Saturday, 4 December 2010

Do resentments against myself go on my Step Four?

"In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions, or principles with whom we were angry." (64:3)

I fall within the category of 'people'.

"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." (66:0)

It is clear that the writers of the Book equate remorse—disturbance at what we see in ourselves—with resentment—disturbance at what we see in others. To examine one kind of disturbance but not another would be illogical. Thoroughness is paramount.

I have also sponsored people—and been people—who are so locked inside themselves that the resentment is largely turned inwards, not outwards—the outer world barely exists and is not receiving the blame—the awareness is only of internal conflict, and an examination only of those rare moments when the external world looms into view would not beat a path to the underlying conditions.

(I should say, at this point, that the matter of making amends to oneself in Step Nine is radically different—both because the instructions are quite different and because the aim is to repair the relationships with those around us and fit ourselves to be of maximum service to them. But that is for another posting.)

Why it is reasonable to examine resentment against oneself?

When I am resentful, it is because one of the seven areas of self is hurt or threatened:

(1) Pride (what I think you think about me)

(2) Self-esteem (what I think of myself)

(3) Personal relations (the script I give you)

(4) Sex relations (the script I give you inside the sexual arena—a subset of 'personal relations')

(5) Ambitions (what I want in order to be happy and satisfied (p. 61:1))

(6) Security (what I need to be OK)

(7) Pocketbooks (money and what it means to me).
Page 64:0 says 'we had to get down to causes and conditions'. Page 65 sets out examples of the first three columns of a resentment inventory. The 'cause' in the second column of the resentment inventory (the ostensible trigger for the resentment—resentment being understood here to be any disturbance due to a gap between my perception of reality and my ideal) leads me to the 'condition' in the third column of the resentment inventory—the area or areas of self that are affected. It is the third column that matters, not the second. It is the underlying condition, not the trigger, that counts. It is the landmine that is the problem, not who happens to step on it. Were I to look only at landmines you step on, I would never identify the landmines only I am stepping on.

Some examples:

When I was about fifteen years sober, I found myself in almost constant conflict. Sure, a fair amount of resentment was directed outwards. There were whole slews of individuals and groups of people at the mere mention of whom I would erupt into a squawking diatribe. However, my primary conflict was now internal. Largely, I was no longer blaming others. But I was certainly blaming myself.

My ego had set up a whole list of stage characters it wanted—or needed—me to play for it to be happy and satisfied. Whether I was happy and satisfied was largely secondary—it had to put a little sugar in my bowl, in the form of a little puff of pleasure when my status was somehow highlighted or elevated—but even protracted disconsolation and dejection on my part would not shake its resolve. I had to be tip-top in my profession, the ne plus ultra boyfriend, the sensational sponsor; whatever the domain of my life, I had given myself a spectacular job description. Any one job description would have been too much for one person, but my ego had given me at least a dozen. The thing to remember about the ego—it cannot actually do any of the work—all it can do is give orders, and I am the one who has to put the footwork in. Rather like with God, 'Who has no hands but yours'. It will then constantly monitor compliance with these job descriptions and punish me or others if I fall short.

Under 'pride' and 'self-esteem' I look at those job descriptions—as perceived by you and me. Under 'ambitions', 'security', and 'pocketbooks' I find out what Scoobie snacks the ego is promising me if I fulfil those job descriptions. And under 'personal relations' and 'sex relations' I look how my ego thinks the world should treat me based on these job descriptions.

When I am in trouble, my problem is that I am serving self—the ego—rather than God. The point of Step Four is to lay bare the anatomy of that relationship with my ego. In seeing it for what it is, in observing the demands it is making of me and the trouble my attempt to fulfil those demands gets me into, I become totally willing in Step Six to have God take me off ego's payroll and sign me up with Him, and the last five Steps provide the framework for enacting that change in management.

Two of the lessons I learn from Step Four are:

(1) My ego's demands can never fully be fulfilled.

(2) Even to the extent that they are fulfilled, I am never happy.
The problem, therefore, is this third column—the set of demands based on an image of myself enthroned at the centre of the universe as the superlative—Godlike—character in all regards.

When that image collides with reality, I am disturbed.

Now, what, in my perception, causes that image to collide with reality is totally irrelevant.

To take a couple of examples:

If I have two ego-based images of myself, successful businessman and fit athlete, and I pour more time into my business, the fit athlete in me is angry because I am 'letting myself go physically'. If I pour more time into sport, the successful businessman is angry because I am letting my business 'slide into mediocrity'. The reality with which my ego-based images collide is the reality that I cannot, as one person, simultaneously fulfil all of my ego's demands. The conflict is entirely within, not without. The route to this is not resentment with external factors but incrimination of and recrimination against myself.

If a sponsee I have become fond of drinks again, this will affect my false image of myself as the sponsor-as-source-of-healing. Whether I blame the sponsee for not working the Steps hard enough or myself for not carrying the message effectively enough is quite beside the point. My problem lies in the third column, not the second. The problem lies in mind-made images of self conjured by my ego, not in the perception of reality with which that image collides.

And therein lies the condition that needs to be laid bare in Step Four.

So, yes, I do appear on my resentment list.

1 comment:

kelly.1964 said...

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the affirmation to my own healing process your experience provides.

Kelly D.