I cannot evaluate an insane belief system from within it. Is it only when I have been placed outside it that I can look back and see the contrast. Once I have something to compare it to, I can see its insanity.
There is a belief system so pervasive that questioning it tends to provoke violent responses, because it could not possibly be that so many people are so wrong, that society is built on false foundations, that one's whole mode of being is upside-down and inside-out by being, if you'll excuse the pun, outside–in.
The belief system can best be summed up as follows:
"Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?" (61:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')
Let us look at this delusion: it suggests
(1) satisfaction and happiness are possible (which they indeed are)
(2) the direction is outside–in, i.e. the flow is from the world to me
(3) it is up to me to make sure that satisfaction and happiness are generated by maintaining the flow.
The most obvious examples—although they are myriad—of what it is in the world I want to make me happy: your good opinion, your respect, your love, your admiration, your stuff, your ... whatever.
Put most simply, this mode of living involves determining what I (think I) want, going for it, and being happy and satisfied as a result.
Is this not how most people live?
Trying to live on this basis produces flashes of pleasure, largely from little kicks to the ego and the morphine haze of ludicrous fantasy. Generally, however, this basis of living produces anxiety, constant hurt feelings, frustration, crankiness, confusion, boredom, apathy, and depression.
But that is not the insanity of this delusion: the insanity of this delusion is the fact that, when it is pointed out to me that my whole basis of living has failed—F.A.I.L.E.D.—I set out to defend it with every fibre of my being.
You would think that, if this manner of living were going to work, it would kick in at some point in the second, third, or fourth decades of life. If I have been adopting this approach since the mid seventies and I still wake up every morning with a huge rock to push up the hill, I really ought to start questioning my belief system.
Back to the defences: they tend to express themselves like this:
"But isn't it natural to feel hurt when people reject you?"
"Of course I'm upset—anyone would be when they're trodden on and knocked back like this!"
"It's natural to be angry."
"Anyone would be scared in this situation."
"Doesn't everyone want to be loved?"
Bizarrely, I can find myself choosing resignation to inevitable unhappiness rather than questioning the belief system that has set up me up for this unhappiness. I then label it 'the human condition' and pronounce myself a hapless victim of it.
Truth is: I cannot think my way out of this one. Steps Four through Nine are not there to lead me logical step by logical step from my insane belief system to a sane one.
"I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes." (8:2)
Steps Four through Nine do precisely this: they take me from one belief system to an entirely new world from the vantage point of which I would be insane to want to return.
"Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems. I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could." (42:3)
"Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances." (100:1)
Is it possible to be happy and satisfied whatever happens? Totally. But you will never believe that unless you have experienced it, because it runs counter to the belief system forming the fabric of pre-recovery life.
I had life backwards, upside-down, inside-out.
"You, as well as your husband, ought to think of what you can put into life instead of what you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one much better." (120:0)
Happiness and satisfaction have come for me when I have been entirely focused outwards, not inwards: the flow is from me to you, not from you to me. When I am empty, I must give utterly of myself. It is entirely counter-intuitive—anything in the material realm that is empty needs filling to be filled. Anything in the spiritual realm that is empty needs emptying to be filled.
I cannot inch and slouch my way to the fourth dimension. And, let me tell you, I have tried. I have tried half measures in AA, a little bit of inventory, a whole bunch of meetings, but never fully taking on board the idea that God is everything and my reliance must be 100% on Him, never making all my amends (and getting people to counter-sign my get-out clauses to slim down the list), never truly admitting the delusion that I have utterly failed to make myself happy on the basis of living in accordance with what I think I want. I have tried combining these half measures with all sorts of therapies and approaches involving increasing my intellectual understanding of 'myself' and my 'problems' in the hope that my unhappiness would be chipped away at, that I would be nudged in the direction of peace.
And the result was nil. Because anything less than full measures will jam the mechanism of the catapult, and, yes, I will be shot out of it, but it will not be the fourth dimension I land in.
I pray that I am kept by God's grace in the life I have now, because I do not want to go back. But the job of maintaining my spiritual condition is up to me—without daily action, I can perfectly well fall back into the sleep of delusion.