To say that an individual is open-minded means that they are receptive to new and different opinions and ideas. It is the willingness to at least consider that other people might have something of value to say. It also means that the individual has enough humility to admit to themselves that they do not have all the answers. The opposite of this is closed-mindedness and arrogance.
An open-minded approach can be a crucial tool for people who are recovering from addiction. In Alcoholics Anonymous, it is common for members to admit that my best thinking got me drunk. The point of this saying is that the arrogant alcoholic will think they have all the answers. Yet there best thinking never got them anywhere. In recovery, a new way of thinking is required. The benefits of open-mindedness include:
* The ability to live life honestly. Even the most arrogant individual will have moments of clarity when they are full of doubt and uncertainty. The individual who is able to admit that they do not know something will only be ignorant until they are given an answer. Those who do not admit their ignorance remain that way indefinitely.
* The chance to have fun and make new and exciting discoveries. Being closed-minded limits opportunities in life.
* Greater ease building friendships. The bolshie attitude of the closed-minded individual makes more enemies than friends.
* Freedom. Many of the beliefs that the individual holds onto most tightly are those they learned from others during their formative years. Open-mindedness is not about just accepting what other people have to say. It is about questioning what is being said with the understanding that it is possible that this other opinion could be right.
* The ability to progress faster in personal endeavors. Open-minded people are more likely to think outside of the box, and when they go off track they will not beat themselves up too much about it. Such an individual tends to benefit a great deal more from the process of trial and error.
* The ability to see the world in color. Closed-minded people tend to see the world in black and white. Things are either right or wrong. Unfortunately the world is not that simple, and there are many grey areas in life. If people insist on viewing the world too rigidly they can be in for a bumpy ride.
* The liberation that comes with being vulnerable enough to admit not having all the answers Not only does the person admit their limitations but they are also accepting that such lack of knowledge is acceptable. Nobody has all the answers. It is often claimed that true wisdom comes when people realize how little they actually know.
If people approach sobriety with a closed mind it could mean that they put their recovery in jeopardy. The dangers of this approach include:
* Those individuals who are closed-minded can more easily become stuck in their recovery. They are faced with a challenge but do not have the resources to overcome it. The individual is also unwilling to admit that they need help. There can be no further progress in sobriety, and the individual is likely to relapse back to their addiction.
* If people are too closed-minded, they may develop dry drunk syndrome. They remain abstinent form alcohol and drugs but in many ways their behavior is much the same as it was when they were addicted. The dry drunk can be arrogant and full of anger and resentment because their life away from alcohol and drugs is not what they hoped. They view abstinence a prison sentence.
* There are usually warning signs before people relapse. If the individual is closed-minded they might refuse to consider that they have taken a wrong path in recovery. They therefore ignore the warning signs of an impending relapse.
* When people give up an addiction, they will suddenly have a great deal of free time on their hands. Boredom can be a relapse trigger so it is crucial that the individual finds things to do with this time. This means being willing to experiment with new hobbies and interests. If the individual is closed-minded, they will be far less willing to engage in such experimentation.
Most individuals are not naturally open-minded. It is something that they have to work at. These are some of the things that the individual can do to encourage a more flexible relationship with the world:
* The individual needs to get out of the habit of automatically refusing other people’s suggestions. Even the strangest proposal may appear to have some merit after careful consideration.
* It is good that people question their own opinions and beliefs. When people become sober, they are often shocked to find how many of their former beliefs are ill-informed or based on misunderstandings. Even sober people will pick up many errors when absorbing new information. An inebriated individual can completely misunderstand what has been communicated. This means that they can carry a great deal of faulty thinking with them into recovery.
* When people are open-minded they seek knowledge and are not out to score points. This means that they do not resort to personal attacks when they feel they are losing an argument. If the views of the other individual are more persuasive, then the open-minded person can accept this without feeling personally attacked.
* Being open-minded means that the individual has to agree to leave their comfort zone occasionally. This means being willing to try new things even when there is a great temptation to say no.
* It can be helpful if people deliberately put themselves in a position where their current opinions and views are challenged. If what the individual believes in is correct then there can be no threat from these opposing views. Just reading a book or visiting a website that supports an opposing view can foster open-mindedness. Of course, the object here should never be to go looking for an argument. It is also best if people are established in their sobriety before conducting such projects.