I have been reading back on my blog recently and I have noticed how often I write about things which happened a few days earlier rather than events which are happening in the here and now. It is clear that I have taken time to reflect on a situation and its implications. Often I have reached some kind of conclusion even if only to identify an area I need to be more conscious of or need to do some more work on.
Taking time to reflect, allowing myself to reflect is a new thing for me and is something which my sobriety has made possible. Previously if a problem arose I would always have to have an immediate solution. I had to solve each issue NOW and brace myself for the next disaster. I was in a constant state of anxiety. Always in fight or flight mode. Constantly under threat. It was exhausting and self-perpetuating.
A common theme amongst those in recovery is the fact that although bad things continue to happen, in sobriety we are much more able to deal with those things than we would be if we were drinking. People in the sober blogosphere have coped with bereavement, the end of relationships and ill health well as all the more day-to-day issues which we all encounter – and all WITHOUT DRINKING – how amazing is that.
On the advice of my therapist I have been reading “The Chimp Paradox” by Steve Peters. If you haven’t read it, do. Dr Peters explains his “Chimp Model” in a pice in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/14/steve-peters-chimp-paradox_n_5321142.html
The Chimp Model explains how the mind can be seen as three teams, each with their own agenda and way of working. The Human (you), is mainly based in the frontal lobe, is associated with logical thinking and works with facts and truth.
The Chimp, mainly based in the limbic system, is an independent emotional thinking machine and works with feelings and impressions, and acts without your permission! The Human and Chimp are two separate thinking machines that independently interpret our experiences. Either of them can take control, but they can work together.
There is also the Computer, spread throughout the brain, which is a storage area for programmed thoughts and behaviours.
In his book Dr Peters writes”
“‘Why do I sometimes become so irrational in my thinking?’ The answer may now be clear. It is not you thinking at all, but your Chimp taking over and thinking for you. The solution therefore is to understand how your Chimp thinks, recognise when it is taking over, and intervene.”
I have found this a very helpful way of thinking about myself and why sometimes I react in certain ways to certain situations. My therapist has been suggesting that I might find the book useful for a long time, but it is only in my sobriety that I have been able to read and make sense of the theory. Although I don’t identify with everything in the book, I find the idea of the Chimp helpful. In some way the chimp is similar to the wine witch others write about.
I suppose that what I’m really trying to say is that, for me one of the most important benefits of sobriety is that I allow myself time to consider problems and deal with them calmly and rationally. Of course I still become anxious when something terrible or unexpected happens but I now have the strength to let those initial feelings pass and to resist my natural instinct to react in a knee jerk way. For me that it a very big change and it has made the rest of my life so much more settled. I am more at peace with myself.
Have a lovely sober weekend wherever you are and whatever you are doing. X