Archives for posts with tag: character defect

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

In my pocket are two things: a quote from  Hafiz saying “I have enough of loss, enough of gain; I have my Love, what more can I obtain?” and a coin celebrating  33 years of recovery that reminds me to be true to myself. Today is supposed to be a day of rest between Jesus’ crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection, and I thought my “soul wrestling” was finally ready to rest for a bit.

Then this morning I was confronted with words I did not want to hear, and my “soul wrestling” started all over again. I listened to well-meaning words that made me face my own character defects and unrealistic expectations of fairness that always get me in trouble.  I was reminded rules are needed to set boundaries and those of us in recovery need rules to help us maintain those boundaries.  I was reminded that suffering is meant to bring me closer to Christ and that every day I have a choice to let suffering do that or to let it come between me and Christ.

The dialogue going on in my head is painful. One voice on the committee keeps saying “I understand the issues underlying rules, but God’s people should be trusted to live ethically without having to abide by ‘rules’—-especially when living ‘by the law’ does more harm than good in my opinion.” Another says, “Christ did not always follow rules either.” The recovering alcoholic two year old inside my head chimes in with his two cents worth and urges me to jump up and down, curse, and just have a plain old “temper tantrum.” A still small voice of reason reminds me to “be true to yourself and don’t let your character defects separate you from God’s love.”  And then Hafiz reminds me, “it is all about God’s love. Period. ”

In re-reading the above paragraph the real problem jumps out at me. There is that single letter “I”—— “I” am the problem. I have to admit my own operational definition of “fair” means “my way.” And when things aren’t my way, I don’ like it,  and I get my feelings hurt.  I have a hard time letting that hurt bring me closer to God. And yet, just this morning, I told a group that “atonement” to me means “At One with God’—————–so why is it so hard for me to accept what I consider to be unfair so that I can be “At One” with God?

So,  this pain is my own fault. I need to accept life on life’s terms just as I need to accept the crucifixion on God’s terms. As long as I am connected with God’s love everything else is just “stuff.” I can choose to “lounge on the pity pot. ” I can choose to do something passive aggressive to enlighten authorities about how “stupid”  their rules are. I can choose to pursue a geographical cure from the site of my spiritual dilemma. I can choose to indulge in one or all of my addictions.

But, most importantly, I can choose to be true to myself and stay connected with God’s love. If I allow my character defects of wanting things to be fair (my way) and resenting authority block the current of love that flows between God and I, then I am the one creating emotional upheaval in my soul. I need to stop trying to “obtain” and just stop and appreciate what I have, the love of God, as all I need. Today I choose to stay connected. May God bless and keep you.

 

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A couple of days ago I read a meditation about dualistic thinking and how it is a type of “stinking thinking”—–a term used by those in recovery to refer to a way of thinking that creates problems and does not support living in “the solution.” I was reminded how easy it is for our mind to automatically categorize everything we encounter as all “good’ or all “bad.” Living in that way of thinking is like living in a land of black and white images with no color to brighten the landscape or add truth and clarity to our vision. If I am walking into a public building and I have to step over a fecal donation left by a dog I can immediately think “How rude, can’t people have the decency to carry baggies with them and clean up after the dog they are walking?” This judgmental thought keeps me from having a mind open to other interpretations of my reality. Perhaps the fecal donation was left by a stray dog who needs rescued. The latter interpretation leaves my heart open to love and positive action while the first does not.

Okay, I get the picture. However, much as I hate to admit it, insight does not change how my automatic thoughts work. So,  yesterday I tried to notice when my  mind “jumped” to dualistic thinking. The first example I noticed was my reaction to seeing  an American flag left hanging in the cold, wet rain in front of the National Guard building that  I drove by on my way give a friend a ride to church. My mind “jumped” into the adolescent mind set about the proper way to show respect to our country’s flag; I learned in Girl Scouts how to hang the flag, take down the flag, fold the flag, and when not to “hang” the flag. It is not to be hung in the dark or in rain.  Or so my judgmental brain remembers being taught. So, based on something remembered from over fifty years ago that may not still be true, my immediate dualistic thought was “The military should know better! I can’t believe they left the flag out in the rain!”

The second happened when I was at church between Sunday school class and the church service. The priest walked up to me while I was reading book titles in our book case and asked me to grab my purse and said, “come with me.” My dualistic mind jumped to the conclusion that either something really bad had just happened or that I was in trouble. As the moment unfolded, I found out that the truth actually was he wanted to show me the Icon that had mysteriously disappeared had been successfully repaired and replaced, and from the conversation that we had I began to understand and appreciate the time and effort he put in to fixing the Icon. Since I do not have a mind that can fathom such procedures, had I even noticed the Icon being back in its place without it being shown to me, I probably would only have thought “Oh, the icon is back.”

