Saturday, 18 April 2015
Step Six in Al-Anon
There is a lot of material on Step Six in the book Paths to Recovery, including twenty-three bullet points containing questions.
This aims to keep things simpler.
Step Five reveals that my attitudes, thinking, and behaviour at times suck.
Step Six in Paths to Recovery refers to these as 'survival skills that no longer serve me'. It does not give examples, however. There may be instances where this is the case, but, for instance, I have never experienced obsessive worry about other people's behaviour 'serving me'—or them—in any way at all; similarly, I have never experienced verbal punishment of other people serving me—or them—either. The list could go on.
There is, however, a 'payoff'. This 'payoff' never did help me survive then, and will not help me survive now.
For example, obsessive worry allowed me to preserve the illusion that I was in control because I was 'paying attention'. In truth, I was and am powerless over much. I was opting for the illusion of control because I was frightened of powerlessness.
A second example, verbal punishment gave me the temporary feeling I could actually change others' behaviour if I bullied enough. It never worked, but my ego told me, at some level, it eventually would. Again, I was opting for the illusion of control because I was frightened of powerlessness.
Here's the truth: all defects are destructive. That's why they're defects. If there were merit in them, they would not be defects.
The illusion that they're helping anyone must be systematically rooted out and eliminated, with the help of a sponsor if necessary. We prepare to have God remove our defects, but the preparation is a very human affair.
Footnote regarding guilt:
The Paths to Recovery solution to the guilt associated with character defects is to call them failed survival skills. I would counter: if you've behaved badly, you're supposed to feel guilt, at least until you've admitted the problem and are taking action to resolve it. This is the phenomenon of having a conscience, and it's an integral part of being human. I have felt entitled not to feel the full range of human emotions—or the full range of human defects. I have needed to get over that sense of entitlement: I am no more above these defects than anyone else, and guilt is supposed to persist until I submit to change. That is by design. The guilt is not the problem: the real problem is taking my own defects personally, as though they are who I am. That's a simple case of mistaken identity. The defects are not survival skills, but they do stem from bad wisdom that was taught to me as a child without my request or permission. To feel I am a bad person because I have defects is (a) not to give credit where credit is due for why I have them and (b) to mistake myself for what I have been taught: I am spirit, not the sum total of bad lessons learned and played out in spiritual blindness. I'm responsible for doing something about them, but I'm not them.
Once I've recognised (a) the defect is a defect and (b) there's no actual benefit at all, there is a third problem: the fear of what my life will look like if I am 're-landscaped' by God. Removal does not take place without substitution. As Paths to Recovery says, 'I learned to replace my defects with assets'. This is where I trust that, as Paths to Recovery indicates, 'God is a God of love, not a God of fear'. By definition, God's will—the re-landscaped version of my life—is 'the best of all possible worlds'. The fear of what will happen if I submit to God is actually fear of what God is. Either God is love or God is fear. If God is fear at all, the whole well is poisoned.
God is love. God's will for me is the expression of that love in all areas of my life.
Ultimately, I have to stand back and say: I am willing for every attitude, every thinking pattern, and every behaviour pattern to change. Not all of them will turn out to need amendment, but many will. I must hold none back on principle. Why? Because God is love, and fear of the outcome of any change in this regard is really an irrational fear of God.
Then I am ready to ask God in Step Seven to remove my defects, and to take the action in Steps Eight through Twelve.
Paths to Recovery uses the analogy of buying a new pair of slippers. In Steps Eight through Twelve we deliberately wear the new slippers, i.e. deliberately adopt the new attitudes, thinking patterns, and behaviour patterns, with God's help, but essentially applying our will along the line of God's will. In the meantime, the old slippers are quietly disposed of by God. That's entirely God's doing. We turn round some time later, and the old slippers—the old attitudes, thinking patterns, and behaviour patterns—are simply no longer available to us.