Keeping a hidden negative mental balance sheet is an insidious way to increase your risk of relapse. For example, Bill has finished rehab and gone back to work. Bill’s boss speaks to him about leaving his tools scattered around in the shop. Bill interprets this event as proof that his boss does not like him and that he will get fired in the end no matter what he does. He adds this single event to his ‘the world is unfair to me list’ which is actually his ‘reasons why I don’t have to stay clean’ list. Bill has just moved himself one step closer to giving up on his commitment not to drink or do drugs.
Each stressful event can be seen as a single event and managed poorly so it increases your stress. Or, it can be seen as a single event and managed well so it decreases stress and increases positive outcomes and feelings. A stressful event can also be viewed as part of a succession of stressful events such as partnership/marriage breakdown. The event can be used as a signal to make a plan and take action to decrease stress and increase the chances of solving a larger problem. Or, once again, an event can be seen as part of a larger hidden agenda of an unfair world, a world that is against you. It can be used as an excuse to express anger, to give up on commitments such as exercising, losing weight, and studying, and a reason to start using drugs or alcohol again.