Hitting Rock Bottom Is Too Passive
Rock bottom is often used in the context of alcoholism or drug abuse. However, it can be true with regard to staying in a bad relationship or abusive work environment, avoiding getting more childcare or tolerating painful emotions without help.
The most common phrase concerning rock bottom is “hitting rock bottom.” This language, though, can be unhelpful because it’s passive. It assumes there is an objective place at which we will fall that is–external to our subjective choice–rock bottom. Instead, rock bottom has to be actively declared.
Hitting Rock Bottom Also Puts Too Much Power In Outside Authority
Another problem with the phrase “hitting rock bottom” is that we start to look for an outside authority. Sometimes this includes literally looking for an expert to tell us when we’ve hit rock bottom, or exactly what or where rock bottom is (Just search “How to know if you’ve hit rock bottom” in Google and see the numerous results).
But, that’s nuts. There’s an assumption that it’s up to someone else to sort out what rock bottom means–someone who can decide what sort of relationship is too abusive, what sort of job is too degrading or what sort of embarrassing behavior on a night out is too intolerable. We tend to look for outside authority on a lot of these emotional questions because it’s easier than owning it ourselves. We’re looking for someone to ease the hard work of having to decide when enough is enough.
Rock Bottom Is When You Run Out Of Tolerance
I should note that one person’s rock bottom is another’s rough Thursday night. Rock bottom has a lot to do with a nuanced understanding of tolerance. We think of tolerance, whether it’s emotional/internal tolerance (as in tolerating discomfort) or political/cultural tolerance (as in tolerating differences), as a strength. But many of us have too much tolerance.
In a sense, rock bottom is when that tolerance runs out. Of course, having lots of tolerance might mean going deeper into misery or discomfort before you declare your rock bottom.
How Do You Declare Your Rock Bottom?
Howard Beale’s speech from the film Network comes to mind when thinking about declaring rock bottom: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Which is to say, declaring your rock bottom is messy, and it usually isn’t gradual or subtle.
We are often resistant to declaring our rock bottom for just that reason. We don’t necessarily want to choose to mess up the current order of our lives. But, while the messiness of declaring rock bottom can’t be avoided, it can, however, be embraced.