Our society seems to have adopted a habit of glorifying the myth that our drunk selves are our most authentic selves. You may or may not have heard the adage “The drunken mind speaks a sober heart.” if not then you may have hard the more recent jest “There are three types of people who tell the truth: children, the angry, and the drunk.” Many, especially when drinking, have expressed that when you’re drinking, the real you comes out. The spirits relax you and allow you to let loose. You express yourself and behave as you would if you weren’t continually guarding yourself and living in fear of others’ judgment. What does science have to say about this?
Alcohol and Behavior
According to an article in the New York Post, the “drunk you” may be the personification of a popular myth. According to one study the Post cited, people may perceive themselves differently when they’re drunk but don’t behave differently at all. The study was conducted with controlled groups of close friends. Certain people were asked to drink while their friends observed their behavior as the alcohol took effect. The intoxicated subjects perceived their behaviors to be different. Their friends didn’t notice a difference at all.
One of the issues I have with this study is that it was conducted by allowing the subjects to drink to the point of reaching an alcohol level of .9, just over the legal limit of .8 The subjects were then asked to wait and after a 15 minute “absorption period” were asked to do different puzzles and other activities designed to bring out certain personality traits.
This level of alcohol may not have been enough to get these subjects to the point of intoxication. What variables were considered? Did they account for weight, metabolism, and regular drinking habits? Even light social drinking on a regular basis could build up enough of a tolerance that the subject would barely be tipsy. The subject probably perceived themselves differently because they expected to become intoxicated during the study. They didn’t, so their friends didn’t notice any drastically different behaviors.
Some controlled research has shown that alcohol does reduce your inhibitions. It’s no secret that consuming alcohol makes us less impulsive. It seems to throw self-control out the window. Does this mean that alcohol, by supplying us with “liquid courage,” makes us truer to ourselves? Does alcohol make you the real you? First, let’s start with the effects it has on the brain and impulse control. It goes far beyond just making you feel more relaxed and ready to let your guard down.
Alcohol, The Brain, and The Real You
As Forbes explained, alcohol has various effects on different parts of the brain. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll focus on the cerebral cortex. Alcohol inhibits the cerebral cortex, slowing down the way we process information and engage in rational thought. It creates a mental fog that makes it challenging to think more clearly. The chemical processes involved would also inhibit the brain’s ability to make rational decisions.
How has society come to believe the lie that our “true selves” are somehow reduced to our animalistic nature? Whether it be the body or the heart, it wants what it wants, I suppose. Even so, we shouldn’t discount the decisions of the mind in shaping our identities. We should also consider how the decisions of a rational mind reflect the desires of a rational heart. I would say the choice to deny our animalistic instincts reveals far more of our truest character traits than the instincts themselves.
This argument also falls apart when you consider the emotion most drunks have in the morning. It’s not fear and terror that overwhelms them over having revealed the truth of who they were. It is shame and disbelief that for a moment, they lost sight of it in yet another drunken stupor.
What Defines “You?”
The drunk you is not the real you at all, but a broken you. It is an empty shell of what you were before your mind was broken. It is not you, but a shameful and failed manifestation of you. It is a malfunctioning, dysfunctioning model. It is the animal you, the you stripped of the very thing that makes you human: rational thought.
The assumption that the real you is the drunk you is an assumption based on the belief that who we are is defined by who we become when you surrender choice.
I think who we are is defined by who we become when you surrender instinct and by the choices we make…