I’ve been reading this book over the summer and really like Mark Manson’s writing. Thought I’d share his wisdom about how being less certain of ourselves can be valuable in terms of personal growth and insight. This excerpt is based on his blog post that you can read in it’s entirety here: https://markmanson.net/wrong-about-everything
Over to Mark –
Questioning ourselves and doubting our own thoughts and beliefs is one of the hardest skills to develop. But it can be done. Here are some questions that will help you breed a little more uncertainty in your life.
Question 1: What if I’m wrong?
As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last one to figure it out. And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armour of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves.
“Am I jealous – and if I am, then why?” “Am I angry?””Is she right, and I’m just protecting my ego?”
Questions like these need to become a mental habit. In many cases the simple act of asking ourselves such questions generates the humility and compassion needed to resolve a lot of our issues.
But it’s important to note that just because you ask yourself if you have the wrong idea doesn’t necessarily mean that you do. The goal is merely to ask the question and entertain the thought at the moment, not to hate yourself.
It’s worth remembering that for any change to happen in your life, you must be wrong about something. If you’re sitting there, miserable day after day, then that means you’re already wrong about something major in your life, and until you’re able to question yourself to find it, nothing will change.
This was me when I was drinking. I KNEW something was wrong and I was unhappy but this thought was cognitively dissonant to my belief (beliefs drive values) that my life was not worth living if I couldn’t drink alcohol (my addict voice could be really melodramatic!!)
Question 2: What would it mean if I were wrong?
Many people are able to ask themselves if they’re wrong, but few are able to go the extra step and admit what it would mean if they were wrong. That’s because the potential meaning behind our wrongness is often painful. Not only does it call into question our values, but it forces us to consider what a different, contradictory value could potentially look and feel like.
Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill required in changing one’s own life in a meaningful way.
Probing questions are necessary in order to get at the core problems that are motivating our dickish behaviour.
So the contadictory value I needed to consider was that a sober life or a life was worth living if I couldn’t drink alcohol. I had to consider the possibility – which is where sober blogs and communties are so powerful! Here’s an excerpt of a recent post of Prim’s saying pretty much the same thing! Thank you Prim 🙂
“If you are in the early days of sobriety – which I would classify as at least the first 200 days – then you may well have taken that decision because all the evidence has been proclaiming to you that your belief that consuming alcohol is an enjoyable and vital part of life is NOT TRUE, at least for you. and after decades perhaps of drinking, and social conditioning, that is an immensely hard belief to back away from, to challenge, to change.
one of the reasons I blog is to try to help those who HAVE identified they have an issue with alcohol, and to offer hope and example that life without alcohol is not lesser, but vastly more. that it is not a case of not being able to drink, but not having to drink. which is something I am still thankful for, every day.”
Question 3: Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
This is the litmus test for determining whether we’re got some pretty solid values going on, or we’re totally neurotic fuckwads taking our fucks out on everyone, including ourselves.
The goal here is to look at which problem is better. Because after all, as Disappointment Panda said, life’s problems are endless (but equally happiness comes from solving life’s problems).
With drinking my options were – Option A continue drinking or Option B mistrust my (addiction driven) belief that my life is not worth living if I can’t drink alcohol and remain humble and open to the idea that a life without booze might very well be the better problem to have.
Option A felt easier for sure at the time and Option B appeared hard and painful so it felt like the more difficult choice.
I try to live by a few rules, but one that I’ve adopted over the years is this: if it’s down to me being screwed up, or everyone else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up. I have learned this from experience. I have been the asshole acting out based on my own insecurities and flawed certainties more times than I can count. It’s not pretty.
That’s not to say there aren’t certain ways in which most people are screwed up. And that’s not to say that there aren’t times when you’ll be more right than most other people.
That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.
It was me versus myself – well actually me versus my addiction.
Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments. It’s only when we feel intense pain that we’re willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us. We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we’ve been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course. You could call it “hitting bottom” or “having an existential crisis”. I prefer to call it “weathering the shitstorm”. Choose what suits you.
If you’d like to read my answer to Question 3 I was recently a featured Sober Story on Living Sober: http://www.livingsober.org.nz/sober-story-lou/
Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen. When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Relish it. Savour it, Welcome it with open arms. Then act despite it.
I won’t lie: this is going to feel impossibly hard at first. But you can start simple. You’re going to feel as though you don’t know what to do. But we’ve discussed this: you don’t know anything. Even when you think you do, you really don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. So really, what is there to lose?
LIfe is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy. Even you’re farting fairy dust. Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing. Don’t ever forget that. And don’t ever be afraid of that.
If you’re certain about your drinking not being a problem – maybe it’s time to ask yourself these questions? And if you’ve hit bottom please reach out.