-Living a Recovery Life-

It is recommended that the reader print the “Flash Drive Forms” and “Terms and Definitions” page prior to reviewing this online educational platform to aid one’s comprehension and understanding.

The chart below illuminates the fluid nature of recovery living. Recovering is not a “fixed ” and “static” state but rather a continuum that ebbs and flows back and forth naturally. Here, the fluid nature of recovery (see chart below) means people swing between two polarities, daily, weekly, and monthly, though one may not be aware of it. On one end, this spectrum represents “Illness Centered Living,” and on the other end of the recovery continuum is “Person-Centered Living.”  This program aims to minimize the swing between these polarities to the degree that the default position of living for an individual becomes a Person-Centered Life.



With “The Illness” ( mental health conditions) at the Helm (Illness Centered Living), most decisions and actions a person undertakes first flow through and are filtered through the window of the mental illness to determine the appropriateness of action or non-action. As a rule of thumb, the mental illness condition has no vested interest in a person’s welfare outside of its invested interest in keeping a hold on one’s life. When the person is at the Helm (Person-Centered Living), the decisions and actions first flow and pass through the filters of the individual, the value holdings, and strengths a person has for making their life strong, where the appropriateness of action or non-action is determined despite the resistance put up by the “Illness.” For example, a friend calls and says, “Hey, let’s meet up this weekend?” an external request. Here, the person knows they value connections and acknowledges this would relieve the isolation and loneliness.    In another scenario, the person is deciding whether to eat a full meal or not instead of drinking pop and coffee, an internally driven request.

With “Illness Led Living,” in the first scenario example, the individual assesses the request from a friend based on the intensity of the mental health condition at that moment as it passes through the filters of the mental illness first, ignoring a significant value set, that of longing for connection and the acknowledgement as a means to address the continued isolation and longing for connection. Unless the individual interjects their strong priority, values, and commitment to themselves to overrule “The Illness” position to not follow through, there is a great likelihood this person would defer to the mental illness wish to continue diminishing one’s life.  This is an example of “Illness-Centered Living” decision-making and follows through. However, suppose the purpose of connecting and its value holds more sway at that moment and or for future (s) desired or past experiences to avoid reoccurring where one’s commitment to their welfare is vital over resistance to The Illness. In that case, there is a greater likelihood to follow through with a “Person-Centered Living” response.

Based on these scenarios, the recovery continuum flow between “Illness Led Living” and “Person Directed Living” is negotiated with a comprise where one maintains their truth to power or is overruled entirely. The more a person experiences defaulting to and permitting a person-led action over time, the greater the building of the “Hopefulness” and “Agency” muscles as a team.  A negotiated or overruled decision-making allows for fulfilling values of commitment to oneself and others of importance. In a way, facing the active resistance of mental illness condition(s) is like “resistance strength training” to build up and strengthen body muscles. Therefore, an attitude to culture sees this resistance as an ally rather than a foe.

With The Recovery Protocol Breakthrough, the object is to spend less time in the “Illness Living Zone” and greater time in the “Person-Centered Zone.” Over time, leading a person-oriented recovery becomes naturalist to engage with less effort and challenge than before. This, for many people, is a freeing and liberating position compared to being held hostage by mental health conditions, a stuck and debilitating way of living.

The most natural question to pose is, “What is a person going to lean on to override and counter “The illness’s” pressure to not conform to doing what is in one’s best interest?”
Over the decades, neuroscience has investigated how our executive (thinking) brain, called the (prefrontal lobe) located under one’s forehead, responds to positive and negative emotions that affect decision-making, social behaviors, and problem-solving.  Preliminarily, findings show that the right hemispheric region of the pre-frontal lobe is activated more with negative emotions than its left cerebral region. This heightened activation from negative emotions is tied to withdrawal-avoidance behaviors. This contrasts with the left side of the executive brain, which is activated more with positive emotions and has been associated with approach behaviors and motivation. This heightened left prefrontal lobe activation supports these “approach motivated behaviors,” which move a person towards desirable outcomes in their life. In the Recovery Protocol Breakthrough, the cultivation of this “approach motivation” tied to the left prefrontal lobe is of focus when positive attributes leading to positive emotions are examined. This program focuses on building and sustaining “hopefulness” and “agency,” the core factors in making recovery possible that are tied to the positive attributes that affect mental health. The following exert below further explains the significance of positive and negative emotions on the executive brain,

Braz J Psychiatry. 2017; 39(2): 172–179. Published online 2016 Nov 24. doi 10.1590/1516-4446-2016-1988; A
systematic review of the neural correlates of positive emotions published through ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7111451/.

