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Your Greater Good

Posted Sep 27 2009 10:02pm
I've heard talk of the greater good plenty before. People donate money for the greater good. They "take one for the team." And so on. The idea is that a small, personal sacrifice right now will yield greater benefits in the future.

I'm pretty talented at delayed gratification--in fact, I'm pretty sure it's the only real way I know how to gratify myself. Outside of the fact that I've managed to equate denial with happiness, I really get the idea of the greater good. I get how it works, and I like the idea. Because it isn't all about me.
To some extent, I thought the eating disorder was operating on the plane of the greater good. I was denying myself something now (food, rest, free time), for a tremendous payout later (feeling like I was good enough). The eating disorder really didn't work like that, as my self-denial was really an attempt to nullify the anxiety I felt about needing anything. The end goal was subsumed in the here and now minutiae of anorexia, the calorie counting, the tallying of sit-ups and push-ups, the Holy Grail Quest for calorie-free food.
The writer of an OCD blog, titled " Beyond the Doubt," used the idea of the greater good in his own recovery from OCD, and has a developed website called Your Greater Good. The idea is that the OCD rituals feel good right now. They make the anxiety better, and are classified as a "good" choice. However, in the long run, the obsessions and compulsions only make you feel worse. They don't free you from what you fear; instead, they tether you to it even more strongly than before. This makes engaging in OCD behaviors not such a "good" choice. The idea, then, is to find something of greater good than your rituals, something that can provide perspective and motivation to allow you to make the more difficult decision to resist the anxiety.
I've found this idea to be tremendously helpful to me in my own recovery. I enjoy the advocacy work that I do, and it's not about making the eating disorder "worth it." It's about making the pain of recovery worth it. Much of the time, my greater good has nothing to do with eating disorders. It might be the opportunity to travel. It might encompass being there for a friend. A huge motivator for me is that I promised Aria I would never, ever leave her again. That keeps me going when few other things can.
So what's your greater good? How can you use it to keep moving forward in recovery?
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