Category Archives: Emotional Sobriety

Fear I Give You Back

Let these words from Native American poet, Joy Harjo sink deeply in. She writes from her personal experience of fear. Change the details to match your experience, but keep the essence of her message.

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear.

I release you.
You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you as myself.
I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my daughters.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.
I release you, fear, so you can no longer keep me naked and frozen in the winter, or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you I release you I release you I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved, to be loved, to be loved, and fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.
I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.

You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart my heart my heart my heart.

But come here fear. I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

Acceptance of Shortcomings

“THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION”
by Ernest Kurtz

The acceptance of shortcomings is a strength. This message resounds, as always, in all traditions, loud and clear: Mistakes are part of being human. The real meaning of “sin” has to do not with committing evil deeds, not with willfully breaking laws, not even with the act of “falling short.” The term sin classically signifies not an action but the state of falling short, a situation of alienation from reality. One brilliance of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it never uses the term sin, a word hopelessly overloaded with convoluted meanings, but talks instead of the “defects of character” and the “shortcomings” of those who are “alcoholics.” For sin has become a word of religion, of absolutes; shortcomings are words of humanity, a concept in tune with the understanding that we are imperfect.
And if we do “fall short”? That very awareness of “falling short” implies two related realities: First, we are trying, and second, we need to try again. There is no failure here, for spirituality, as the ancients reminded over and over again, involves a continual falling down and getting back up again. That is why humility—the knowledge of our own imperfections—is so important, and that is why spirituality goes on and on and on, a never-ending adventure of coming to know ourselves, seeing ourselves clearly, learning to be at home with ourselves. The great need is for balance—when we are down, we need to get up; and when we are up, we need to remember that we have been, and certainly will be again, “down”.

It was a large meeting, well over two hundred people. At one end of the room stood the canister of regular coffee; at the other end, the pot of decaf. Conversation around the first coffeepot centered on a man who was clearly depressed and afraid.
“I just feel like I’m at the end of my rope,” he admitted. “It’s one damned thing after another. Nothing seems to be going right. This week my dog died, my kids came down with strep throat, I can’t keep my mind on my work, my wife and I are fighting constantly. I just don’t know how I’m going to make it.”
“Well, son,” an old-timer said gently, “at least you didn’t take a drink today.”
The conversation at the other end of the room centered on a man who exuded good cheer. “I just feel so wonderful,” he was saying. “What a week this has been! I got a promotion at work; my daughter is graduating from college with honors; my wife and I are like newly married lovers. And just yesterday I had the best golf game of my life!”
“It all sounds great,” another old-timer said gently. “But remember … you’re an alcoholic. Just one drink will destroy it all.

The point of Humility is to find a balance, that place in the middle of life’s teeter-totter that allows one foot to reside on the side of “god/saint/angel” and the other on the side of “worm/sinner/beast.” From this perspective, A.A.’s most significant contribution to the tradition of a spirituality of imperfection can be summed up in two words: sober alcoholic.

Emotional Sobriety

This is the substance of a revealing letter which Bill Wilson wrote several years ago to a close friend who also had troubles with depression. The letter appeared in the “Grapevine” January, 1953.

EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY

“I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance, urges quite appropriate to age seventeen, prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven and fifty-seven.

Since AA began, I´ve taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover, finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse. Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy and good living. Well, that´s not only the neurotic´s problem, it´s the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all of our affairs.

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That´s the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it´s a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious, from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream, be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden 閃r. Hyde’ becomes our main task.

I´ve recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones, folks like you and me, commencing to get results. Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I´ve had with depressions, it wasn´t a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself “Why can´t the twelve steps work to release depression?” By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer … “it´s better to comfort than to be comforted.” Here was the formula, all right, but why didn´t it work?

Suddenly, I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

There wasn´t a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any act of circumstance whatsoever.

Then only could I be free to love as Francis did. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing love appropriate to each relation of life.

Plainly, I could not avail myself to God´s love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn´t possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.

For my dependence meant demand, a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

While those words “absolute dependence” may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to me.

This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God´s creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the real current can´t flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.

If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependence and its consequent demand. Let us, with God´s help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love: we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety.

Of course, I haven´t offered you a really new idea — only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own hexes´ at depth. Nowadays, my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.”