The third happened when I read something last night and began to close my mind to the way I perceive the person about whom I had been reading. This was the most worrisome case of “dualistic thinking” I caught myself in yesterday. I still do not know the true context of this situation, but thanks to prayer and confidential counseling from a friend I am now able to see that dualistic judgmental thinking can block my mind from the truth and keep me from being a channel for God’s love and God’s will.  I need to keep my mind and my heart open so I can discern the truth without judging my fellow humans. Judging others and knowing “absolute truth” are clearly in God’s domain rather than mine.

Enough. May we see today in bright and varied colors and not fall prey to dualistic stinking thinking. God bless and keep you.

courage and believe rocks

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Yesterday, a friend asked me  how to do a 4th step inventory when most of the wrong [in her life] was done by someone else. As far as I know, this was the first time this person had considered applying these steps to her own life. I found myself having real trouble trying to answer that question in a way that made sense and was helpful to someone with little or no exposure to twelve step recovery. Therefore, I am going to try to answer that question more effectively in today’s blog. I obviously need to figure out the answer for myself!

The 4th step involves looking at character defects/shortcomings we recognize in how we relate to ourselves, others, and God.  Then we think about how these got started in our lives, what feelings or emotions seem to be at the root of them, and who or what we resent for the causative incident(s). We try to determine what “drive/defect/feeling” in us was associated with the resented incident/person. We look at the attitudes and behavior patterns that have shaped our lives—–not just our eating, drinking, gambling, etc.

However, when we look at patterns we often realize our own specific addictive behaviors or strongly linked to underlying problematic deep-rooted feelings or needs. We often eat or drink  (etc.) seeking comfort and/or escape from our painful or uncomfortable emotions (fear, anger, distrust, etc.).

A lot of our 4th step inventory is about discovering how we have harmed/hurt ourselves because of all of the above. For many of us, our 5th step “amends” are “living amends” to ourselves accomplished by living according to the guidance of program principles and/or our faith—–the change in our behavior and attitudes demonstrates our transformation/progress in recovery. Sometimes our living amends are the best kind to make to ourselves and others because actions speak louder than words.

It is also important to look at our assets when we take our inventory. Specifically, we can look at the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors that are the opposite of those that are the “defects” we’ve just inventoried. Acknowledging our positive assets—-or our progress towards them—-helps us realize not only the good in our past but the transformation that is taking place in the present as we practice recovery principles.

If we find ourselves wondering, “What do I do when it is others that need to make amends to me?” we are taking someone else’s inventory other than our own. The key is looking at our own lives from a holistic perspective and not just focusing on a specific action like how I hurt someone when I over ate or drank too much. That can be included in our inventory, of course, but hopefully, a holistic, in-depth inventory will explore and acknowledge much more. This is important because the drinking, eating, etc. is often a “symptom” of our underlying problem(s), and doing this type of in-depth inventory does a better job of acknowledging and working through the underlying problems.

By the way, these twelve steps are actually a “recipe for living” that can help anyone transform their lives. That is one of the reasons I talked about them at length in today’s blog. For more help understanding what character defects and program principles actually are, I would refer my readers to the 2nd edition of “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects” by  Bill P. Todd W. Sara S. and published in 2005 by Hazelden. God bless and keep you.

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I was just doing my early morning “first pass” of Facebook postings, and I ran across one that a friend had posted concerning the fact that a sponsor had commented her Big Book looked a bit dusty. So, naturally, I started thinking about dust.  Now I, for one, would be in “deep doo-doo” if accumulated dust was used to determine the quality of my life.  I get in enough trouble with what accumulating dust does to my allergies; and I must admit I never before considered what it might be doing to my soul. I hardly ever dust, and my time proven rationale that saves me from doing so is dusting stirs up the dust and makes me start sneezing and wheezing.

I digress. Back to the topic at hand, a Big Book with dust on it. Here is my take on the situation and the comment I made regarding this specific dust, ” If it is imprinted in your heart it does not matter if the book it came from is dusty!” I have never been one to memorize the content of any book, not even the Bible or the Big Book, verbatim, word for word. What matters to me is my understanding of what I read and what it means to me and how can I apply it in my life today. I am impressed when people can quote large passages of scripture from memory, but I am more impressed when I can see the intent of the scripture expressed in how that person is living his or her life.

Looking back on that paragraph clues me into the fact that I spend more time than I want to admit judging others and how they are living their lives. Around the recovery tables we call that “taking someone else’s inventory.” It is a pastime we are discouraged from pursuing. The Gospel of Matthew does the same thing when it asks why we focus on a speck we notice in someone else’s eye when we have an entire “beam” in our own eye.

