This article is the third of a series of articles excerpted with permission from The Rebel’s Guide to Recovery by Jost Sauer and published by Centre of Dao, Maleny, Australia. Jost addresses the issues involved in overcoming addiction and gives practical, life-changing advice based on his own experience and that of his many clients.
Addiction recovery is often a long drawn-out process because it gets bogged down in the emotionality of shame, guilt and wrongdoing. Chinese medicine has a refreshingly different approach. From its perspective all actions –even those that we think of as being wrong or shameful –arise from the interplay of the fundamental forces of yin and yang. Yin contracts and yang expands. Yin is stillness and yang is action. Yin and yang balance each other to create harmony. When these forces are imbalanced, disharmony arises. Recreational drug use creates major imbalances.
Everything in the cosmos, including us, is shaped and controlled by these forces. We each have more of a yin or yang type of ‘constitution’ or fundamental nature. Generally speaking, a person with a yang constitution is extroverted. They have high energy, are quick to engage with people, can forget to eat, get by with very little sleep, have a very high sex drive (the type more likely to initiate affairs), but are also easily aggravated and annoyed. A person with a yin constitution is introverted. They are too shy or self-conscious to engage with people, they can’t miss meals, often feel tired, have a lower sex drive and are easily depressed.
Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, and real estate tycoon, Donald Trump, are great examples of yang types. Woody Allen, Charlie Chaplin and new age author, Eckhardt Tolle, are good examples of yin types. Their constitutional types are evident in their actions and also their physiognomy. Anthony Robbins’ face is shaped like an inverted triangle with the point at the chin –the movement of energy is upwards and outwards from the jaw. This is a physical characteristic of strong yang types. Robbins is renowned for eating only fruit until lunchtime (only yang types can survive on this diet) and for working incredibly long hours(another yang-type behaviour). Trump, another yang-type man, writes books with titles like Kick Ass and Succeed –very yang terminology.
Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen and Eckhardt Tolle have a different shape to their faces. The movement of energy draws downwards and out, and the base of the triangle would be at the bottom of the face. The way Charlie Chaplin walked with his feet turned out is a classic yin type posture; you could push him over in an instant –the opposite of a kick-ass stance. In his movies, Woody Allen often talks about getting a hooker and hand jobs; this is another characteristic yin-type behaviour. In excessive yin states you don’t have the yang force, or the drive, to maintain an erection long enough for penetration. Eckhardt Tolle famously sat on a park bench thinking for a couple of years. Being able to sit is a yin attribute. Donald Trump would have built a multi-storey park bench on the spot and then rented the seats out for a profit.
All of the above are highly successful people, because they understand and work with their constitutions. This has a positive impact on every aspect of your life from career choice –different types suit different professions –to relationships. If you are in a relationship with the opposite constitutional type to yourself, it helps to know that nobody is right or wrong in what they do –different sex drives for example –they are simply expressing the yin or yang aspects of their nature. Most of us are somewhere in the middle of the yin and yang range, rather than the exaggerated versions above, but excessive drug or alcohol use can change this.
Yin and yang and drugs
The effects of recreational drugs can also be described by yin and yang. The speedy substances such as methamphetamine and cocaine are expansive, active yang drugs, whereas heroin and opiates are contracting, passive yin drugs. Even though you may never have heard of yin or yang, as a drug user you have intuitively been working with these forces and your own constitution.
How you planned a party night reveals this, because you probably worked out exactly what to take when to enhance either yin or yang. If you are a high-energy yang-type extrovert, a good night out might have started with marijuana to chill (yin), followed by alcohol to get some action (yang) happening and then, when the alcohol starts slowing you down, some speedy-type drug (yang) to liven things up prior to hitting the clubs again. You might finish off around dawn with marijuana (for a wee dash of yin).
If you are a yin-type introvert your party night definitely doesn’t start with marijuana (yin) because this drug will make you too self-conscious to engage, you’ll freeze-up (yin) and not make it past the couch (yin) let alone out the door. You might take some methamphetamine or cocaine (yang), to become outgoing and talkative (yang). Then, instead of having a couple of drinks, getting tired and going home, which is what would usually happen with a yin constitution, you can keep on partying with the yang types, but you’ll still crash long before them.
Master the forces of yin and yang
Yin and yang imbalances
Ongoing drug use creates major energetic imbalances that can bring out the more extreme characteristics of each type. Extreme yang, for example, represents incessant movement. Yang-types who drink heavily and take yang stimulant drugs can become extremely destructive, violent and psychotic. I’m treating huge numbers of crystal meth addicts who party for days and end up making a public spectacle of themselves in psychotic states. Afterwards they are overcome with shame or regret. But their yang urge for movement, their excessive drive, leads them to do it all over again.
This same drive sees them repeatedly going to therapists, and also into recovery and rehab, multiple times. Each time they emerge convinced that they are going to ‘change their life, be good, and stay home’. But that yang energy drives them back to their old behaviours and, as their plans to be good never eventuate, they start thinking they are addicts, assholes or diseased. But repeating destructive and aggressive behaviours is not a disease; it is an energetic imbalance. It is an example of excess yang expanding out of control.
