In my last post, Living with your sober self, we looked at learning to accept and love yourself. This will help you to become a person who does not need alcohol to get through tough situations, because you know, deep down, that you are enough, and you are OK. You are what you need, not alcohol.
You might have read How to build a life you do not want to escape from, which explains how to accept or change your life so that you can overcome your need to drink to escape from your situation.
The journey you are on is brave and bold. Making changes can be scary, learning to accept yourself can mean fighting against years of self-criticism. Accepting parts of life may feel like a challenge but these things are also liberating, and you are building the skills you need to accomplish it.
The next, and very important step is to learn to trust yourself and trust your world.
When drinking, you will have had no trust in yourself or your world and therefore you will have been constantly fighting against yourself and your past, present and future. The ultimate failure of alcohol to make any difference to any of these things will have increased your lack of trust and increased your frustration, subsequently fuelling your need to continue drinking.
In reality, alcohol was definitely part (if not all) of the problem, rather than the solution.
As I said in Living with your sober self, the power to change anything in your life comes from within you, and only you. There is no external quick fix. But luckily, there is a very internal long-lasting fix.
So, how do we learn to trust our sober selves?
The subject gets me so genuinely excited I could squeal! But like all good ideas, it is simple yet complex and that makes me worry that I won’t be able to do it justice for you, but I am going to have a go.
Ego and the self
The Ego is most often talked of in relation to Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego. While there are parts of this theory that are applicable to the Ego it’s not quite the same.
I am using the word Universe throughout this piece for want of a better phrase, so please don’t stop reading straight away because it sounds too hippy dippy for you. I am trying to convey the thing which can be described in so many different ways, such as the universe, the one reality, spirituality, a higher power or God – but is ultimately is the life force.
When I talk about the Self and the Ego, it is conveying the idea that the Self is our true nature, and the nature of the universe working through us, but the Ego is the influence from outside; the fear, the control and the things that we allow to get in the way of our life force.
To trust our sober self, we have to become more in tune with our Self and less controlled by our Ego.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of the unknown is the major player in the Ego.
Fear of the unknown is what can stop us trying, stop us forgiving, stop us reaching out. Fear of the unknown can make us create obstacles that aren’t necessarily there because we afraid to see what will happen if we try. Fear can be of the future, the past, of other people, of other places or of ourselves. If we do not know ourselves, do not like ourselves or do not understand or accept our emotions and feelings this will create fear.
Fundamentally, fear is a lack of trust.
Fear has played a huge part in my life. From a young age I was afraid of dying, afraid of people, afraid of social activities, afraid of being rejected, afraid of my emotions and afraid my own mental health. I drank because I couldn’t accept anything (I was too afraid), so I wanted to hide from it and pretend it wasn’t happening. This was my ‘coping’.
Being in your head, is being in your Ego. Drinking to hide form what’s in your head is even more so. In these situations, our Self doesn’t stand a chance.
The opposite to the fear of the unknown is acceptance, which come through flow.
Our Self is the part that is connected to the universe. Both the Self and the Universe are always in flow.
I am not a ‘religious’ person, but I am a spiritual person, and I thought it was important while home-schooling my son, to give him a broad understanding of beliefs around the world so that he could examine his own views and learn tolerance of other views. What I did not expect was how totally absorbing I would find it, and how much it would link to my own research on happiness and sobriety. What I discovered was that flow is a concept that appears in nearly every religion, culture, psychology and philosophy.
In the East particularly, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, going ‘with the flow’ is the only way to reach your true self and a higher understanding of reality.
In Japan, there is a concept called ‘Ikagai’ which basically means flow. I recently read a wonderful book about Ikagai, where two people set about discovering why people in certain parts of the world had such long healthy lives. One of their main finding, was that these people had found their passion or their flow and dedicated their lives to that flow.
If you interested in reading it the link is below.
In the West, we would call a state of flow being ‘in the zone’. Have you ever found that when you are ‘in the zone’ things feel so much easier and just seem to happen naturally? You still have to put in the effort but when you are ‘in the zone’, challenges and goals are faced and completed more easily. Who wouldn’t want that?
In the West, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has developed a psychology around flow and written many books on the idea. His most famous is probably Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. Very like Ikagai, it says that completely focusing on what you are doing gives meaning and happiness to it, rather than focusing on all the stresses around you. This focus is part of the flow, and the flow is what creates happiness.
It can go on a bit, a bit like the Power of Now below, but they both contain gems of transformational information if you want to go hunting!
In order to dedicate your life to the flow, you have to trust the flow.
Trust the flow
Deepak Chopra – I talk about him a lot because I think he is utterly inspirational – writes and talks about trusting the universe and trusting the flow.
In his book, Seven Secrets of Spiritual Success, Deepak talks about the importance of giving and receiving. This is a very important and well-known idea. Most religions and philosophies either state or imply that you ‘reap what you sow’.
Giving and receiving is at the heart of the nature of flow but you have to give willingly and be open to receive. Giving is not about material things, it is about giving yourself, your time, a compliment, a smile, a thought or a prayer for someone else.
