“To Thine Own Self Be True” is the saying that is printed on one side of AA anniversary medallions. The line is attributed to William Shakespeare’s character Polonius in Hamlet. The general context of the line for Polonius, and as used by some today conveys a sense of arrogance or minimally, self-serving behavior. I initially thought of the phrase in this sense, and perhaps narrowly thought of it in terms of a barrier between picking up the bottle or practicing another addiction.
I have come to see this quite a bit differently over the years. In the Abrahamic tradition, humans are made the image of their God. I take the saying to mean that our true self is in harmony with the life, our neighbors, and the world. I suppose that is one of the reasons that three-year olds of all races get along well on the playground. As well, I have always been impressed with my grandchildren – that a three-year old is hard-pressed to lie. I am struck that through time, as we live into our addictions, we become less true to our true selves. I see recovery as moving back to the true self. As I often quote Herman Hesse “I only wanted to live in accord with the promptings that came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?”
I believe the answer is at least in part because this business of living as our true self is a process of discovery. Recovery lends itself to that process. Actively practicing my addictions leads in the opposite direction.