Formation and regulation of positive emotions, including happiness, are associated with significant reductions in activity in the right prefrontal cortex *(negative emotional dominance) and bilaterally in the temporoparietal cortex, as well as with increased activity in the left prefrontal regions *(positive emotional dominance).
(*) Refers to the author’s clarification.

While the evidence is building, it is safe to say positive emotions pull people toward positive thinking, feelings, and actions through strengthened “approach motivation,” attached to positive attributions, which turn on the left pre-frontal lobe response to positive emotions. In turn, this enhances an individual’s ability to stay the course on their “Recovery Continuum” trajectory by executing approach behaviors and actions of value with greater consistency over the resistance created by The Illness’s negative adverse emotional effects, “The Dragging Effect” (see terms & definitions).

Another key focus of the program is based on the theory of the brain’s “Default Mode Networks” (DMN) and autobiographical narratives (stories) tied to negative rumination. With both Anxiety and Depression disorders, there is a tendency to ruminate more at rest about negative self-reflective appraisals that place attention on negative autobiographic accounts in a person’s life connected to lessened self-perception of worth and abilities. This results in sustaining greater right pre-frontal lobe activity over the left region in relation to the negative emotional rumination occurring. The DMN is linked to this rumination. Such ruminating narratives of this nature, in general, appear more in frequency with people living with these mental health conditions of anxiety and depression than mentally healthy people.

However, the issue is not with having these ruminations but with the degree of self-identification with them; hence, this accounts for consumers expressing this phenonium when saying, “I am a depressed person.” Here, in this example of self-identification with a mental health condition like depression, individuals assume “The Illness” is who they are, a very restrictive and thin description of their personhood identities.  When there is a fusing of one’s personhood (identities) with the diagnosis and its effects while living with “treatment resistance,” negative autobiographic stories tend to circulate more through the “DMN,” which further re-enforces this sense of diminished self, a falsehood.  Here, negative emotional states tend to dominate over the positive emotional states at rest. In such a cerebral space, these negative autobiographical memories influence decision-making, social behaviors, and assessment of one’s futures to come. The degree of self-identifying with “The Illness” instills ruminating narratives of this substance, which greatly perpetuates “Illness-Centered Living,” a weakened recovery position. To highlight these Default Mode Network (DMN) findings, here is an exert from this publication,

Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 15; 70(4): 327–333. Published online 2011 Apr 3. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.02.003,
”Default-mode and task-positive network activity in Major Depressive Disorder: Implications for adaptive and maladaptive rumination by,

  1. Paul Hamilton, Ph.D., Daniella J. Furman, M.A., Catie Chang, M.S., Moriah E. Thomason, Ph.D., Emily Dennis, B.A., and Ian H. Gotlib, Ph.D.

… we found in MDD (major depression) that greater dominance of DMN — a network that subserves passive, self-relational processes such as recall of autobiographical memories (13) and mind wandering (31) — was associated with higher levels of less effortful, maladaptive, depressive rumination (RRS-D; e.g., “How often do you think about all your shortcomings, failings, faults, mistakes?”).

The approach of the Recovery Protocol Breakthrough is to lessen the self-identification with anxiety and depression-induced stories of failings, faults, and shortcomings, thin appraisals of self which tend to elicit negative emotions, thus dominating over salient autobiographical stories of personal capacities-strengths, talents, abilities, purposes, aspirations, values, and meanings connected to a purpose-filled life which allows for a “Person-Centered Living.”

This program approach aims to lessen illness rumination while highlighting, building, and strengthening positive attributions of self-gained through bringing forward autobiographical accounts of personal capacities of value held regarding how they feed their lives for the better though facing the inner turmoil of living with a serious mental health condition. This focus culture’s greater approach motivated behaviors by exposing and building richer narratives of one’s personhood (identities), which are presently crowded out by Illness ruminations supporting the opposite. The exposing and thickening of such narratives make way for personal space to consider the instillation of more positive autobiographical accounts that bring out the merits of one’s personhood. Over time, this approach allows for greater opportunity and freedom towards living a “Person-Led Life” instead of being dominated by “Illness Living.” This direction fosters a more positive emotional effect that, in turn, promotes greater “approach behaviors” and motivation.

“We are all in this together.”

-The Recovery Specialist