Bill Wilson

Self Esteem & Honesty

We have struggles being honest with self and others. The concept of false self-image, low self-esteem and lying, is prominent in people with substance use disorders
The following story about myself is a prime example:
Last week I was rejected for a position I coveted. I felt it had the potential to help people recover from addiction and stop the cycle of relapse. It fit perfectly with what I am seeking and my qualifications matched. The interviews went well, I thought. But then I was told I wasn’t the right fit, but possible when they expanded and were hiring again I might fit.
It made me feel disappointed.
Soon after anger and fear were creeping in, but never did I feel like drinking or using. I kept sharing with others in recovery and my sponsor. Being told that it would work out for the best, it probably was not meant to be or maybe I should change my focus.
This advice only made me more determined to find the truth about this obvious mistake. It was making me less accepting and unable to find my part until I started praying to my HP for understanding and acceptance. Within 15 minutes a friend of mine with inside knowledge of what had happened casually mentioned to me he heard what happened and was disappointed for me. Suddenly this little bit of compassion transformed me into an accepting person with many good things to say about everyone involved and how fortunate I felt to know of the program and have met such exceptional people.
I am relieved. I became aware of my need for humility and ability to trust my HP to help me grow, to be resilient and understand it all happens for my good.
My self-esteem is fragile and rejection had fractured it.
I was letting my thinking interfere with my heart, losing touch with it and thinking I was in control with my mind.
Thank you, Sunlight of the Spirit, for energizing my soul, helping me trust and have faith.

FORGIVENESS

In his book “Is Human Forgiveness Possible?” Theologian John Patton examines the New Testament story, in which Peter asks Jesus of Nazareth of forgiveness:

“Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” And Jesus answers: “No, not seven times; I say seventy times seven times.” (Matt. 18:21–22)

Patton comments: Peter’s question seems to say, “Please give me a rule so I don’t have to keep dealing with this. How can I know when enough is enough? I want to know what to do instead of having to come to terms with the history of our relationship.” Jesus’ response to the question says in effect, “I am unwilling to give you a way out of a continuing relationship to your brother.”

For the opposite of “resentment” is forgiveness, recognized by centuries of spiritual thinkers as “the endpoint of human life.” Forgiveness is “given,” and not only in English; the French say “par-downer,” the Spanish “per-donar.” That is because, in the words of D. M. Dooling, a student of mythic spirituality: “Forgiveness belongs to the divine. It is God’s act: something other, something that is not ours; and unless we can acknowledge this, the word is only ‘a noise we make with our mouths.’ ”

What became clear to me from this exchange was the following:
When I am making an amends it is not forgiveness that I am seeking, but the act of doing what is right and cleaning my side of the street. If the other person chooses to forgive me, that is a bonus. Forgiveness ultimately is between my Higher Power and me. Just like a wrong I perceive to have been committed against me; I may forgive it, but the real forgiveness is not up to me. It is between the Power of the Universe and the transgressor.

Forgiveness is not ours to give, but ours to receive. We cannot create it; we can be certain only that it is beyond us, in the sense of beyond our control, beyond our ability to will it into existence.

Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”

FORGIVENESS

In his book “Is Human Forgiveness Possible?” Theologian John Patton examines the New Testament story in which Peter asks Jesus of Nazareth, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” And Jesus answers: “No, not seven times; I say seventy times seven times.” (Matt. 18:21–22)

Patton comments: Peter’s question seems to say, “Please give me a rule so I don’t have to keep dealing with this. How can I know when enough is enough? I want to know what to do instead of having to come to terms with the whole history of our relationship.” Jesus’ response to the question says in effect, “I am unwilling to give you a way out of a continuing relationship to your brother.”

For the opposite of “resentment” is forgiveness, recognized by centuries of spiritual thinkers as “the endpoint of human life.” Forgiveness is “given,” and not only in English; the French say “par-downer,” the Spanish “per-donar.” That is because, in the words of D. M. Dooling, a student of mythic spirituality: “Forgiveness belongs to the divine. It is God’s act: something other, something that is not ours; and unless we can acknowledge this, the word is only ‘a noise we make with our mouths.’ ”

Forgiveness is not ours to give, but ours to receive. We cannot create it; we can be certain only that it is beyond us, in the sense of beyond our control, beyond our ability to will it into existence.

Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection

Resentment and Anger

“A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.
“Have you forgiven the Nazis?” he asked his friend.
“Yes.”
“Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.”
“In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.”

Resentment is the poison of the spiritual life. The word means, literally, “feeling again,” in the sense of “feeling backward”: the emphasis is on a clinging to the past; a harping on it that becomes mired in it. Resentment goes over and over an old injury: revisiting the hurt, the powerlessness, the rage, the fear, the feeling of being wronged. Scraping the scab off the wound, resentment relishes anew its pain; it is the particular kind of memory that reinforces the vision of self-as-victim. This vision is the antithesis of spirituality, for spirituality begins with recognition of our own imperfection. Focusing on the past faults and failings of others blinds us to reality of our own present defects and shortcomings.

