Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Round-up of the week (1 March 2016)

Blank spots

If you're an unrecovered alcoholic, you have mental blank spots (cf. Jim's story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous) where the information 'alcohol is bad for me' should be but isn't.

If you're an unrecovered Al-Anon, you have mental blank spots where the information 'the alcoholic is bad for me' should be but isn't.

The horns in the head of the alcoholic match the holes in the head of the Al-Anon.

Mutuality vs transaction

According to the book Alcoholics Anonymous, 'giving not getting' is the guiding principle.

Through the course of recovery, I have tried through the example of others who I emulate to move from 'getting' being the guiding principle (the reptilian brain, Principle I), to 'giving to get' being the guiding principle (the mammalian brain, Principle II), to 'giving not getting' being the guiding principle (the human or mystic brain, Principle III). I'm not there but some progress has been made, fitfully I admit.

What the last of these three principles really means is that I try to give of my time and energy and keep my eye off what, if anything, I am getting back.

Human reliance is a very bad idea: I try to rely on God. This means that I do not place reliance on people individually but instead trust that God will give me everything I need through the channels He chooses (not the channels I choose). I can never assume that another person is operating on Principle III at all times; you cannot tell, necessarily, which principle is operative in a person because the learned paraphernalia of human behaviour, the mechanisms people use to operate in accordance with these three principles can look very similar; in fact, when I'm operating based on Principle I, with the reptilian bit of my brain essentially in charge, higher functions may be invoked to give people the impression I'm operating on a higher level when I am not.

It is impossible to be let down by anyone because to be let down presupposes an obligation. There are no obligations; also, to feel let down means I've in any case slipped back from Principle III to Principle II, so I'm hardly one to throw stones.

Step Eleven, pages 86-88

There are some people who are suited to taking every instruction on pages 86 to 88 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous every day. I am not. It gets stale and empty. A trick is this: in the evening: scan down the list of questions on page 86 and answer just the one that strikes you as the most pertinent, but answer that one properly; in the morning, scan through the instructions between pages 86 and 88 and other morning instructions (e.g. praying for knowledge of how to help the person who is still suffering) and concentrate on the one that is most pertinent, e.g. relief from self-will or relief from self-pity.

Self-reliance

On page 68 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, there is the suggestion that fear stems from self-reliance. There are many ways of looking at this: one of them is that, if I am scared, I essentially believe that, if a bad thing happens, I will not have the resources to deal with it with courage, grace, cheerfulness, usefulness, and kindness, because I am calculating without God.

A more radical view is this: the reason I'm frightened is because I'm relying on my own perceptions. Anything that is real cannot be destroyed; if it can be destroyed it is not real. If I'm frightened I believe that something real can be destroyed and I believe my perception, which is wrong.

Ducks and drakes

Ducks and drakes is a game of throwing flattish stones so that they skim along the surface of water. A man is walking along the beach just before dawn and finds a bag of such stones. He pays ducks and drakes till sunrise. Just as the sun is rising, he discovers that it is not stones he has been playing with but gems, and he has only three left.

There is a strange phenomenon that occurs sometimes in AA: people who are years and sometimes decades sober spin a story that low spirits, fear, and other phenomena are hard-wired into them, unavoidable facts of life, and that there is no solution, even through the Steps. The sharing will sometimes reveal that the understanding of what the Steps consist of is actually far from the full surrender to God and self-sacrifice the book Alcoholics Anonymous talks of on pages 14 to 15 and 164, but it is firmly presumed that no one could possibly have anything to teach them.

How is this to be interpreted in a context where such a person actually has before them examples of people who give the lie to this position, namely people who have found release through the Steps and through reliance on God and self-sacrifice?

I go back through my own history to periods when I have been without hope.

I became invested in it: to acquire hope after a period of hopelessness is to admit that I have been treading water, wasting my time, wasting my life, playing ducks and drakes with stones that were actually gems, letting years go by. Perversely, the ego would rather have you remain in misery than have you admit that the wrong path has been followed for too long. The investment is too great so cannot be given up, even if it kills you. You have to convince yourself it really has been stones you've been playing ducks and drakes with, not gems.

A friend asked yesterday what the solution is: I'm not sure. I do know that, when the pain got bad enough, I was willing to ditch the investment in and identification with my own unhappiness. One can only pray that others hit that threshold before it is too late.

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