HONESTY MONTH: DAY 20: “Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.” ― Ludwig Wittgenstein
As human beings, we are programmed from early, early days to protect our sense of self. We build these ego defenses in response to our environment and what we believe is going on around us. Most of these are geared to provide us with a sense of safety. What happens in normal development (would LOVE to meet THAT kid!) is that we outgrow them and discard the defenses. For addicts, these are in place long after we have become 20, 30, 40, etc. So we are still protecting ourselves as if we were fragile toddlers or infants from perceived threats. These begin to tell us things about the world that are no longer true. The BB calls them “old ideas”, and we use these to formulate our belief system about the self and the world around us. We are asked, when working with Step 4, to ferret out these old ideas and to explore their true value in our lives today. If we are thorough about this process, we have come up against some of these beliefs about who we are and how life is for us. This is an important part of the process, because we began to make “rules” about life when we were 2 or 3 years old. Those rules were designed by our infant brain to protect us from seeming danger. If we are living with these same rules at 40 or 50 years of age, they have become outdated and sometimes quite ridiculous. What makes that so is the fact that we are so terribly vulnerable at 2 or 3, but not so much at 40 or 50! The word that is quite often used is “maladaptive” for these traits and beliefs. It is problematic when we are responding to an old idea by over-reacting in today’s world. When this becomes more and more difficult for us, we have to look at why we believe the things we believe. There is usually some form of threat that we believe is crucial to our existence. Perhaps it is time to reframe this threat. An example I love is the child who slipped under the water when being bathed as an infant. The slip was only for a moment, but the terror of possible drowning was traumatic at that age. As the child grew up, his fear of the bathtub began to rule his life. He could not take a bath unless someone was in the room with him at all times. You can imagine how uncomfortable life became for this young man, UNTIL he discovered that drinking a couple of shots of whiskey gave him the courage to go in and take a bath. This was fine until he came to recovery years later. Now aged 32, he was faced with an unexplored terror of the bathtub and no whiskey was around to help him overcome this fear. Now he is reacting to the bathtub like he did when he was a few months old and slipped under the water! He is certain that the bathtub is going to kill him! If he does not explore WHY he believes this about the bathtub, he is going to have serious issues for the rest of his life, since daily bathing is something that we do as a social nicety. Do not kid yourself that this is a radical example. All of us humans are conditioned to behave by what we grew up with and how we formed our views of the world at ages 2 or 3. When we look at our old ideas, we can begin to reframe our beliefs and rules around appropriate situations today. We most often began to drink or use drugs to cover up our inappropriate (maladaptive) ways of walking through the world and have not yet uncovered them in order to move through life in more comfortable and socially-acceptable ways. This is what the BB is asking us to do when we process this Step…”fearless and thorough.” Our freedom depends upon it! To thine own self be true!