It has been said that the human mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open.
Several weeks ago I wrote about Honesty as the first in the triad of Honest, Open-minded, and Willing, the H.O.W. of spiritual and emotional growth and necessary ingredients for healthy recovery from addiction (see H.O.W. do we Change?).
Today I am addressing the Open-minded of the H.O.W. Oops, what’s that sound? Is that the blam-clang of your mind slamming shut? Don’t want to hear about anyone else’s perspective? Okay, keep your blinders on and go about your life. No need to read further.
If, however, you want personal growth, or if you happen to be attempting recovery from addiction, it may become difficult to hang onto old ideas. Refusing to see another side of an issue is fine if we want to stay stuck, stunted, and in the same old rut. Growth, however, requires prying open your mind and letting in something new and different every once in a while.
It is not necessary to agree with a point of view you simply cannot believe in, not mandatory to change your mind about everything; just attempt to hear what another person is saying, attempt to see how there could be another side, another possibility you have not yet thought of or allowed, instead of blocking out all opinions except your own. Wise men know they can learn from fools. Maybe you can learn from someone who seems to be different from you.
How (H.O.W.) might this stuff apply to someone with a drug problem? Most alcoholics and addicts don’t believe they have a problem until some crisis occurs, usually after they have ignored signs obvious to many others for years. No one I know puts on their high school or college graduation goal list that they want to become a member in good standing of A.A. Almost everyone has an opinion about twelve-step groups, usually without visiting many of them or trying the things that work for others. The criticisms are always the same: “not for me”, “I can do it myself”, “I don’t need help,”, and “It’s too religious for me,” “I’m f i n e (f—–up, insecure, neurotic, and egocentric), and “someone might see me”. Does it not occur to you that if someone sees you at a recovery group, they, too are there for help? Does it not occur to you that everyone does see your pathology, your drunkenness, rigidity, inappropriate anger, and other sick behavior, and would be happy to see you get help?
If you are having a problem with alcohol or other drugs and want to do something about it, consider pretending you don’t have an opinion about twelve step groups. Consider opening your mind to an organization that is responsible for the sobriety of countless alcoholics. Many have found they could change, just by opening their minds to the experience of others and listening to another perspective.
For the rest of the population, those who do not have a drug problem, there is much to be learned from the addict men and women who are able to open their minds to life without chemicals, to help from those who have been there and recovered, regardless of their education or income level, religion, politics, age, skin, hair, or eye color, or anything else. What can we learn? Maybe to open our minds to other people and their beliefs and opinions…maybe we can learn something from people who are different from us…we might learn how much we are all the same once we get past the superficial stuff listed above. Maybe we are rigid and angry (see Anger) about how we think things “should” be. A cousin of mine once said she thought everyone should have two children, a girl and a boy. Huh? Really, she said that. Extreme, but look at your own narrow mindedness. Do you think everyone should vote a certain way? Think someone should dress differently than they do, eat differently than they do, be different than they are? Are you closed about your family, think your children should like a certain activity or food, grow up to have a specific profession? How about yourself. Do you torment yourself with “shoulds”, as in, “I should be making more money…be a better parent…be thinner…be further along in my career…” I am not suggesting we cease taking responsibility for our children or ourselves, just that we avoid rigidity and allow choices, and not be so hard on ourselves or our families because we or they don’t “act right.” Don’t “should” on anyone! Rigidity, by the way, is tied to emotion, usually anger, as in: “You can’t tell me…” Oh really? Well, if you are too closed to hear another side, then I won’t bother. If you don’t quite qualify for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, try Alanon, or Codependents Anonymous. All twelve step groups are free. (If you need them, you have already paid your dues.) Or find a good therapist or consultant. Find out how to change, how to be less rigid and judgmental. Allow a range of choices to yourself and others. Give yourself some freedom and let others be different and still acceptable.