Clausewitz as a Recovery Model: Preparing for Definite Failure

Clausewitz as a Recovery Model: Preparing for Definite Failure

At some point during your recovery you will be up against insurmountable odds pitted against your chances of success. This may be your doing, the aftermath of poor decisions, or it may be a new situation you are hurled into which was poorly planed and needs revision. In mental health we call it the perfect storm of contributing factors to risk of relapse. I call it mental status free fall and the emergent need for help.

In any case, sometimes winning or experiencing relief from symptoms isn’t in the picture. Management of symptoms may not be realistic either, so what happens when chaos breaks loose and your illness becomes mismanaged. For this answer, we look to the end of the Second World War and the German solution for preparing for the end of fascism in Europe.

I would like to discuss the German operation Clausewitz and frame it in a recovery model for healing and hope of relief ahead. In the spring of 1945 Berlin was encircled by the Russian army. This was the battle of Berlin. With the allies advancing in the west and the Russians in the east resources for the Germans to carry on a war of attrition was lost. Few believed in a positive outcome for Germany and even fewer wanted to be in Berlin when the battle ensued.

But like some civilians in 1945 Berlin that couldn’t escape; you too may be stuck in a situation which is toxic and puts your recovery at jeopardy. In this event, even a moment by moment approach to handling the problems which may unfold in daily events may not be helpful in the wake of such global distress to your overall mental status.

So, the tool I am recommending is simple and easy to implement during crises and persistent loss of our control and capacity to problem solve or create solutions for ourselves. The most important tool, and one also employed by those in Hitler’s bunker was radical acceptance of the inevitable. Self management talks a lot about repairing decision making before things get out of control. But sometimes, things will err regardless of our actions. Taking comfort in the inevitable loss of our gains to date and accepting a loss or drop in mental status may be what’s necessary to start over again.

Clausewitz was Berlin as a front line city. Everyone knew the city was lost but to the people of Germany this operation signaled to the population of the city that it was time to prepare for the end. This may mean exhausting all your resources for one last hurdle, because, those very resources maybe moot in your next set of challenges and preservation and conversation may be a waste of energy.

This all means in very practical terms that there is a purpose in admitting defeat. I have see first hand patients barricade themselves in their apartments to avoid hospitalization and this is never the answer. There is a function in failure. Nobody is beyond starting over unless you are ready to give up in your recovery altogether. So, hit the refresh key in your life and sit back as your world view resets, wait, and hope next time things will be different.


J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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