My favourite self-help writer, Louise Hay says in, You can Heal Your life, that the thoughts we put out about ourselves are the ones we get back multiplied.
Robert Emmons, of the University of California, conducted studies on gratitude and he writes the same about gratitude: the more we express gratitude and appreciate what we have, the more we are given to be thankful for. You can read about his studies in his book Thanks!: How practicing gratitude can make you happier.
Deepak says that Ego consumes all your energy while in contrast, when you are in the Self, your energy multiplies, and the universe responds to that energy. The universe knows how to fulfil our needs if we are open to it. He calls this ‘pure potentiality’.
To access pure potentiality, we must embrace the flow which will allow the universe to work through us. Yet we cannot be in the flow if we are not in the Now.
If you read nothing else here, then read Deepak Chopra
Being in the now is purely about being aware of ourselves and our surroundings at this very moment.
Being in the now can be achieved through practices such as mindfulness, meditation, prayer or yoga. Basically, anything that leads you to be still, quiet and fully aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings at that moment.
Being in the now allows us to access the flow. If we are worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, we are being consumed by Ego, and as we now know the Ego will consume all the energy that we should be channelling into the Self and the Universe.
Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now, had his moment of revelation on day on which consumed by misery and depression. He was thinking that there was way out when he suddenly understood that he was OK now, at this very moment, and that now is all there is, all the rest is not important. Our past and our future only have power if we give it the power.
Obviously, the now and the flow do not mean that you cannot have ideas and desires for your future or life, that would be unrealistic.
What you can do is set your intention for the future and then let it go. Accept everything as it is in this moment; you cannot change anything so why fight against it? Then you can intend for things to be different.
Deepak Chopra says we need to find a place of stillness or awareness and offer our intentions to the universe, but then let the universe work on them. Most importantly we must release our attachment to the outcome. The Universe will work in the way it works, if we hold onto an idea of how things ‘should’ work out, we will be back in the land of Ego, disappointment and suffering.
The heart of Buddhism is that suffering is caused by trying to hold onto something in a world that is always changing. Flow is an ever changing, flowing, twisting, turning force. If you try to hold onto something as it is, you go back into your Ego, because nothing is permanent or fixed. For Buddhists, in order to find peace, you have to release your hold everything you know, including material possessions, desires, thoughts and plans.
You’ll find things happen far more easily when you have surrendered to the flow – most obstacles will disappear on their own
States of consciousness
I wrote briefly in How to build a life you do not want to escape from, about the four states of consciousness. This is a model that my sister introduced me to, which isn’t the usual states of consciousness theory, but it made so much sense to me. It is a model designed by John Renesch and Thomas Eddington, Co-Founders of FutureShapers, an organisation aimed at inspiring conscious leaders to aim for a better world.
In this model there are four states of consciousness
- Life happens TO ME
- Life happens BY ME
- Life happens THROUGH ME
- Life happens AS ME
Let me explain in more detail.
You feel you have no control over what happens to you. It also means that you take no responsibility for what happens to you. You tend to blame what happens to you on outside forces. It is a state of victimhood and you ask ‘why do this happen to me’ a lot.
You have taken control over your life and you make things happen. You feel empowered and like to problem solve. You create the life you live. This can be a very positive place, however, ultimately is in the Ego rather than the self. It can be exhausting and you are definitely sweating the small stuff!
You give up on the fear-based Ego, and accept your life based on trust. Although we are still a part of creating our lives, we have surrendered the outcome to a higher power. Your life is abundantly blessed.
In the fourth stage, you are at one with the universe and everything is a part of the flow and everything flows through you.
Where are we?
We frequently move between the stages for different periods of time at different stages in our lives, but we tend to settle back into just one stage.
It is estimated that over 90% of people spend 90% of their time in states 1 or 2, yet when you trust your sober self you will predominantly be in stages 3. I won’t even go to stage 4 as I think I am far too far away from to understand it properly at the minute! But don’t despair if you are in 1 or 2. With a little effort and work, it is possible to change the stage we most often settle in.
You can move from stage 1 to stage 2 by taking back control and learning to take responsibility for your life. This is not about blaming yourself in some negative way, it is accepting that what happens to you is a direct result of how you think and feel about yourself and your worth.
You can move from stage 2 to stage 3 by surrendering to the flow of life and trusting in the universe to support you in all your decisions.
So, how do we learn to trust our sober self?
Learning to trust your sober self
Rather than writing anymore at this point, as I feel there is an overwhelming amount of information already in this post. Enough to be getting your head around for a while! Instead, I’m going to add links to posts that I have written about certain things in more detail. If my posts aren’t for you, the books linked above should hopefully be a good start.
- Practice loving and taking care of yourself – Sign up for my free 7 days email course below or read Change your thoughts to change your life
- Practice meditation and mindfulness – Sign up for my free 7 days email course below or read Living with your sober self
- Practice gratitude – How to practice gratitude
- Be aware of what your thoughts and how you can change them – Change your thoughts to change your life
- Find what you love and do that – Fun things to do without alcohol
- Practice setting intentions and letting them go – How to build a life you do not want to escape from