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The second step of the famous alcoholics anonymous 12 step programme is to “believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”

Recently I was speaking with someone who had gone through the 12 steps. They explained to me that when you are addicted to drink or drugs you imagine that the whole world revolves around you. At the same time, your world actually revolves around the drink or the drugs. It is only through understanding that you are not the center of the universe that you can realise that you are being buffeted by forces such as dependency on drink and only then that you can take actions to change this.

Look out for more details on these questions in the forthcoming report on Whole Person Recovery.

For me, the important point is that realisations about our position in the world give us greater control over our own actions.

Initially this reminded me of the Freudian idea of “repression” which contends that an analyst can help a patient by revealing that which the patient has repressed. This then opens the patient up to new ways of reducing anxieties.

Too often when people discuss ideas like individualism, freedom or autonomy they fall into a sterile debate about the rights of the community versus the rights of the individual

However, the more I thought about it the more it reminded me of something Matthew Taylor says in his 21st Century Enlightenment lecture. He argues that “we need to aim for a self-aware form of autonomy, informed by a deeper appreciation of the foundations, possibilities and frailties of human nature”

Too often when people discuss ideas like individualism, freedom or autonomy they fall into a sterile debate about the rights of the community versus the rights of the individual.

I would argue that individuals are by their nature relational animals. We inevitably and readily enter into a staggering variety of relationships with other people; friends, family, colleagues, enemies, team mates, customers and so on. To talk about individuals as though they can be separated from their relationships misses so much of what makes us individual.

So what? Well perhaps realising this allows us greater control over our lives.

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