“Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.”
― Henry Lawson
Wasn’t that quote from Benjamin Franklin? Well for time’s sake, let us stick with Henry’s, all right?
Being drunk is fantastic, isn’t it? Nervous about talking to that cute girl? Here you go, sir, have a beer, how about two? Ah, come on, three will do the trick, won’t they? And, there you are, romantically drunk talking to the girl of your dreams. That is until you are sleeping underneath a car because you thought that it was warmer over there (not my proudest moment).
Alcohol is a double-edged sword. It’s fantastic and terrible at the same time. Remember your last hangover?
The question here is: Why do we do it?
The feeling you get from alcohol are feelings of freedom and relief. Life becomes easier and you stop caring about the minutiae. This happens because alcohol activates (frantically) the reward systems of our brain, as in realizing lots and lots of dopamine, which makes us feel amazing and confident and sure that all that we do is awesome.
Wouldn’t it be cool to feel this way, all the time, but without punching people in the face, or calling your ex at 3 am?
The “Punishment and Reward” Education
Johnny, if you behave, you’ll have the cookie, ok? Johnny did you do your homework, Ah! No!? Bad Johnny, you’ll not have the cookie!
So, I just tried to describe our education in a nutshell. Mostly, all of our behavior on a day-to-day basis is motivated, on differing degrees, by punishment-reward education.
You’ll behave depending on what gets you approval, what will reward you. If you’re not careful, or if you don’t know better, it will come up to a point where every single aspect of your identity will be defined by what other people thought was right for you. While that other people you were trying to get the approval off, is doing the exact same thing.
Being anything but real! And definitely not free. Sounds more like a prison, doesn’t it?
But what happens when you are drunk is that you don’t need that approval anymore, you’re fabricating, or better said, releasing (in the way of dopamine and serotonin) it yourself with the alcohol you’re drinking. This gives you the opportunity to be real, to say that no, you don’t like reggaeton and then laugh about it. You’re finally free to speak up your mind and to be you. Paradoxically, everything you thought was bad while being sober (being real) is not so bad after all. People like confident people. Again, until you’re vomiting your friend’s shirt.
So how do you achieve the carefreeness of being drunk, but sober?
You get off the punishment-reward system, you stop looking for approval outside of yourself. Simple, but not easy. You’ll need to depend on something more reliable than people approving of you for you to feel confident.
Not looking for approval, you say? Then, I just need to be an asshole and not care about others? No, not just so. You don’t want to be an asshole, and you’ll still want to get along in a good way with other people, that’s just natural.
So for that to happen you need to shift your focus to value and principle.
Ask yourself, right now, what’s most important to you? Like, really important. You’ll realize that you care more about the noble things in life than petty Instagram likes. Words like friendship, honor, courage, love, gratefulness. How do they sound in your head? Just saying them out loud makes you feel elated.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you change your focus from the outside and from other people, towards the inside instead and what you are able to give back to the world in the form of value, you’ll become a valuable person (one that people will seek, paradoxically, approval of) that does not need outside approval.
Stop searching already for rewards outside of yourself and focus on finding them within yourself in the form of principle.
“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”
Acting with principle and values is completely and absolutely within your control, no one can take it from you, and it is precisely for this reason that acting in this way liberates you. You don’t depend on anyone but yourself to be rewarded and feel good about yourself. Noble action itself does the trick.
Do this and you’ll be carefree and able to be yourself, just like when you’re drunk, but on your 5 senses.
Thanks for reading,
Subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Connect with Stoic Answers
Special thanks to my Patreons:
You can become a Patreon as well and access exclusive content and a peek on what’s going on in Stoic Answers. Click below and check it out.