It was this peril—the danger of cutting ourselves off from the spiritual resources that offer the only possible healing of our own imperfection—which the desert genius Ponticus cautioned against in explaining the proper use of anger. He noted that resentment—clinging to misdirected anger—stifled spiritual life by stealing the very tools of virtue:

We need to reclaim anger for its proper purpose. It is always a waste of good anger to get annoyed with other human beings…. What the ascetic needs to do is to focus his attention … on the fact that he is annoyed. Instead of seeing some other human being angrily, he tries to see his own anger. He can then begin to fight against it.

Anger can be an important part of the process, the journey that is the construction and discovery of our spiritual home. But resentment has capacity to stop that process, to abort that journey. The anger that metamorphoses into resentment isolates us, creating the illusion that the world has stopped in its tracks and has come to focus entirely upon our hurts, our desires, our victimhood. In resentment there is no chance of release but only imprisonment in a painful past and the gradual stifling of all serenity, indeed, of all humanity. “If a man removes his bitterness, he becomes human; otherwise he becomes an animal,” observed one Sufi teacher”

Resentment unites anger, fear, and sadness in a kind of closed-circle, scissors-paper-rock game. In absence of resentment, anger, fear, and sadness tend to heal each other. Anger can act like a scissors, cutting through fear—the fear that like an enveloping shroud wraps itself around and threatens to smother the rock that is sadness. But that very sadness, which rises from realization of our own transience and the ultimate futility of our human efforts to control, is the only tool we have to blunt anger—to forestall the resentment that anger becomes if nourished even after our fears have been quelled.

Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”

Anger, Anxiety, Resentment, Stress and Basic Humanity

by Steven Stosny, Ph. D.
Anger In The Entitlement Age

After 30 years of work on problems of anger, resentment, anxiety, and stress, and half a dozen books on the subject, I still get sarcastic emails:
“I want to manage anger, anxiety, and stress, but I’m not interested in becoming a ‘better person’.”
Let me be very clear. Your chances of consistently managing anger, anxiety, resentment, and stress, without becoming a better person, are practically zero.
By the time we’re adults, most anger, resentment, anxiety, and reactions to stress are conditioned responses, usually caused by precipitous drops in self-value. That is, we feel devalued. To change conditioned responses, we must develop new conditioned responses, for example, conditioning behaviors that raise self-value to occur automatically when self-value declines. CompassionPower has techniques that, with practice, will build more beneficial conditioned responses. However, those won’t be enough. The only significant and lasting improvement in life and relationships results from becoming “a better person.” We become better persons by staying in touch with basic humanity, the survival-based capacity for interest in the well-being of others.
Basic Humanity and Survival of the Species
Early humans could not have survived competition from more plentiful and powerful predators without banding together in emotionally-bonded social units to defend and hunt collectively. Small, emotionally-bonded, cooperative communities became the natural order of human social organization. We’re so dependent on the consideration and cooperation of others that we condemn even minor deviations from them by other people, while ignoring or rationalizing our own lapse of compassion and cooperation. The “out-group” phenomenon, instrumental in racism, rises from the fear that “they” won’t be compassionate or cooperative.
Basic Humanity as Motivation
More important as a motivation than a feeling, basic humanity motivates respectful, helpful, valuing, nurturing, protective, and altruistic behaviors. In adversity it motivates sacrifice. In emergency it motivates rescue.
A Condition for Personal Growth
Basic humanity allows us to grow beyond the limitations of personal experience and prejudice. If out of touch with basic humanity for too long, we become locked in a prison of the self. The sense of self grows fragile, in constant need of validation by others, intolerant of differences, resentful, anxious, or angry. Other people matter only to the extent that they validate our (inherently biased) experience. We feel less humane.
In touch with basic humanity, we become smarter about the world around us and our relationship to it. There’s an intrinsic reward for this increase in vision; the more in touch with basic humanity, the more humane we feel.
The Prominent Emotions of Basic Humanity
Compassion – motivation to help relieve pain, suffering, discomfort, or hardship.
Kindness – motivation to help others be well.
Guilt – motivation to be true to personal values and community standards.
Shame – motivation to succeed or compensate.
Anxiety – motivation to avoid exposure to guilt or shame.
Violations of basic humanity automatically stimulate guilt, shame, or anxiety, to motivate humane behavior. But that natural motivation is subverted by the toddler coping mechanisms:
Blame, denial, avoidance.
Yes, these ways of coping begin in toddlerhood. Ask a two-year-old how the toy came to be broken, you’ll likely hear:
“He/she did it.” Or, “I don’t know.” Or the kid is preoccupied, ignoring you, or hiding.
Toddler coping mechanisms invoke the anger-resentment formula:
Anger = vulnerable feeling (guilt, shame, anxiety, sadness) + blame
Resentment = vulnerable feeling + blame, denial, or avoidance.
Blame, denial, and avoidance cut us off from basic humanity, which is why, to consistently manage anger, resentment, anxiety, and stress, we must become better persons.
The Modern Paradox of Basic Humanity
In general, cultures are more humane now than ever before in human history. (For example, see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.) So why is it so hard for individuals to stay in touch with basic humanity?
The answer is simple: there are so many of us, and we’re all different. Basic humanity is easier for individuals to maintain in smaller communities of people who seem to be alike. The mammalian brain, a better safe-than-sorry organism, distrusts differences. The human bias is to distrust people who look different, believe different things, have different values. Yet our lives are clearly enriched by differences; sameness is boring, while appreciation of differences yields intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth.
How to Maintain Basic Humanity in Diverse Cultures
• Accept the complexity of human beings. When you’re sure you understand someone, you’re most likely oversimplifying, based on superficial observations through inherently biased lenses.
• Appreciate as many differences as you can; tolerate the ones you can’t appreciate.
• Focus on categories of values rather than specific values.
We tend to make invidious, largely error-prone judgments about people whose values are different. To obviate this unfortunate tendency, we must appreciate what we share with most others, value categories. The major value categories, which anthropological evidence suggests have been important to humans since our earliest time on the planet, are:
• The ability to form and maintain emotional bonds
• A sense of spirituality (desire for connection with something larger than the self)
• A sense of community (identification with or connection to a group of people)
• Appreciation of natural and creative beauty.
What makes me like myself better?
In general, feelings are not a good guide for becoming a better person, as they are always derived from past experience and acting on them runs the risk of repeating the same mistakes over and over. An exception lies in which behaviors or attitudes produce more positive feelings about the self.
Will I like myself better focused on:
How my values differ from someone else’s?
How the categories of our values are similar?
Do I like myself better:
When I’m devaluing other people?
When I’m in touch with basic humanity?