Because extreme yin is stillness, yin-type drug users often become depressed and so introverted they are almost unable to move. They don’t want to get out of bed, let alone leave the house, and definitely don’t want to interact with people. This too is considered antisocial, not normal; so there is something wrong with it, but it is an energetic imbalance. If you forget about right and wrong, shame and guilt, and look at your drug activities in the context of an interaction between your constitutional type and the forces of yin and yang, you’ve got something practical to work with.
Forget about right and wrong and shame and guilt
Yin and yang and alcohol
The yin and yang model is also perfect to explain many cases of ‘alcoholism’. I regularly treat yang success types who believe that they are alcoholics. They have high-stress lives (yang running riot) and then have to drink two or three bottles of wine at night to be able to sleep. Because they need to drink every day, and because they drink alone, they believe that they are diseased, but the real issue is lifestyle and not understanding how to balance yin and yang.
Because these clients have such strong yang constitutions, they get up and get straight into work without food. They might even work through lunch and late into the day without stopping to eat. It’s all go, go, go. Again, they do this because their yang energy can sustain them, but there is not enough yin in this equation to allow them to switch over to a yin state in the evening, which is necessary in order to be able to fall asleep. They use alcohol for this.
Instead of focusing on trying to give up alcohol, which goes nowhere, I work with these clients on understanding their constitution and the forces of yin and yang. The goal is to ‘evolve’ their evening switch over method from bottles of wine to something more sustainable, like potent herbal yin formulas and a chi practice. The latter is great because it teaches how to embrace yang while being in a state of yin. Once they make some lifestyle changes and work with yin and yang and chi, the urgent need for alcohol diminishes and they are able to enjoy a drink socially.I have seen this outcome over and over again. So much for being diseased.
I’ve treated other ‘alcoholic’ clients who need excessive amounts of alcohol, usually hard spirits, to get something in their lives that resonates with their yang constitution. I had one client who had been a professional big wave surfer. He loved any sport that had an edge of danger to it (this is an indicator of a yang type). When he retired from surfing, he got a job working as a driver for a sporting goods company. His life became mundane and no longer a match for his constitution. He’d sleep in, skip meals or have snacks and grab takeaway food for dinner. He started drinking a couple of bottles of vodka a night, initially with friends to re-live the partying, raging adrenalin-fuelled surfing days, but then by himself.
When serious symptoms arose from the alcohol abuse, his doctor told him to stop drinking. But this is not a holistic solution. It doesn’t address body, mind and spirit (pun intended). Yang energy needs to move and express itself. This need was not being met in the surfer’s lifestyle. I explained all of this, immediately started him on high-powered nutrients and herbal formulas to ‘carry’ his yang, and also introduced him to Chen-style tai-chi. This is an intense martial art form that resonates with a yang nature. Once he got the idea of working with chi, and yin and yang in the context of his constitution, everything in his life shifted and he no longer needed to get drunk.
Take things up rather than give things up
Yin and yang, balance and bliss
If you learn how to balance the forces of yin and yang, you can regulate yourself without drugs or alcohol. I treat many addicts who try to suppress their natural drive or yang, because it has led them to trouble. But yang is a gift; it enables us to achieve things.
So, if you are a strong yang type with your yang running out of control, the solution is to work on nurturing yin. This will make you considerate (a yin property). When consideration and drive collide you naturally get a beneficial outcome. Considerate people don’t trash bars.
Excessive yin types (and heavy drug use can eventually put everyone in this category) have the opposite problem of being so considerate they are unable to even express an opinion. This is equally debilitating; to be healthy and happy and to find your cosmic self, you need to be able to express yourself freely. In excessive yin states, building yang naturally rectifies the imbalance.
Balance is the secret. The separation of yin and yang leads to pain, but the balance of these forces creates bliss. Ecstasy is a drug that creates the impression of yin and yang in balance. So if you’ve taken it you know how blissful balance can feel. Working on a great project while under the influence of marijuana is another example of this balance as you are moving forward (yang) and sitting back (yin) at the same time. It’s an extremely satisfying feeling. You are sampling ‘being while doing’, a state highly sought after by the Daoists.
Understanding the interplay of yin and yang is a key to making everything you do after drugs, from sleeping to sex, feel much more satisfying. During sex, for example (and I’m just referring to men here) if you resist that yang excitement and urge for release, instead starting in a surrender mode (a yin mode), when yin and yang come together (pun intended) it can generate chi. Afterwards you’ll feel energised and elevated rather than feeling used or ashamed (that old ‘morning after the one-night- stand’ feeling). Finding your cosmic self is a process that encourages yin and yang to unite, and a blissful life is the eventual outcome.
Balancing yin and yang is a secret to recovery success
The succeeding chapter of this book will be published in the next LivingNow. If you want to fast forward your life, the book is available for download from Amazon.
Jost Sauer’s Kindle book: ‘LOVE-LIFE: Too little sex, too much sex, love and heartbreak’ can be found here: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B018IS1JCS/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
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