Somehow I have made the journey from dust to wooden beams. But the common theme is this, it is the eye of the beholder that determines whether something is a problem or not, and the best advice I can give myself or anyone else is focus on changing what needs to be changed in yourself rather than what you think should be changed or fixed in others.

Stay warm and dry. May God bless and keep you.

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In the sermon I heard in church this morning a question I had asked several months ago came up as a topic of discussion. The church I belong to suggests we pray a series of prayers and read accompanying scripture 3-4 times daily. Included in each prayer session is a prayer of confession apologizing and asking God for forgiveness for our sins and promising our repentance. Today in our adult bible study class we learned that repentance is more than an attitude—-it also means actively turning away from what one is repenting.  The question I had previously asked was why  do we need to confess four times a day? My reason for asking the question was that I am uncomfortable asking for forgiveness when I promised “not to sin again” just a few hours earlier.  I am reminded of the story of the little boy that cried wolf too many times, when he finally did spy a wolf and run to tell the people in his village they wouldn’t take his warning seriously. By repeatedly confessing, asking for forgiveness, and promising to repent several times a day, do I not run the risk of God not taking me seriously—-or worse yet, not taking myself seriously?

The answer I was given to this question,  both at the time the priest and I had our conversation and again in this morning’s sermon, was basically that since we are imperfect humans we  tend to sin whether we realize it or not; hence the need to repeatedly confess and repent. I still have a bit of trouble with this philosophy. If repentance is based on a sincere apology and a promise not to do something again, wouldn’t we need to consciously know what sin  we were apologizing for in order  to avoid repeating it?

When I turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power as I understand him, I need to  begin looking at my past and present actions to identify things I have done or am doing that hurt myself or others.  According to AA’s 12 steps, one then needs to  “make amends” and change one’s  behavior accordingly.  If I am sincere about changing something in my life, I ask for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out on a one day at a time basis. And, yes, I often repeat that prayer several times a day.  AA’s 12 steps suggest we take a careful look at what we have done each day and make amends in a timely fashion. Nowhere in AA’s “Big Book” have I read a suggestion that we ask God to forgive our mistakes, promise not to do them, and then repeat the exact same prayer three more times in the same day.

Now that I’ve gotten that “rant” off my chest, I need to look at what is really important for me to realize in the midst of all this spiritual “free association.” Obviously, I and my self-pride are the problem. I doubt God is bothered by repeated requests for forgiveness and promises to repent. It is my pride/ego that resists “humbling” myself that often. I need to get over myself and  ask my Higher Power to forgive me for thinking I am above asking for forgiveness several times a day.  In reading what I have written so far, it is also obvious that many of my sins fall in the realm of attitude and false pride. My character defect of procrastination also lands a lot of my “sins” in the “things left undone” category. I need to “open the bridge” between God’s love and forgiveness and myself by being willing to ask for and receive it more  often than I do—–especially since I tend to deny my sins and not recognize them until I force myself to take a serious “mental inventory.”  Perhaps following a discipline of structured prayer sessions throughout the day may offer me a way to cultivate this habit.  May God bless and keep you.

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“If I’m not appreciated, that’s your problem that you don’t appreciate me. Unless I need your love, then it’s my problem. So my needs are what are giving you the power over me. Those people’s power over you to take you out of your equanimity and love and consciousness has to do with your own attachments and clingings of mind. That’s your work on yourself, that’s where you need to meditate more, it’s where you need to reflect more, it’s where you need a deeper philosophical framework, it’s where you need to cultivate the witness more, it’s where you need to work on practicing opening your heart more in circumstances that aren’t optimum. This is your work.  ”

accessed 1/17/14 at: http://www.ramdass.org/a-heavy-curriculum/

Well, this quote woke me up this morning! I’ve talked about self-validation vs. co-dependency for years, but that’s become old hat to me, and those words do not offer any thing new my mind and soul can use. Those words are about insight; they are not about action. Ram Dass’ words are about action, or at least that is where they lead my thoughts.

My own needs are what I need to work on—-the thing I need to think about, meditate about, detach and distance myself from by realizing my self worth comes from within and from Creator. If I am doing anything for the purpose of winning praise, recognition, or gratitude from another, then my motives are way off base. What Dass calls my “witness” needs to objectively observe my thoughts and actions so I can begin to be aware of doing this. I cannot change something if I am not aware of it.

Here’s an example from something I was involved in yesterday afternoon that shows me Ram Dass is probably right. I was teaching a crafts class in which three people were learning how to crochet. I had planned to first teach them to read the pattern, then how to do the chain stitch, and, finally, how to do a double stitch—-the only two stitches used to make the scarf that had been selected as a class project.  I thought it would take about 10 minutes to teach them to read a pattern, and about 10 minutes of practice for each stitch.

