If we kept track of how much time we spent thinking about various things, we would probably find that we spend most of our time thinking about a small collection of problems we've rehearsed all our lives.
What can we do to be rid of our problems?
What we think is subject to scrutiny. Feel free to doubt yourself! No matter how well we brainstorm or problem solve, it is only an idea, or a dream until we take a closer look at what we're really thinking.
If we've been scheming to deal with an injury or offense, we may set out to do harm. And, if we do, we'll only make matters worse. As soon as we start out with a bad intention, we begin to live in conflict and loose the joy of living in harmony with one another.
For many of us, that negativity results in reliance upon alcohol or other substances that may result in addiction, and prevents us from dealing with the real problems we're confronted by. We avoid those we come into conflict with, and fail to adapt to the challenges life has given us to solve.
So how do these grievances begin?
Grievances, complaints and resentments start with what we believe to be an injury caused by others, and the sorry state of the victims we've become.
From Alcoholics Anonymous
"The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived."
How can we be rid of our resentments?
Its so simple you'd laugh. We write it down!
You'll find guides to that task here:
As we write our problems down, things become clear. We begin to see that there might be holes in our stories. That what we've been telling ourselves doesn't always really ring true. For example, you might find when we read what we've written down, and review what we've been saying to ourselves, some aspects of the story point to our own behavior rather than the behavior of others.
And even if we still believe we have a legitimate case, and can get others to believe it, and how awful it is - to prove what big victims we've become....does that help? Try keeping a log. You might find that what you thought was a valid grievance at first, might not be so good after a good nights sleep, or a few weeks of calm reflection upon our circumstance. Usually its not an intention to be harmful, or deceptive that harms us, its just a failure to see how efforts to get what we want in life affects others.
So how do we resolve these conflicts?
We learn to align our will with the will of God, so we are aligned with good will.
And if we focus on our own behavior, we are much more likely to see that what we don't like about others, is really what we don't like about ourselves. That's how we learn to tolerate ourselves. It does no good to focus on the behavior of others. If we don't recognize what we don't like as manifestation of our own defects of character, we can't do anything about it, and we get burned up. What we can do, is identify what we don't like about ourselves, and recognize it in others. We know its true because we've seen it in ourselves. If we didn't know it in ourselves, we wouldn't be convinced of how wrong it is in others. It is what we know and don't like about ourselves that really troubles us, precisely because we know it to be true in ourselves. And if we've done what we can to be rid of these defects of character, then we won't be troubled by it in others.
We can still help ourselves by being useful to others. By being helpful, we feel better about ourselves, and as we meet their needs, we meet our own. Self interest is not the same as selfishness: to seek for oneself without regard for others.
We know that in every case where there is anger, there is also fear. To identify the fears that really trouble us, use the phrase: "What am I afraid of loosing, or failing to get." These fears are not really about spiders and snakes, or ghosts and the boogie man. The fears we are talking about are the fears that have motivated much of our conflict and disfunction. Fears born of being found out, or betrayal and doubts about who we really are, or our ability to get what we need for ourselves, and deal with the difficulties we have in life.
Again, we write them down - we put them on paper! We asked ourselves why we had them, and realized that we failed because we relied upon ourselves. To overcome our fears, we had to rely upon a power greater than ourselves. We've already proven to ourselves that self reliance failed. It may not be obvious to ourselves or others, but deep down inside, we know it's true. The book Alcoholics Anonymous puts it this way: "Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse." -Alcoholics Anonymous p 68
You'll find worksheets to write your down fears here:
About Conduct in General, and Specifically Sex Conduct
From Alcoholics Anonymous
"In no other matter is the guidance and direction of God more important than in matters of sex....human opinions run to extremes, absurd extremes, perhaps....What can we do about it?"
"We reviewed our own sex conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it. In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test: was it selfish or not?"
"We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed. Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing."
"In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it." -Alcoholics Anonymous p 69
You'll find a guide for that work here:
When I began working on this part of Step Four, I used a prayer that said: "God, mold my ideals in sex relations, and help me to live up to them", and thought it meant what my ideal partner for sex relations ought to be like. So as I prayed this prayer, I hoped my ideal partner would be thin, smart, healthy, and so forth. What my Sponsor shared with me is that it was my character, and my relationship with God that needs molding, not my partner. We are not being asked to live up to any one else's standards or code of ethics, but we are expected to live up to our own standards, and the ideals that our Higher Power reveals to us.
We need to live with a clear conscience, and be satisfied that we've cleared away the wreckage of our past. Only God can judge these matters, and in no other area of life is God's guidance more important.
The Exact Nature of my Wrongs, or the Sixth Step in Detail
My first question when reading this step was: What does it mean?
