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The Serenity Principle May 15, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

And, now (as Monty Python would say) . . .  for something completely different!

Dedicated to the serenity and wisdom within us all, The Serenity Principle: Finding Inner Peace In Recovery is a handy-dandy tool to have in your life toolbox.

In a nutshell, Joseph V. Bailey, a psychologist dealing with addictions, explains how our thoughts get in the way of our peace of mind, serenity, and happiness.  When we master our thoughts . . . we find lasting serenity.

In its essence:

We think a thought (“That jerk!  I can’t believe he cut me off like that.”) . . . we get angry (“He does that all the time.  He makes me so mad.”). . . which makes us think about things that make us angry (“People like that are so rude.  No one has any manners these days.  Everyone is in such a hurry.  I hate having to deal with them everyday.  Man, work sucks!”) . . . which makes us angrier (“Why do I have to deal with this? Why did he have to act like that?  I was feeling so calm and peaceful until he ruined it for me.  I can’t wait to tell Jo what he did.”) . . .

Wow!  That’s exhausting.  And not conducive to peace of mind.

In contrast, if we see the initial thought for what it is ~ just a puff of energy ~  we can examine it BEFORE it spirals out of control, and replace it with a thought that is more conducive to our happiness and peace of mind:

“That jerk!  I can’t believe he cut me off like that.” –> “Hmm . . . it that true?He’s not  always a jerk.  Sometimes he can be caring and helpful. There’s no reason to hang on to my anger ~ if I do, I’m destroying my peace of mind.  He’s not doing anything to me.”

The more you question your thoughts and look to see whether the statements are really “true,” the faster your calm, peaceful center resurfaces.


So was Joseph V. Bailey when he first attended a Neo-Cognitive Psychology seminar in November 1980:

At first, what they talked about insulted my intelligence.  It was far too simple!  But something deep within told me that they made absolute sense.  My ego fought for a while because these principles appeared to contradict everything I had spent the previous fifteen years studying.  But as my own life changed for the better and my counseling clients responded in new and positive ways, it became clear that I was onto something of true value.  I was feeling more and more serene.  My clients began to get “well” ~ not just to recognize their addictions and cope, but to enjoy true peace of mind. 

Eight years ago I quit searching outside myself for serenity; I realized it was within me all along. (Preface, xi)


At Harper Collins, you can Browse Inside the book:  at the dedication, the preface, the acknowledgments, the table of contents, and read through the first five chapters.

While Bailey focuses on the treatment of addictions, the theories behind The Serenity Principle apply to everyone, and its practical application will benefit anyone searching for greater peace of mind:  

When we mind our own business, we see that the greatest power we have to influence others is by changing ourselves.  When one person finds serenity and lives in a stress-free state, it is an inspiration to others.  If I encounter someone in my world who is happy, it makes me look at how I am responsible for creating my own unhappiness.

We must have the courage to mind our own business, our own state of mind.  We cannot blame others if we lose our positive feeling ~ it will only perpetuate the illusion that the power to change is external rather than within.  When we turn inside for our source of strength, it is always there. (p. 89)

From the author:

The cornerstone of recovery is to realize that we are responsible for our happiness, free to create whatever life we choose.  If we truly want to be happy, we must be willing to let go of guilt, resentment, and other negative thoughts associated with the past.  The past is over.  It is an illusion.  (p. 96)

From a patient married to Taylor (an alcoholic):

I felt overwhelmed; I began to cry.  My tears dripped into the macaroni.  Suddenly, it hit me ~ this has nothing to do with Taylor.  These feelings have to do with me and my own thinking.  What was I doing?  Standing alone in my kitchen, I had succeeded in making myself perfectly miserable.  And the best part is I actually realized ~ I understood ~ that I have been creating this kind of turmoil within myself all my life.  (p. 98)

For a further review, Beverly Kam (California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists): The Serenity Principle

Quote:  If we consciously choose to put peace of mind ahead of all else, we will discover the power that lies within. ~ Joseph V. Bailey

Related Posts:  Attack of the Killer ANTs * You Are NOT Your Brain (Always Well Within)


1. Richard W Scott - May 15, 2010

Simplicity seems to be the key. In my opinion we tend to layer on complexity in order to bolster our egos.

2. nrhatch - May 16, 2010

Just so, Rik.

We think thoughts all day long ~ many of which are complete fabrications designed to accomodate Ego.

When we focus our awareness on our thoughts ~ we can consciously choose which to pursue on our path of happiness, and which to left drift away.

“I am not my thoughts. My thoughts are not me.”

“Do not believe everything you think.”

3. SuziCate - March 3, 2011

It’s a wonderful thing to retrain yourself to be like that, but it takes lots of practice…I’ve been working on it. Currently reading a lot of Gina Lake and find her insight helpful.

nrhatch - March 3, 2011

It does take a TON of practice. And it starts with being mindful of the thoughts that arise, often of their own accord, in our minds.

It’s called the Practice of Mindfulness for a reason. 🙂

It’s the best time I ever spent!!!!

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