HUMILITY MONTH: DAY 11: “Becoming intimate with pain is the key to changing at the core of our being—staying open to everything we experience, letting the sharpness of difficult times pierce us to the heart, letting these times open us, humble us, and make us wiser and more brave. Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away.” ― Pema Chödrön
There are so many ways of running away. Psychology calls these ego defenses. They are those inappropriate and dysfunctional tools we use to protect ourselves when we believe we are in danger or about to experience something that is painful for us.
To remain open means we are actually experiencing events as they occur, rather than believing the story our ego tells us about what is going on. Most of us learn to do this after a great many years around here. I learned to do it when my husband was dying. It was intense.
But the seat of all joy lies in the present moment. The seat of all pain lies in living inside our belief structure and our ego defenses. Pain comes from resistance to the truth. We love to lie, and we love to believe our lies. This creates tremendous pain. And then we create a story around that pain. We push it off on everyone around us.
“He created so much pain for me.” “Her behavior was so painful for me.” Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. We are great at deflecting blame for our unsavory attitudes and behaviors. I have known so many of these kinds of addicts. They don’t want to know the truth. I wish I had a recording of Jack Nicolson… ”You can’t handle the truth!” to play back to them when we discuss these character defects.
Yes, I said character defects. Our ego defenses not only create our pain, they are the very thing we are “entirely ready to have God remove.” So, it is important to understand why Step 6 is all about Humility and why it is all about what our part in this whole thing is.
I have worked with a lot of recovering addicts who cling like monkeys to these character defects. They fight like hell to remain secretive, dishonest, and stuck in their pain. They want to fight like hell to blame it on others, not understanding the TRUE nature of their wrongs. If Step 5 does not show them, they are going to believe (because they cannot handle this truth) that the world is to blame for their unhappiness.
We will therefore look to the world to provide us with things to allay that unhappiness. You cannot make me angry, you cannot, equally make me happy. This is all MY job. But I must let go of these horrible defense mechanisms before that can occur.
These are not badges of honor, as we seem to believe. They are dysfunctional weapons that create dire discomfort and pain in our lives. They are the barbs and slings and arrows we attribute to circumstances and events that we don’t know how to be open and present to.
When we sit with what is going on, no matter how much BS we believe about it, we will become wiser and more brave. But we must lay down the armor (ego defenses) and let life do what the BB talks about… our ego must be smashed!