I did the fourth step by writing out how I had been selfishness, dishonest, and fearful. I covered how I had been inconsiderate, where I had aroused jealousy, suspicion and bitterness, and whom I had hurt, and where I was at fault. But what did it really point to? Before my 5th Step, I reviewed my inventory, and took a look at my behavior and what I thought it represented. And I had help from people who sponsored me to guide my prayer, and clarify the instructions.
What are defects of character?
In my first fifth step, a minister listened as I disclosed what I was ashamed of, and occasionally he would interject with something like: "So, you used people..." or "you were blaming others...", and yes, I had to agree, though I was preoccupied with the details of my mistakes, I didn't see the behavior for what it really is. As I worked on being rid of that behavior, those clarifications became very useful to me. It disarmed the bomb. My scars were no longer glowing, and I could speak of my mistakes more easily, making me more useful to others dealing with the same kinds of problems.
In my second and third fifth steps, I realized that much of my behavior was repeating, and that it may have been due to my unwillingness to let go of my worst defects.
In my fourth fifth step, I used the definitions found below which proved to be even more useful than my own definitions, and I wrote in my book: "I am now entirely ready to have all my defects of character removed", and I really meant it! Even the some of the sex conduct I held onto I committed myself to be rid of, and that has remained true to this day.
After several other efforts at confession, a Sponsor who took the time to listen to me several times, asked me:
"But what is the exact nature of your wrongs?"
A year after he died, I realized as I was falling asleep that it boils down to that fact that I've been harmful, and that I need to care enough about the mistakes I've made to make amends to the people who've been harmed. To overcome the problems we live with isn't enough. We need to stop the harm that continues in others.
By using the following definitions I realized that because I Despaired, I failed to do what I needed to do. And when I failed to do what I needed to do (Acedia), then things really become hopeless. When I saw that I had really become hopeless, I failed to make use of my talents (Sloth), and had it not been for the mercy of you, God and others, I would die.
See what you can find with a review of these definitions from Wikipedia: Seven deadly sins
Acedia (The neglect to take care of something that one should do. It is translated to apathetic listlessness; depression without joy.)
There is no doubt that alcoholics really are mentally ill due to the excessive amounts of alcohol we've used an excessively long time. Diagnosis' that attend alcoholism are also described in Wikipedia: Alcoholism
Psychiatric disorders differ depending on gender. Women who have alcohol-use disorders often have a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis such as major depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bulimia, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or borderline personality disorder. Men with alcohol-use disorders more often have a co-occurring diagnosis of narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulse disorders or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Women with alcoholism are more likely to have a history of physical or sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence than those in the general population, which can lead to higher instances of psychiatric disorders and greater dependence on alcohol.
When we review our fourth step with these defects of character in mind, reviewing what we have written down on the worksheets provided in this document, we can see how these defects of character show up, and so can others.
A friend of mine described my behavior rather briefly, but I summed his opinion up this way:
I saw how what I believed to be love showed up as lust or lasciviousness (wanton behavior, or being driven by lust), and obscenity (discussing taboo subjects intended to arouse lust). And how my own desires to be with her harmed others. Originally, I believed I had done nothing wrong (antisocial personality disorder), that the people who were hurt were just rivals loosing to my more successful seduction (narcissism), and the behavior itself - just innuendo and insinuation. I later realized that my behavior had been perceived as intimidating or looming - even by the woman I sought. There are many other examples of the exact nature of my wrongs that were revealed by reviewing my behavior, I've described here, but this one came as a surprise to me because I was so preoccupied with what I believed to be my love for her that I couldn't see what was really going on as I pursued it.
And sometimes, the use of computers and cell phones prevents us from seeing our partner's responses clearly enough to see that our communications are no longer welcome. Nonverbal cues are gone, and we find ourselves making the subject clearer for the reader because we have no response. If we are in a public forum and still get no response, we might continue to write until its offensive, and we end up loosing the relationship.
We don't need to use fancy psychiatric or religious terms to determine how we are showing up in the world, but it might help to use a reference that's common to our culture. The feedback I received in my first fifth step regarding using people and blaming people went a long way to helping me overcome those defects of character. Had these problems not been described in a general way, I might not have addressed them, but because we kept it simple, I've been able to challenges the behavior in myself by recognizing with a few key concepts. I realized that the problems I had we're very similar to God's problems, and that if God could own them, so could I. And that by allying with those I was once jealous of, I could overcome my insecurities, and be a better person.
Please also see the definitions for: HARM:
We think that victim status gives us the right to punish. What we realize later is that punishing circumstances escalates until we are brought to our knees by a circumstance of our own making, and that what is really needed is healing. Please see: Bodywork
Some of us needed professional help, and in areas of Finance, and Medical Care that makes great sense. I've provided a list of the services that I've used both Traditional and Alternative here: Local Agencies