If we kept track of what we ponder, we would probably find that we spend most of our time thinking about a small collection of problems we've rehearsed all our lives.
What can we do to be rid of this bad habit?
Feel free to doubt yourself! Subject what you're thinking to scrutiny. No matter how well we brainstorm or problem solve, it is only a thought, or an idea until we actually take a good look at it. This became most apparent to me online. What I'm thinking doesn't actually become clear until its on a social networking site, or in a forum. When I see it propagating in a feed, or on a publication, I realize I may need to rethink my inspirations over and over again to become confident of what I believe.
If we're scheming to deal with an injury or offense we're already setting out to do harm. Our bad intentions are visible - even if we don't realize it, and we loose the joy of living with others.
For many of us, negativity of any kind results in reliance upon alcohol or other substances that result in addiction, preventing us from dealing with the challenges life expects us to face. We avoid those we come into conflict with, and fail to take advantage of the opportunities we've been provided.
So how do these grievances begin?
Grievances, complaints and resentments start with what we believe to be an injury caused by others, and the sorry state of the victims we've become.
From Alcoholics Anonymous
"The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived."
How can we be rid of our resentments?
Its so simple you'd laugh. We write it down!
You'll find guides to that task here:
As we write our problems down, things become clear. We begin to see that there might be holes in our stories. That what we've been telling ourselves doesn't always really ring true. For example, you might find when we read what we've written down, and review what we've been saying to ourselves, some aspects of the story point to our own behavior rather than the behavior of others.
And even if we still believe we have a legitimate case, and can get others to believe it, and how awful it is - to prove what big victims we've become....does that help? Try keeping a log. We find that what we think is a valid grievance while laying awake at night and rehearsing might not seem so right after a good nights sleep, or a few weeks of calm reflection upon our circumstances.
From Rick B at: 2218's Wednesday Night Big Book Study
(In all fairness, we usually do not intend to be harmful or deceptive. Its just that we fail to realize how seeking to get what we want has been harmful to others.)
So how do we resolve these conflicts?
We learn to align our will with the will of God, so we are aligned with good will.
If we focus on our own behavior, we're much more likely to realize that what we don't like about others is precisely what we don't like about ourselves. We know it to be true because we've seen it in ourselves. We can't do anything about their behavior, so when we see in them, we get burned up. What we can do, is change the behavior in ourselves so when we recognize it in others we can be more helpful. And if we've done all we can do to be rid of these defects of character in ourselves, then we won't be troubled by them in others.
"We can still be helpful to ourselves by being helpful to others. By being helpful to them, we feel better about ourselves and we meet our own needs for self-esteem. Self interest is not the same as selfishness. To seek for oneself without regard for others is not the same as seeking to be helpful with regard for others to feel better about ourselves." Paraphrased from Rick B.
We know that in every case where there is anger, there is also fear. To identify the fears that really trouble us, use the phrase: "What am I afraid of loosing, or failing to get." These fears are not really about spiders and snakes, or ghosts and the boogie man. The fears we are talking about are the fears that have motivated much of our conflict and disfunction. Fears born of being found out, or betrayal and doubts about who we really are, or our ability to get what we need for ourselves, and deal with the difficulties we have in life.
Again, we write them down - we put them on paper! We asked ourselves why we had them, and realized that we failed because we relied upon ourselves. To overcome our fears, we had to rely upon a power greater than ourselves. We've already proven to ourselves that self reliance failed. It may not be obvious to ourselves or others, but deep down inside, we know it's true. The book Alcoholics Anonymous puts it this way: "Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse." -Alcoholics Anonymous p 68
You'll find worksheets to write your down fears here:
About Conduct in General, and Specifically Sex Conduct
From Alcoholics Anonymous
"In no other matter is the guidance and direction of God more important than in matters of sex....human opinions run to extremes, absurd extremes, perhaps....What can we do about it?"
"We reviewed our own sex conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it. In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test: was it selfish or not?"
"We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed. Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing."
