a threat that is actually not an enemy. My thoughts may be skewed by how I identify, label, and assess someone's intentions. This will increase the likelihood of pushing the high alert button on the console. Behaving hypervigilant deters someone from seeing varying perspectives. Fight or flight is what reigns at the forefront.

Being impatient robs us of our ability to see a situation through to the end. We want to act here and now without considering other factors in play. Expectations drive impatience and vice-versa. I like what I want, and I want it now. Impatience doesn't allow the time to be grateful for the experience and deters character growth. An attitude of impatience brings much strife within one's self and in relationships. Behaviours spotlighting impatience can be a dagger for stabbing into relationships, causing them to break down further.

Overdoing a task can bring someone to exhaustion mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. By overdoing, I am underutilizing another part I need to focus on more, such as an intimate relationship that flounders because I am too busy attending support group meetings several times a day throughout the week. There is nothing wrong with attending support meetings in the community or any other recovery-based activity. However, if the activities are enacted at the expense of myself, my relationships, and my connection to spirituality (if available), that may not be in my best interests.

We will examine the spectrum's far east side: justifying, compliance, and reversing. When I think of justifying, spiritual overtones come up. "Just if I'd" (play on words) never sinned because of God's grace and Jesus's sacrifice. The TV series "Justified" appeared in my mind as I wrote this portion. I may feel justified in my actions. Justifying is the opposite of hypervigilance because I am more concerned with reacting in the latter, while I am more concerned with analytical reasoning in the former. There is a calmness with justifying compared to hypervigilance, where calm is absent. The tricky part with justification is that just because something may seem justified doesn't mean it is necessary. Deceptive thinking due to substance use will pervade someone with what seems rational, yet the thinking errors manifest when examined closer. I may think I am good to go as far as visiting a casino for a concert, as I've been abstinent from gambling for three months. However, the addictive thinking involved in this justification, when it comes to testing personal control, can wreak havoc and take someone by surprise. Justification breeds hardship for many people.

Compliance is the opposite of impatience on the Western side since I want to comply and take care of something rather than stay impatient about circumstances and go headstrong without a well-conceived plan. Compliance also brings cracks in its approach with a plan that is not well-devised. However, the person's motivation is important in compliance. I'll act as if I agree with someone to get them off my back. There's a hint of impatience, yet attitudes and behaviours around compliance will often play the long game. They know it's worth keeping up the charade of saying "Yes" when needed and "No" when that response is better suited to the situation. The sad thing is, just like with impatience, no one can see someone's true self with compliance as they will not speak their truth about wants, needs, and goals.

Reversing is the last on the Extreme East list, and it serves as the opposite of overdoing for a few reasons. With reversing, I am pulling away from doing less than required and avoiding feelings, actions, or relationships with myself or others. In reverse, I minimize the importance of a situation and thereby don't take proper action. Reversing, when we speak about operating a vehicle, means we often look back in the rearview mirror. At least with overdoing, we are attempting to move forward, albeit in a self-defeating way. In reverse, we are looking back in a way where we aren't progressing and learning from mistakes, situations, or people's feedback. Reversing is as detrimental as overdoing, but from a different vantage point.

We now come to the true north portion, which includes awareness, patience, and action. First, we'll inspect awareness. When we become aware of something, we can choose how to proceed. In a way, awareness is the foundational block before deciding to act haphazardly or proactively. We can be aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, judgements, environment, intentions, and behaviours, to name a few. With awareness, we can empower ourselves via the choices we make. By not bypassing what we see, hear, feel, or think, we can plan how to take proper action. Awareness is crucial for self-care, improving interpersonal relationships, goal planning, personal interests/hobbies, and workplace competence. We are tuning into our internal self by honing in on our awareness.

Patience stands between impatience and compliance. By persevering with patience in a situation, I don't have to retreat into compliance and have to wear a mask, not showing my true self with my desires. In staying patient, I don't resort to impatience, which may lead to acting aggressively or passive-aggressively. Compliance holds a form of patience that doesn't build me up as far as a growing experience since the main goal is to get the intended result by manipulation. With patience, I may or may not get what I want. This is the same with compliance. However, that is usually not considered, and when someone doesn't get their way with compliance, their reaction may be tumultuous with temper tantrums, defamation of a person, passive aggressiveness, or creating further drama. Patience will bear fruit by connecting me with me and others in my wake. In having patience, my will for a particular outcome isn't as strong. I may hope for an outcome, and that is okay. Patience keeps someone in the process. Impatience or compliance is more about attachment to an outcome. And by being patient, I will have the time to construct contingency plans in case something amiss occurs.

The final principle, action, points to the power of awareness and action moving together. These two can occur almost simultaneously or one right after the other. I take action with patience and a healthy dose of awareness for what is happening inside and around me. Action is between the extremes of overdoing and reversing since no tainted characteristics are included. I am simply taking action without going overboard or straying into avoidance. The actions I take may not be perfect; that's okay. The action I take may not give me the goal I want. Guess what? That's okay. I will learn from the endeavour, nonetheless. Not doing anything is still considered an action. There is a difference between not doing an action as it's in my best interests and amply avoiding and backtracking in self-sabotage. You may ask how one knows which is which. I would ask yourself and others with whom you can confidently approach this question: Does this action benefit my recovery? If so, proceed. If not, consider alternatives.

I do hope you found the Balance Theory of Recovery beneficial. If you are moving into one of the extremes, ask for help from trusted support. Pursue self-care. Take a moment to stop, pause, and reflect. Rerouting is available with the proper response. This takes a certain amount of awareness, which shows the importance of this principle in a balanced approach.

Rocks balancing on one another.


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