Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The foolishness of values

There is a widespread belief in AA that our character defects are our main obstacle.

The impatience, intolerance, lack of compassion, judgement, obstinacy, argumentativeness, and domination, and the thousand other manifestations of self in my thought and action are indeed problematical.

But these are the branches of the problem, not the root.

The root is selfishness and self-centredness (62:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous').

What is the anatomy of the selfishness and self-centredness?

"If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values." (64:1)

This element of the inventory process—an examination of my values—has provided me with answers.

Whatever my resentment (= my disturbance at the gap between reality as I perceive it and my ideal as I have conjured it), my self-esteem is affected. I have never, in fact, resented anything or anyone without this being the case.

Page 65 suggests I consider the first three columns of the resentment inventory carefully. I do this as part of the inventory process itself. When I identify self-esteem as being affected, I ask myself these six questions:

How would I like to be?

How do I think I am doing against that ideal?

What liabilities in you remind me of my own?

What assets in you remind me of my own?

What liabilities in you reflect my assets?

What assets in you are in competition with mine?

These six questions reveal my values.

Let us say my value is this: "having a good recovery". Nothing wrong with valuing good recovery, surely? As soon as my self-esteem is attached to that, however, I am in trouble. Firstly, I have to define what good recovery is, and I have to use some metric to measure it. And, as I hear frequently in AA, the quality of my relationships, the ability to hold down a job, orderliness of my life, doing what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it, spiritual insight, and many other indicators are used to measure and therefore judge a person's recovery.

Let us look at how this applies to the six questions above:

How would I like to be?

Well, all of the above 'qualities' would be nice. Then I'd have 'good recovery', wouldn't I?

How do I think I am doing against that ideal?

Oh. Well, on a good day, a seven out of ten, perhaps. On a bad day, we are down into the minuses. And, on observing my falling short, I will push this observation out of sight and out of mind, because, when I snap at someone, or take ten hours to do five hours' work, or forget an appointment, or find myself thinking extremely unseemly thoughts, my stock value plummets, and I cannot stand my so-called 'low self-worth'.

Already, having these 'values' is boomeranging back at me.

And we have not even got on to examining how it affects my relationships with others.

What liabilities in you remind me of my own?

Oh, oh, oh. Now we are in trouble. So I value 'good recovery', but discover, say, my judgements and negative opinions tarnishing my image of myself as someone with said 'good recovery'. I push down that awareness, and loathe being presented with a mirror of myself in you, when you are guilty of displaying the very liabilities I am denying in myself. So I will separate myself from anyone who mirrors my dark side.

What assets in you remind me of my own?

So, let us say I value myself for sponsoring a bunch of people. My ego is not going to be happy if you are doing the same. You are competition. Trouble is with any asset—if you have it, the market value is cut in half. If everyone has it, it is worthless to the ego, which requires distinction for self-definition. If everyone in the choir harmonises, no one hears your voice. And the ego hates that.

What liabilities in you reflect my assets?

Let us say I value myself for going to a whole bunch of meetings. If you do not, my ego will look down on you (obviously, because you 'do not "value" your recovery the way I do') or secretly fear your ability (apparently) to get away with it. Whatever value I attach my self-worth to, I actually need you to display the inverse, to be afflicted with the mirror-image liability. Sight is of no value to the ego in the land of the sighted. In the land of the blind, the sighted man is king. And the ego, once more, is happy. It is quite grotesque, this—it is impossible for me to value myself for anything good without simultaneously denigrating and looking down on whoever does not display that asset, and, what is more, my ego needs you to remain in deficit to maintain its elevated position.

What assets in you reflect my liabilities?

This is the probably the easiest 'ouch' to see. If I am troubled by my own failures to live the principles of the programme, I am going to be jealous and hostile towards anyone sailing through AA without, apparently, touching the sides. What I value has become the stick to beat myself with, and a source of separation between me and anyone who embodies that value.

To sum up: whatever I value I will set as an unreachable goal—unreachable, at least, on a consistent basis and at a price I am willing to pay. And I will use this value to separate myself from you, whether or not I have that asset, and whether or not you have that asset.

There is only one answer. And that can be found on page 28: "all of us, whatever our race, creed, or colour, are the children of a living Creator". I am of intrinsic, inherent, and infinite value merely through my existence. And that goes for you, too, sunshine. Nothing I can do can detract from or elevate me above that value. And there is no measure accompanying it. It is innate and eternal.

There is no room for judgement of any kind in the programme. There is no room for guilt. There is no room for remorse. There is no room for measurement, assessment, evaluation, and the ascribing of values to anything or anyone. There is only the question of what works and what does not work.

I need concern myself only with what efforts I make to stay in conscious contact with God, and, when my behaviour demonstrates, through my failure to live up to the principle of 'performing His work well' due to the resurgence of self in some department of my life, all I need to do is renew my resolve to ask God to draw me closer to Him.

To the extent that I pull away from God, to that very extent will ego take over and drive my thinking and action. The problem is always separation from God. The answer is always drawing closer to God.

And my value—and yours—is always infinite.

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