"In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it." -Alcoholics Anonymous p 69
You'll find a guide for that work here:
When I began working on this part of Step Four, I used a prayer that said: "God, mold my ideals in sex relations, and help me to live up to them", and thought it meant what my ideal partner for sex relations ought to be like. So as I prayed this prayer, I hoped my ideal partner would be thin, smart, healthy, and so forth. What my Sponsor shared with me is that it was my character, and my relationship with God that needs molding, not my partner. We are not being asked to live up to any one else's standards or code of ethics, but we are expected to live up to our own standards, and the ideals that our Higher Power reveals to us.
We need to live with a clear conscience, and be satisfied that we've cleared away the wreckage of our past. Only God can judge these matters, and in no other area of life is God's guidance more important.
The Exact Nature of my Wrongs, or the Sixth Step in Detail
My first question when reading this step was: What does it mean?
I did the fourth step by writing out how I had been selfishness, dishonest, and fearful. I covered how I had been inconsiderate, where I had aroused jealousy, suspicion and bitterness, and whom I had hurt, and where I was at fault. But what did it really point to? Before my 5th Step, I reviewed my inventory, and took a look at my behavior and what I thought it represented. And I had help from people who sponsored me to guide my prayer, and clarify the instructions.
What are defects of character?
In my first fifth step, a minister listened as I disclosed what I was ashamed of, and occasionally he would interject with something like: "So, you used people..." or "you were blaming others...", and yes, I had to agree, though I was preoccupied with the details of my mistakes, I didn't see the behavior for what it really is. As I worked on being rid of that behavior, those clarifications became very useful to me. It disarmed the bomb. My scars were no longer glowing, and I could speak of my mistakes more easily, making me more useful to others dealing with the same kinds of problems.
In my second and third fifth steps, I realized that much of my behavior was repeating, and that it may have been due to my unwillingness to let go of my worst defects.
In my fourth fifth step, I used the definitions found below which proved to be even more useful than my own definitions, and I wrote in my book: "I am now entirely ready to have all my defects of character removed", and I really meant it! Even questionable sex conduct I held onto I committed myself to be rid of, and that has remained true to this day.
So when I continued to work my fifth and sixth steps with my Sponsor, who listened to me several times, he continued to ask me:
"But what is the exact nature of your wrongs?"
A year after he died, I realized as I was falling asleep that its the fact that I've been harmful. And, that I need to care enough about the mistakes I've made to do something about them. To overcome the problems I live with, and unburden myself of guilt wasn't enough. I needed to stop the harm that continues in others as a result of my behavior.
The Deadly Sins
By reviewing the definition of the terms below carefully, I realized that because I despaired, I failed to do what I needed to do. When I failed to do what I needed to do (Acedia), then my life really become hopeless. And when I saw how hopeless I'd become, I failed to make use of my talents (Sloth). Were it not for the mercy of God and others, I would die.
See what you can find with a review of these definitions from Wikipedia: Seven deadly sins
Acedia (The neglect to take care of something that one should do. It is translated to apathetic listlessness; depression without joy.)
See also: Psychiatric Disorders
There is no doubt that alcoholics really are mentally ill due to excessive amounts of alcohol used an excessively long time. Diagnosis' that attend alcoholism are also described in Wikipedia: Alcoholism
"Psychiatric disorders differ depending on gender. Women who have alcohol-use disorders often have a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis such as major depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bulimia, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or borderline personality disorder. Men with alcohol-use disorders more often have a co-occurring diagnosis of narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulse disorders or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Women with alcoholism are more likely to have a history of physical or sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence than those in the general population, which can lead to higher instances of psychiatric disorders and greater dependence on alcohol."
When we review our fourth step with these defects of character in mind, reviewing what we have written down on the worksheets provided in this document, we can see how these defects of character show up, and so can others.
