In twelve-step recovery circles the phrase “terminal uniqueness” is applied as a warning to everyone trying to get sober. But, even if you aren’t in a recovery program, you’ve probably felt terminally unique around certain challenges. The term refers to a belief that your pain is so special or different from everyone else’s, there must be a serious character defect in you that no one else has. The internal voice of terminal uniqueness sounds something like this: “I’m the only one that struggles like this.” “I must be really messed up since everyone else can get sobriety but I can’t.” “No one can really see how much pain I’m in.” “No one else can understand how terrible my childhood was.” Terminal uniqueness can also afflict the well to do. The voice morphs into a different set of attacks: “I got everything I wanted and I still hate myself. I must just be a broken, a total loser.” “I got the house, the car, the kids, and the husband - and I’m still depressed. I should just kill myself.” “I thought being rich would make me happy, but I think I was happier in my one bedroom apartment. It’s hopeless, there’s just something wrong with me.”
We call it terminal uniqueness because if you follow its story that you are some kind of alien species that is so messed up no one can understand you, the only “solution” the story leads you to is suicide. If not suicide, the solution will at least be a kind of psychological cut off, an isolation that results in a lifetime of slow, confused misery, hiding, and pretending to be ok. In this case terminal uniqueness does not necessarily kill you physically, but it kills the joy out of your life. You live, “a quiet life of desperation.”
You are not terminally unique. It is actually egotistical to believe your problems are that special. Your problems are not superior to everyone else’s. You aren’t floating above Earth in a spaceship full of manure wishing you could touch ground. On a planet of seven billion and counting, there are millions who have experienced some version of the kind of pain you’ve gone through in your life. They’ve gone through, addiction, physical handicaps, child abuse, depression, poverty, divorce, the loss of a partner - parent - or child, business failure, lost love, broken heartedness, prison time, unrequited love, abandonment, betrayal, financial abuse, suicidal ideation, a drug addicted relative, disease, physical abuse - if you can name a challenge in your life, many have already gone through it or are currently going through it.
Terminal uniqueness is the mother ship of the internal victim. It is the story in your mind that continues to recycle about what a failure you are as a human being. Its goal is the destruction of peace, love, creativity, success, and even physical survival. Its voice is a lie. You belong to the human race, and if you look around even a little you will find companions who can look you in the face and say, “I know what you’re talking about, I’ve been there.”
So where should you look? Well, we are in the age of Google. It’s pretty easy. Just do a search for your issue and you’ll find a group that corresponds. Have an alcohol issue? Alcoholics Anonymous is for you - https://www.aa.org/. In debt? Debtors Anonymous is your group - https://debtorsanonymous.org/. Having a midlife crisis as a man? Try Mankind Project - https://mankindproject.org/. Midlife problem as a woman? Try a Her Weekend - https://herweekend.com/. Part of the LGBT community? Google the LGBT center near you - https://lalgbtcenter.org/. Bisexual? Try Ambi - http://www.ambi.org/ Sexual abuse survivor? Look up Stop It Now - https://www.stopitnow.org Have a drug abuse issue? Narcotics Anonymous is there for you - http://greaterlosangelesna.org/ Looking at too much porn or hooking up with strangers? Check out Sex Addicts Anonymous - https://saa-recovery.org/.
Or, just join a support group lead by a qualified therapist. The list of recovery groups, support groups, and help available today is endless. If you are not availing yourself to the help you need you may be listening to the voice of terminal uniqueness that says, “No one can help me. I’m hopeless. My problem is too unusual. I’m unique. Stay home, don’t even try.” Don’t listen to its lies! You are valuable, you are needed. Take a stand, reach out, YOU ARE NOT TERMINALLY UNIQUE.
Click below to see Mary C. Von Olen’s take on Terminal Uniqueness: