The Open Mindedness and Recovery thought experiment…
Imagine a friend telling you about this remarkable, damn near fictional, utopian city.
He states the case, rather persuasively, and insists you must move in post-haste.
In his defense, the enthusiasm of his persistence parallels his claims. “It’s perfect in every way,” he states, “it’s a quintessential combination and delicate balance of entertainment, art, economic opportunities, and equality, a capless market potential, politics bent on reason rather than emotion, academia fueled by a desire for knowledge not politically driven,” and whatever else can be rightly characterized by sheer awesomeness he peppers in.
How would you even know such a place exists? It sounds ridiculous. How could your friend possibly deliver a straight-up guarantee that this is the real deal?
How can you take hold of the conviction that what he’s telling you has some weight behind it? That he’s not just pulling a fast one. Can such an assurance even be acquired?
I suppose you would begin with a form of trust, at least a belief your friend is telling the truth, or that he at minimum thinks it’s true.
Nonetheless, trust in this variety demands some skepticism. Why? Because of the nature of the claim!
Nobody actually blindly takes leaps of faith. Instead, apart from childhood indoctrination, acquired, belief is the sum of investigation – whether pragmatic or factual.
With this in mind, you’d probably hop on the internet and search for reviews, pictures, videos, etc., of the utopian land in question.
You’d want to be certain your pal hasn’t simply lost his marbles. Even if the result of the inquiry is the probability of the veracity of your friend’s claims, you’d still book a visit and get your feet on the ground.
After already investing time and money into his claims, you now need a good map of the city once you land. Not all maps are created equal. You’ll need the one that cracks the jackpots open, that pinpoints the hot spots, where to wine, dine, and be entertained, the whole kit and kaboodle. You’d even further push an investigation into these claims. It couldn’t hurt to double or triple-check.
Once you had the plan laid out, you would then take the leap.
Does an open mind mean reckless abandon and acts of blind faith? Negative.
It does refer to the drive to investigate, identify, and initiate change.
These are the Three I’s of the open mind and what renders this amazing cognitive instrument indispensable to your recovery.
In this article we will be working through each one, unpacking precisely what they mean and why if your recovery is missing them then you’re selling yourself short.
Truthfully, if your life isn’t defined by investigation, identification, and initiation then your mind is hermetically sealed shut, depreciating in value like the food court at an antiquated mall with only one albeit enthusiastic vendor remaining.
If this is you it’s probable that your life is less an adventure and more a groundhog day type reoccurrence of the same day, same storyline, and same mumbo-jumbo nonsense.
It’s imperative that you start breaking that mind open. What do you have to lose?
The 3 I’s of Open-Mindedness and Recovery
Open mindedness if nothing else is the willingness to investigate.
Even if the propositions being offered are dramatically opposed to your current beliefs, open mindedness is the capacity to take the evidence and follow it where it leads. Its bare-bones humility.
Closed mindedness is conversely the unwillingness to assess the evidence and follow it where it leads. For this individual, their mind is already made up. What could be more tragic than this?
Life is designed to be an adventure of endless new experiences, not a tight congested container reliving the same ones.
In fact, this very congestion is what usually leads people to ingest drugs and alcohol. Their innermost being yearns for something new, so it artificially creates it.
So, be courageous, and investigate.
Another critical element of an open mind is the capacity to elicit your personal values and identify where your life deviates from what you hold so dearly.
This requires self-examination and rigorous honesty.
As the quote from Kohlberg suggests, we need to put forth a sincere effort to define what’s truly important to us – what we value most highly.
Subsequently, we must take this data and allow it to inform our lives i.e., our relationships, our jobs, our hobbies, etc.
This takes tremendous courage for it requires that we go against the grain and when you go against the grain what happens? You get splinters.
Carl Rogers referred to this concept as congruence.
According to Rogers, when a person’s self-image matches their ideal self, they are said to be in a state of congruence.
Incongruence can usually be the outcome of two trajectories: (1) an unrealistic self-image or (2) a lifestyle not compatible with one’s values.
The truth is, these both bend and bleed into one another. Allow me to explain.
If your self-image is unrealistic this is likely the result of a bent toward extrinsic values such as prestige, social status, power, etc. Moreover, if your lifestyle is not compatible with your values, namely what matters most to you on a deep and unconscious level, you’ll discover a similar emphasis on extrinsic values.
Finding congruence is synonymous with the restoration or emphasis of intrinsic values such as the Four Greek Virtues: courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom.
However, if you’d prefer not to use a list from two thousand years ago, a simple Google search for “examples of values” yields an enormous amount of illustrations to enable you to truly elicit your personal values.
- team spirit
- A relationship with God
- A strong work ethic
- Dreaming and Imagining Possibilities
In Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he breaks them down into two major categories: (1) Personality Ethic, (2) Character Ethic.
The former is values based upon external rewards, reinforcement, and social acceptance, and the latter is predicated upon internal rewards i.e., character change (a life based upon the Four Greek Virtues for instance).
He further explains that the Character Ethic is unwavering and absolute, that is, not contingent upon cultural changes, and is thus more valuable.
Again, another list could be:
- Helping people
- Being a good team leader
- Solving problems
- Worthwhile causes
The idea isn’t to identify a massive list but rather to find the few that are really the most important to you.
If what’s most important to you is not congruent with your life, you’ll feel like shit all the time.
So, be courageous and open-minded enough to elicit your values and allow them to change and shift the dynamic of your life.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Whereas investigation and identification are largely mental exercises, initiation is behavioral change.
Now you must allow the information uncovered in your investigation and the values elicited through your identification process to grow feet and change the way you live.
As Gershwin observes, usually this only occurs after deep pain and suffering. This is likely why a common saying in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous is that everyone must hit rock bottom before they can change their lives.
However, this isn’t necessary.
If you begin to investigate and sweep away your bias and prejudices, if you identify what’s important to you and see how your life fails to reflect this, then you can initiate change.
So, stop the nonsense.
Just do it.