A friend of mine described my behavior rather briefly, but I summed his opinion up this way:
What I believed to be love showed up as lust or lasciviousness (wanton behavior, or being driven by lust), and obscenity (discussing taboo subjects intended to arouse lust). And my desire to be with her may have harmed others. Originally, I believed I had done nothing wrong (antisocial personality disorder), and that people who were hurt by my behavior were just rivals loosing to my more successful seduction (narcissism). What I found out, is that my behavior had been perceived as looming and intimidating - even by the woman I sought. There are other examples of the exact nature of my wrongs that were revealed by reviewing my behavior that I've described here, but this one came as a surprise to me because I was so preoccupied with what I believed to be love for her, that I couldn't see what was really going on.
Sometimes, the use of computers and cell phones prevents us from seeing our partner's responses and we fail to realize that our communications are no longer welcome. Nonverbal cues are gone, so we try to make our communications clearer or more emphatic because we have no response. We might even write until we become offensive without response, and loose the entire relationship or worse.
We don't need to use fancy psychiatric or religious terms to determine how we are showing up in the world, but it might help to use a reference that's common to our tongue. The feedback I received in my first fifth step regarding using people and blaming people went a long way to helping me overcome those defects of character. Had these problems not been described in a general way, I might not have dealt with them, but with simple terms, I've been able to spot them and keep them in check.
I also realized that some of my most serious problems we're similar to problems God's been working on, and that if God could own them, so could I. For example: by allying with those I'm jealous of, I can overcome my insecurities.
See also definitions for: HARM:
- Creating physical or mental damage.
- Inflicting pain, suffering or loss.
In my delirium, my victim mentality gave me the right to punish, but what I realized later is that punishing circumstances would escalate until I was completely defeated by my own effort. What I really needed to do is to recognize how these problems manifested with God's help, and to see His guidance and direction all the way through. Please see: Bodywork
Some of us need professional help, and in areas of Finance, and Medical Care that makes great sense. I've provided a list of the services that I've used both Traditional and Alternative here: Local Agencies
Suggested Prayers and Meditations
First Step Set Aside Prayer
God, help me to set aside everything I think I know about sobriety, life, and you, so that I may be open to a new experience.
Second Step Prayer
Help me to draw near to You, as You've disclosed Yourself to me.
Third Step Prayer
I offer myself to You, to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your power, Your love, and Your way of life. May I do Your will always!
Fourth Step Prayers:
- Help me to show (those I'm angry at) the same tolerance, pity and patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend. And, when offended: God, this is a spiritually sick person, how can I be helpful to them? God, save me from being angry, Thy will be done.
- Remove my fear (of losing ____, or not getting ____), and direct my attention to what you would have me be.
- Mold my ideals in sex relations, help me to live up to them, and show me what to do in each questionable situation.
Fifth Step Prayer
Thank you God, from the bottom of my heart, for letting me get to know you better, and for being with me during this experience.
Sixth Step Prayer
Help me to be rid of all the things that we’ve agreed are objectionable.
Seventh Step Prayer
I’m now ready. Take all of me: good and bad. I pray that you remove from me every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to You, and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.
Eighth Step Prayer
Help me to clear away the wreckage that’s accumulated out of my effort to live on self-will and run the show myself.
Ninth Step Prayers
Help me to do right, no matter what the personal consequences may be. Show me the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.
Tenth Step Prayer
How can I best serve You? Your will (not mine) be done.
Eleventh Step Prayers
Direct my thinking, may it especially be divorced from self-pity, dishonest and self seeking motives. Guide my steps throughout the day, and grant me the strength and sanity I need to do Your will.
And, when we retire at night: (Vespers)
We constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept some thing to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.
Lord make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy. Lord, grant that I may seek to comfort, rather than to be comforted; to understand, than to be understood; to love, than to be loved: For it is in giving that one receives, in pardoning that one is pardoned, and in dying that we’re born unto Eternal Life.
Twelfth Step Prayer
I pray to walk with the new man day by day in the path of spiritual progress. My job now is to be of maximum usefulness to others, so I will not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. I will keep on the firing-line of life with these motives, and You, my Creator, will keep me unharmed.
Great Spirit, Great Spirit, My Grandfather! Only with your power can I face the winds. Look upon these faces of children, with children in their arms, that they may face the wind, and walk the good road to the day of quiet. This is my prayer, hear me now!