Coping Skill #6 - Set Your Own Goals

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    Goals!  Goals!  Goals!


    Has anyone else noticed that, sooner or later, once we become stabilized on our medications, therapists start talking about goals?  They stress that goals are important to recovery.  Then, if we don't pick a goal or two for ourselves, they select one or more for us.  Although therapists clearly have our recovery in mind and are well intentioned, sometimes the goals they select seem trivial or even irrelevant.


    Schizophrenia, as we know all too well, is devastating.  One of the worst consequences of this condition can be that our relationships with others suffer.  Relationships, even those most dear to us, such as our ties to family and/or best friends, can be damaged simply because these others don't understand, or refuse to accept, the fact that we are ill.  In all fairness, our behavior often does change dramatically in the throes of this brain disease, which makes it much more difficult to maintain these relationships.  [Many family members and friends thought I was lazy, lacked discipline, was acting out or was possessed.]

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    In my opinion, therapists are correct in their belief that once our medications makes it possible, it is essential to recovery that we begin to rebuild or replace our relationships with others.  Unfortunately, there is no panacea, no pill that will do this for us.  This [re]building process can be difficult and we need to work hard at it if we are to be successful.


    If our loss of family and friends is due to changes in our behavior that resulted from our illness, the secret to rebuilding or replacing these relationships lies in our behavior as well.  We may be forever changed by our experience with schizophrenia, so it rarely possible to restore our relationships to precisely what these were before we became ill.  But then, each of us is no longer the person we once were.


    Once in recovery, many of us find that our belief systems, values and perspectives on life have changed every bit as dramatically our behavior changed when under the influence of our illness.  Most, if not all, of us in recovery find ourselves more patient, understanding and compassionate, sometimes even a bit wiser.  So it is not surprising that we want and need relationships that reflect these changes.  Some of our old relationships inevitably become casualties of our recovery.


    Many, perhaps even all, relationships are complicated and we, as well as others, bring a certain amount of baggage with us.  The repair work, or the establishment of new relationships, cannot be accomplished in one fell swoop.  The best way to begin [re]building relationships is one step at a time.  And the best way to approach this process is for us to set out specific goals for ourselves.  It is almost certain that each of us will have a different set of goals.


    If our therapist is assigning goals to us, it is because we haven't told him or her about the goals that are most important to us.  In other words, we haven't been completely forthright with them.  And that is our fault, not theirs.  A good therapist can be of enormous assistance in formulating goals that are appropriate for us at various stages in our recovery.  It's foolish not to take advantage of their expertise.


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    By the same token, the goals we do strive for must be our own.  They must orient us in the direction we want to go, and the achievement of these must be of real significance to us.  If the goals we strive for have been selected by someone else, or do not reflect our true desires, they will be worthless.  Not only is it unlikely that we will ever achieve the goals, these may even become stumbling stones or brick walls on our road to recovery.


    So work with your therapist, listen to what he or she says, and listen to the opinions of others that you trust, but if you are to suceed in the end, YOU MUST SELECT YOUR OWN GOALS.


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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.



Published On: April 20, 2008