Feb. 9, 2022 – In his book, Dr Berger suggests that Bill Wilson concluded that the ultimate purpose of practicing the 12 Steps was to achieve emotional sobriety. (2021, p.23) Wilson wrote about the concept of emotional sobriety, or more accurately – the lack of it, in his Grapevine article ‘The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety’, which was published in January 1958 (Wilson’s original letter was written in 1956). In the article, Wilson identifies his difficulties with emotional sobriety and resulting depressions as stemming from his unhealthy [emotional] dependencies upon people and external circumstances to meet his unhealthy demands for prestige and security. Anyone who’s read Susan Cheever’s biography (1) about Bill Wilson will be aware that he was deeply insecure beneath the surface of his character and would be classed as a traumatised person by today’s psychological standards due to adverse childhood experiences.

The foundation of Dr Berger’s book is based upon Wilson’s 1958 article in relation to emotional sobriety. He also applies modern psychotherapeutic concepts mainly taken from the humanistic tradition e.g., ‘self-actualizing tendency’ and the concepts of the ‘true self’ and ‘false self’. In addition to his training in clinical psychology Dr Berger is also a practicing gestalt psychotherapist and describes this approach in his work with clients. An example being his use of the ‘empty chair’ technique which is a gestalt method to help therapy clients access repressed emotions and connect to their ‘organic self’. In his book Dr Berger uses client case studies to effectively demonstrate the principles and characteristics of emotional sobriety and its opposite ‘emotional dependency.’  I found these case studies to be really engaging, insightful and educational.

Dr Berger outlines emotional sobriety in essence to be emotional balance, emotional autonomy, and emotional maturity. He expands upon these attributes with a definition of emotional sobriety: