Autonomy + the Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being

Autonomy  the SixFactor Model of Psychological WellBeing

Yesterday we introduced the Six-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being developed by Carol Ryff. This theory outlines six markers for us to keep tabs on when we consider how things are going for us, and can be a good guidepost to take inventory of what’s going well and what needs additional care at the moment.

The first factor in this model is Autonomy, or the ability to act independently, to make decisions on your own, and to act in accordance to your own ideals and values, not those of others. 

In other words, are you able to do your own thing?

When we have high autonomy, we have independent decision making, we’re confident in our decisions regardless of what others think, and conforming doesn’t feel like much of a necessity. On the other hand, if we have low autonomy we may find ourselves constantly seeking approval and guidance from others, feeling uncertain of our decisions, and doing our best to “fit in.”

So what’s this got to do with alcohol use?

As a matter of fact, autonomy shows up a lot in living alcohol-free. Those of us who find ourselves choosing to live a life without alcohol are already living a life outside of many cultural norms, and if our autonomy is strong, we feel confident in doing so. (And if it's weak, then we feel very self-conscious in that decision and find ways to seek approval from others.)

Autonomy in alcohol-free living gives us the power to go to a party and turn down a drink, because we feel confidence in the decision to go “AF.” We’re alright being a little “other,” outside the box, doing things our own way. It gives us the power to stick up for ourselves when someone makes a tasteless joke about the fact that we aren’t drinking, or motivates us to pursue work in the field of recovery. Autonomy lets us act in accordance with our values, not the values of society or our friend group or Uncle Kevin who really wants his drinking buddy back.