Do you want to be well? -John 5:6
In psychology there is a term that describes one reason why a person may fail to improve in treatment. It’s called, secondary gain.
People sometimes bristle at the very suggestion they may want to stay mentally or emotionally unwell. It’s easier to blame genes, brain chemicals, and other people for personal misery. I’m not denying the role of biology here. I’m simply saying there is more to it than that for most of us.
Secondary gains are almost always about fear of change. Do I really want to slow down, exercise and eat right, see a therapist, stop drinking, and take medicine? What if I need to give up certain friends or social hangouts, look for a new job, or simply quit whining for attention in order to help myself get well? What if I have to stop thinking of myself as a victim of others actions and instead take personal responsibility for my own happiness? Do I really want to do that? All these kinds of changes require work and loss. Yes loss, loss of people, situations, and the most uncomfortable loss of all–the loss of a particular self-identity. Why do you think Jesus asked the sick man at the pool if he really wanted to get well (John 5:1-16)? Being sick for thirty-eight years brings with it a certain security, familiarity, and identity.
One of my favorite phrases is, “we all got something.” Given that, perhaps we should pray for the grace to want to get well and the strength to do what is necessary in order to get well. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy in that regard. God on the other hand, is our best ally.
Painting by Palma Giovane (1548-1628). Found on Wikimedia, public domain.