Thursday, 16 January 2014

AA BS-busting #1: your best thinking got you here

Variants of this are "the mind that created the problem cannot solve the problem" and "you cannot think your way out of the problem".

Now, let me first of all say that these ideas have some truth.

My thinking before I got to AA was pretty awry, and thinking, alone, will not get me sober or transform my life.

The injunction against thinking, however, is elevated by many to become an overriding doctrine.

Firstly, let us look at the Big Book. The first sixty or so pages are devoted to the conveying of ideas. Unless these ideas are digested and understood, the subsequent action will have no basis. We must necessarily engage our minds.

We Agnostics, the chapter on Step Two, is devoted in particular to a rational discussion of the existence of God, or at least a power greater then ourselves. Faith and action are discussed as part of the mix, but the chapter discourages mushy and encourages critical thinking. We are to get off the spiritual fence and decide one way or another: will God help us?

Step Eleven certainly requires critical engagement and use of the mind.

Let us now look at experience. My best thinking got me to AA. Absolutely. The idea to phone AA, which was the best thing I ever did, popped into my mind. Similarly, choosing Doug as my first sponsor was the next stroke of genius. This also popped into my mind. If I were to disregard every thought that came into my mind on the basis that it came into my mind, I would never have called AA, gotten a sponsor, or done the Steps.

More recently, I observe that many people, including myself, suffer at the hands of waves of emotion stemming from irrational thinking that is never questioned or challenged. The most significant conversations I have ever had include those where people have encouraged me to examine my own thinking critically. The mind, it turns out, is perfectly capable of assisting in healing itself, provided that sound principles and the guidance of others are used.

Now, thinking alone will not achieve anything, and plenty of action is required. Certain types of thinking are certainly discouraged, for instance the morbid reflection against which there is such a strong injunction in the Big Book. Ruminating on resentment and fear will not help either. There are also times when I have had to take action blindly, against my own best thinking, because someone I trust suggests it as a solution to my problems.

But we are doing newcomers and ourselves a disservice suggesting that the programme invariably boils down to blind action. It is so much more than that.

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