The idea itself of being able to change an attitude is in many ways quite a novel one, and to many people seemingly at odds with the reality of how they live their lives. The attitudes that we develop in life are virtually always at a subconscious level, and tend to go through a process that is very much instinctive. Most of the attitudes that we have are borne out of our interpretation of experiences that happened to us, either the direct effect of the experience itself, or how we have reacted to that experience either at the time or later on.
This is especially true in childhood, where the majority of our attitudes towards ourselves as individuals are formed within the first seven or eight years of life. There is a sense that what happens to us after that age to a large extent simply reinforces attitudes to ourselves that are already there rather than creating new ones. This is a generalisation obviously, but to a large extent true.
The effect is that for most people they go through their lives unaware that their attitudes are born out of experiences, and the way that they have subconsciously evaluated those experiences and created an attitude accordingly.
There are also some people who will question or challenge whether it is actually possible to change attitudes at all or not. There are normally two reasons for this. Firstly is one that an individual can find it quite scary to believe that they can change what is going on inside them, inside their inner world. It is often much easier in many ways to focus on the external world and on other people and their attitudes as being the problem rather than owning one’s own life and inner world and be willing to change it.
Secondly is the issue of responsibility. Owning your own attitudes and that you can change them at some level, creates a degree of responsibility that many people simply do not want.
There is a saying in the recovery world, that the letters AA not only stand for Alcoholics Anonymous but also for altered attitudes. The notion therefore that you can change an attitude is deeply rooted in the need for people who are alcoholics and addicts to recover, and is an important part of the recovery process. Much of the therapeutic work done in a rehab or in AA meetings focuses on helping an individual to identify what the attitudes are that have been so destructive in the first place to themselves and other people. Once certain attitudes have been identified, the awareness of them will lessen their power, and give the individual a conscious sense of what they are dealing with rather than functioning at an unconscious level. The change in attitudes will come over time through a process of self realisation and self awareness, and through a healing of their inner child work and wounds that have generated any or all of the destructive attitudes they have towards themselves and other people.
The significance of this in many ways for an alcoholic is that their emotional turbulence will have driven their drinking, and therefore the need to correct this imbalance is normally a key part of being able to stay sober.