The OPEN Path
Life is perpetual instruction in cause and effect
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
To follow the OPEN Path you would develop an Implementation Intention such as, “When I encounter high-risk situation X, I will execute tactic Y.” Now you have an opportunity to research the effects your intention has on the way events unfold, by carefully observing what happens.
If you get the expected outcome, you are on the right track. Congratulations! However, if things did not work out as you expected, nature is telling you that cause-and-effect play out differently than you thought. The cause-and-effect principles that determine the reactions of the creature you inhabit or of the external world were evidently different then you thought. If you do not learn this lesson now, you will be doomed to repeat it. So pay attention to the lessons that nature is trying to teach you.
It is essential that you continue to modify your understanding of cause-and-effect, so you can adaptively respond to the current challenge you face. As you continue to adjust your understanding on the basis of the feedback nature gives you, you will, over time, develop a more sophisticated understanding of cause-and-effect in your universe and a progressively more realistic and effective set of coping tactics.
The OPEN Path refers to: Outcome, Plan, Execute, Nurture:
- Choose an Outcome you want.
- Develop a Plan to achieve it.
- Execute the plan.
- Nurture your understanding through observation and modify the plan accordingly. Go back to step #3.
Example of Hasslbring’s plan: “At the wedding reception, whenever I think of drinking alcohol, I will take a sip of club soda and focus on how I'll feel tomorrow if I relapse tonight.” Later, I will record observations of: Was I able to execute this plan? Did the plan work as expected? “What can I learn from this experience?”Finally, I will send my observations to Dr. Dubin and we will collaborate at our earliest convenience.
The Truth Wants To Set You Free!
The follower of the OPEN Path seeks truth as revealed by observation. Personal experiments are conducted primarily to ask a question of nature and receive an answer. These experiments are risky. Unexpected results are common; if we knew what would work we would not have to do the experiment.
Performing these experiments requires courage. Unfortunately, many people with addictive disorders are relentless promoters of self-hate. The inevitable setbacks and hard times are taken as proof of their intrinsic worthlessness or of the hopelessness of their situation.
To utilize the powerful tools of the scientific method you must be:
- Open to the truth as revealed by direct observation.
- Capable of utilizing the disciplines of inductive and deductive reasoning.
- Free from attachment to any particular story of the truth.
- Willing to rehearse your coping tactics so that you can perform them with little conscious guidance.
- Flexible enough to try something different when a tactic produces unsatisfactory results.
The objective of the OPEN Path is to improve your understanding of cause-and-effect through observation. If your predictions were good enough for you to cope effectively with a high-risk situation, great - we are off to a good start. Success has a lot of information value: There are many ways to fail, but few ways to succeed.
However, if things did not go as predicted, nature has given you a present: Surprise! The task now is to appreciate and take advantage of this surprising information about cause-and-effect. Most likely, you will have to change your plan in some way. You might even have to abandon the tactic completely in favor of an entirely different approach.
This difficult path is not for sissies. If a single, or even a series of, setbacks demoralizes you to the point where you abandon the effort, you cannot follow this path. The point of the scientific method is to discover the truth. The only way nature can correct your misunderstandings is to show you what happens. If you do not like what happens then your task is to respond differently next time. As you continue to accept natural feedback and use it to improve your coping abilities, you will get progressively better at operating this bio-psycho-social system you inhabit.
Each Path has its Risks
The rigidity of the Impeccable Path is what makes it strong but brittle. The flexibility of the OPEN Path allows its user to learn the lessons of cause and effect by employing the scientific method. This advantage comes at a price: What seems to be “reasonable” is state-dependent. A reasonable person who is desperate for the pleasure or relief that the incentive promises is easy to corrupt.
Relapse is common because Soul Illusion distorts our appraisal of what is reasonable. During a high-risk situation your evaluation of the costs and benefits of a first lapse may be different than it is now. Followers of the Impeccable Path are not vulnerable to situational motivation, because their commitment is frozen. They do not have to take local conditions into account. They have no choices other than rigid adherence to their commitment. For followers of the OPEN Path the task is more complicated.
So far we have described two mutually exclusive paths to self-determination:
- The Impeccable Path requires no decisions, because there are no options—no exceptions are permitted. The problem with this brittle path is that one lapse can undermine the entire effort.
- The OPEN Path requires you to be forgiving of errors and be flexible enough to modify your plan on the basis of new information. The problem with this flexible path is that it is poorly matched to the task of overcoming corruptive influences.
If only there was a middle way