About the Author

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. His recent books include How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It and Love Without Hurt.

In Print:
Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress

Online:
Compassion Power

Website Link:
https://www-psychologytoday-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201708/anger-anxiety-resentment-stress-and-basic-humanity?amp

Self Compassion-Heal Yourself

by Kristin Meekhof* EDITED
After a loss in your life because of death, a breakup or even giving up your addiction there is pain. Your level, including anxiety, may actually increase as time passes because you are coming to terms with all that is broken. Unfortunately, a reboot isn’t available. The life you once had no longer exists. It is important to feel self compassion – heal yourself.
In understanding grief or loss, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger and frustration. When working with these feelings associated with loss, practicing self compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. For the purpose of this piece, I am defining self compassion as this: the act of practicing loving kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.
Five Ways To Practice Self Compassion After Loss:
1. Journal Writing: This technique allows you to become transparent with yourself and show your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself. Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, see the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical with yourself.
2. Soften The Critical Inner Voice: Speaking to yourself with a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your words. You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking.
3. Forgive Yourself: Mistakes both big and small happen. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help you cope better. And if you can’t forgive yourself for everything, then try with a small piece and forgive yourself for this.
4. Make Modifications: After a loss, you are not 100 percent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small changes to your daily tasks and schedule. For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well. You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period.
5. Reach out: Grief is not a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare. While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for help can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration. You may also need to seek professional mental health treatment to help you cope with your bereavement.
Remember that practicing self compassion isn’t natural post loss. Unfortunately, there is not a set time frame for recovery. Your life sustained a severe complex fracture. Give yourself permission to be sympathetic to your own pain. Give yourself grace.

Self Worth


Author Unknown

I used to believe I was not worthy of happiness. I believed the first person that told me that. It became a subconscious mantra to myself. It defined the young woman I was I hid behind a mask pretending I was in control and I was “OK”. I ran from even looking at myself in the mirror because I had defined myself as less than. It was one of the most exhausting, debilitating, saddest times in my life. Using and drinking made me feel numb and gave me liquid courage, which was actually more, fear and pain. I didn’t know it at the time I just thought it was a fast and easy remedy. It was until it almost became my demise. It was then I decided I could no longer feel this way again. I didn’t know if I could recover but I had never gave it a true shot. I was truly scared to find out who I was. The REAL ME!. I must wholeheartedly say I’m grateful not only that I have given myself a chance at a beautiful life but I too was beautiful with every imperfection. I forgave my pain and what wreckage that came with. We all deserve to recover! I’m recovering and I’m the Best person I can be in a daily basis. Not perfect but better than yesterday