Things didn’t happen the way I expected. There is much more to crocheting than saying, “this is the stitch, this is what it is called, and this is how you do it.”  There were a multitude of nuances left out of both the printed instructions that were provided and the verbal and visual instructions I was providing. It seems that I have been crocheting so long that I’d forgotten many of the “little steps” that are part of the “bigger steps.” All of the sudden things were not going like clockwork, and I had a room full of confused and anxious people. Together we started breaking the process down into the “mini-steps” necessary in these two basic stitches. Things started working better, but things were still not going well.

Finally, a voice of reason was heard from across the room saying, “Why don’t we make the scarf with just the one single stitch?” I am so grateful that my friend was there to “witness objectively” what was going on and to make that suggestion.  When we did that, the whole room relaxed. Where there had been stress and performance anxiety, there was now more self-acceptance and less tension. Instead of frowns and throwing things down in exasperation, there were smiles and laughter. The class had become “we” instead of being divided into expert and novice. My own thoughts were no longer as focused on feeling like a failure as a teacher.  Slowly I let go of my  need to be a “good teacher” and became, instead, a empathetic facilitator. My  “needs” got out of the way—-and when that happened, people who had never crocheted began to crochet.

The lesson I learned yesterday was whenever I am feeling anxious to try to detach from the emotions  I am feeling so I can “witness” what is happening—-then my perception will not be as distorted by my own needs. It sounds simple, but I know it will take lots of work to develop awareness and healthy detachment. I am grateful to have taken this first step of acceptance. May God bless and keep you.

building blocks

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Last  night at a book study we were talking about what it means to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as AA’s Big Book instructs those who wish to remain in recovery to do. The group seemed to unanimously agree that it did not mean you turn everything over to God and then just sit there waiting for him to do everything. After all, we are humans who were given the gift of choice by God, and, consequently, that makes us accountable for our choices, actions, and  the subsequent consequences that occur. As a group, we agreed that when we let God’s spirit empower us we still have to do the footwork.

There are always, at least for me, a committee of rebellious “naysayers” having a debate in my head during conversations like this. One is saying, “Yeah, right. If I give up my life and my will nothing will be left.” Another is saying, “I gave up alcohol, cigarettes, compulsive eating,……why is it always about giving something up?”  Another is saying, “Yippee! Go for it! Let God run things, then you can do anything you want because it will really be God doing it—-anything you do will be God’s will.”

I could go on, but listening to my mind’s “committee meetings” can be tedious at best. Instead, I would like to try to answer my committee. I realize I will be defending my beliefs, much as I had to when I defended my doctoral dissertation to my dissertation committee when I was in graduate school. First, every time I have given something up, my God has given me much, much more in return. Relief, serenity, peace of mind—–all of these are inherent in realizing I no longer have to control everything and that it  is unrealistic for me to expect to be able to do so. What has been left for me at those times when I have voluntarily turned something over to my Higher Power is a strong faith that provides fertile ground for the growth of my emerging, evolving spirit. When I continue to let God be in control things go well—-or at least I am, with God’s help, able to handle whatever comes my way. However, when I “take back” whatever I’ve turned over to God,  things start building up into problems yet again. And again. Someday I hope to leave things in God’s hands permanently, and I am encouraged by the fact that I can now go for longer and longer periods without rebelling against the way “God is driving the bus.”

This brings me to the second question, why is it always about giving something up? For me, the answer is because I have spent a life time building an identity/ego that defines, in my mind, who I am. My inclination is to hold onto that identity tenaciously, no matter what. So naturally, I am reluctant to let go of anything that I feel is necessary to “stay who I am.” Again, in my case, many of the “blocks” I have used to build my identity are faulty. These faulty “blocks” cause continual problems for me, yet I hang on to them because I think I will not be me without them. For the sake of brevity, I have found that I have to let go of these faulty blocks gradually over time, and sometimes I have to do so more than once.  For me, it is about “giving something up” because I need to do so to not only survive but to build a better life. The good news is, I really like the new “me” who is evolving because this new identity realizes it is not all about me—-that it is about God’s love and sharing it.

And to the last committee member that thinks turning things over to God offers an invitation to “party hardy” I have to say, “In all due respect, Mr. Committee Party Man, you are a remnant of my ‘stinking thinking’ that got me into most of my life’s messes in the first place. I am still accountable for how I do the footwork and carry out God’s will—-and if I start practicing my old bad habits yet again, it only means I have purposively divorced myself from God’s guidance and help.” Perhaps this response is a bit harsh, but this is the point where I need to be hard on myself. I seem to think I can turn things over to God and take back bits and pieces of what I’ve turned over because “I’m better, I’ve changed, things are different now, and now I can handle it.” This is the type of thinking that always brings me back to being enmeshed in self-created problems.

Wow! I did not mean to write for so long this morning. If you have stayed with me and plowed through all this, I thank you. May God bless and keep you.

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