People quite often like to categorise emotions as being good or bad, with emotions such as anger and self-pity being thought of as bad or weak.
Emotions such as gratitude and a positive outlook are thought of as good healthy emotional states. Truth is that judgement of any emotional state is itself counterproductive. Emotions are neither good nor bad themselves, neither strong nor weak, they simply are.
This may sound a bit trite but is important because of what ones emotional state can tell us about ourselves. Many people in 12-step recovery struggle with emotional drives once they get sober.
Often the alcohol has been used as a way of quite simply blotting out the emotional pain someone has lived in and has been used to simply avoid reality.
When someone gets sober, one of the first lessons that they learn is, how do they live with themselves sober.
This may not be immediately obvious at a conscious level, but they soon realise that the emotional unmanageability of their lives is often as strong as the practical unmanageability of their drinking which caused them to seek help.
One of the important parts of the process of 12-step recovery is to be able to consciously look at and evaluate how our emotions work at a normal instinctive level, simply because daily people just act or react to what goes on around them.
This can be particularly true when someone has a high level of anger or resentment that determines their attitudes and their reactions to much of what happens in their life.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous describes resentment as the number one offender and says it destroys more alcoholics than anything else.
Anyone who has lived with their anger, or with an angry alcoholic, drunk or sober, knows the power of resentment, and how overwhelming it can be.
Perhaps the most important thing to realise about our emotional states is that they give us information about ourselves.
The process of the 12-step program allows us to consciously evaluate this information at both a head and a heart level.
Being able to develop a degree of self-awareness is a huge freedom, even if it does not seem so at the beginning throughout the process.
Knowing what one’s emotional baggage and drives are, does give you the freedom to be able to process them, even if it is painful or takes you to dark places.
Thinking of people as being emotionally weak or emotionally strong is a fundamental misconception.
The real problem behind this attitude is one of judgement. If someone is judging themselves or other people for how they are feeling, they will be completely unable to accept it as a real state.
If they cannot accept that, in reality, they will never be able to change it.
The term emotional sobriety is often used to describe the process of people coming to terms with their more complex and serious emotional drives that may only begin to become apparent after someone has been sober for a while.
This journey can be a tough one, but ultimately is the only real route to any lasting happiness or internal sense of stability and peace.