4-21-2016 Honesty and Opportunity Part 2

UCE ADDICTIONS MINISTRY
APRIL 21 2016

 Opening Words

 You could have golden treasure buried beneath your feet,
and walk over it again and again,
yet never find it because you don’t realize it is there.
Just so, all being live every moment in the city of the Divine,
but never find the Divine because it is hidden by the veil of illusion.
   Singing the Living Tradition, Beacon Press  pg.613  Source, Chandogya Upanishad

Welcome

 Welcome to the UCE Addictions Ministry Group. We are a group of people who have struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together in a safe and confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Our Relational Covenant

 Embrace and practice deep listening

  • We will strive to be respectful of our limited time and try to keep our comment focused on the issues that have brought us here.
  • Experience the group in a non-judgmental frame of mind
  • Build trust within the group
  • Confidentiality about specifics shared or discussed is imperative for our success
  • We each take full responsibility for what we share or say, recognizing retractions are acceptable as well
  • Meetings will always start and end on time

Check-in and Processing of Check-In

Topic: Step 4 Honesty and Opportunity Part 2

This is a chapter from the pioneering book: The Alternative Twelve Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery. It was originally written by two women, Martha Cleveland and Arlys G., and published in 1991. As valuable today as it was then, a second edition of this exceptional work was recently published by AA Agnostica.

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Search honestly and deeply within ourselves to know the exact nature of our actions, thoughts and emotions.

Principles: Self-examination, Personal honesty, Self-acceptance

Our Search Evolves Over Time

The nature of our early Fourth Steps will be different from the ones we do later. In the beginning we usually work from the point of view of adults looking at our present lives. Our first Steps also tend to be formal. We make lists of our weaknesses, writing down every negative personal characteristic we can think of.

This kind of exercise is particularly helpful and important as a start. When we write down and address our negative traits, we unload painful thoughts, feelings and fears we work so hard to keep hidden from ourselves and other people. We begin the subtle and crucial process that introduces us to the injured child inside of us who is really running our show.

Later we begin to experience the Fourth Step through the eyes of our inner child or adolescent. This child carries our pain. Our adult self has spent immeasurable time and energy keeping this kid quiet. Acknowledgment of his or her pain, compassion for the carrier of so much agony, is the beginning of self-acceptance and self-love.

It isn’t only our inner child that this Step shows us. The evolving Step gets us in touch with our childhood pain and also introduces us to our wise self.

Many of us have never considered that there is a wisdom that lives deep within us – but there is. While the hurt parts of us have lived out the pain, the wise part has also utilized our experiences quietly underneath the other. This part of ourself carries wisdom that we are unaware of, that our busy minds have been too frantic to discover. This wisdom is ours to use if only we will be still and listen. Recognizing both inner child and wise self, our character begins to balance.

We can narrow the scope of the Fourth Step and become much more specific in how we apply it. It can become informal and spontaneous, our natural way to approach a problem or challenge. Instead of looking at “resentment” as a general negative trait, we examine why we became resentful in a specific situation with a specific other. Instead of thinking about our “fear” we wonder why we feel uncomfortable around a certain relative. Instead of lecturing ourselves about overeating, we make detailed notes of what our feelings are when we want to go to the cookie jar. And we ask our inner child and our wise self to help. We finally acknowledge that they have a lot of our answers.

There is no “correct” way for this Step to evolve. We don’t move directly from a formal Fourth Step directed by our current self to a deeper one led by our child or wise self. We bounce back and forth. One day we make a list of our troublesome traits, two days later we’ll write down all our strengths and potentials. Another time we narrowly apply the Fourth Step to examine a childlike trait that shows up when we are criticized by a friend. Then we may ask our wise self to help. It’s all useful. It all works.

Different Doorways To Step Four

There are many different ways to enter this Step, many different approaches to self-examination. Depending on which door we step through, we will cover distinctive landscapes and arrive at various destinations. Which door we choose doesn’t matter, as long as we take personal honesty and self-acceptance with us.

  1. Important events in our life, past or present. We choose an important event and examine our actions and reactions in relation to it. Perhaps we examine it through the eyes of our current self, our child and our wise self and note similarities and differences of these different approaches.
  2. Personal attributes, assets and liabilities. We identify personal attributes as a way to learn about our exact nature. It’s important to remember that most attributes have meaning only in the way we apply them. What we call “liabilities” may really be assets that are out of balance.

For example, self-control is an essential asset as long as it is used with moderation. It becomes a liability when we control ourselves in such a way that we are isolated, disconnected from friends or loved ones. Vulnerability is an asset when it allows us to express our feelings. It’s a liability when we choose inappropriate times or places to be vulnerable so someone can use our vulnerability to hurt us. Step 4 can help us see both sides of an attribute and then consciously choose how to put it into action.

  1. Relationship between feelings and behavior. We examine how our feelings relate to our behavior. Feelings and behaviors are always connected, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not. We look at anger, rage, shame and guilt and at what we do when we feel those feelings. Then we look at how our behavior affects both ourselves and others.

We can come at this from the opposite direction. When we yell at the dog, we can figure out what we are really feeling and toward whom. What do we feel when we act the way we act? How do we act when we feel the way we feel? The Fourth Step helps us to sort this out.

  1. Single behavior; large or small. We identify a problem behavior and apply Step 4. When we first begin to use the Steps, we usually focus on something obvious such as drinking, gambling or allowing ourselves to be physically or emotionally abused. This is our initial concern. Later we focus on more hidden but equally hurtful behavior such as perfectionism, resentment or isolation.

One of the wonderful things about the Fourth Step is that it teaches us who we are underneath the major problems that brought us to the Steps in the first place.

  1. Single personal relationship. We focus on a single personal relationship with our spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend or co-worker. We can look at this relationship overall or in terms of a single event. We examine our feelings about this person, how we relate to him or her, why we relate the way we do, what consequences we have to live with. We also examine whether we are actually relating to the person we are focusing on or whether that person is a stand-in for someone else. We try to sort all this out so we can see how much of it makes sense in our present life and how much is tied to the past.
  2. Current situation. We examine a situation that’s bothering us. First we carefully define what the situation is. Next we look at what we’re feeling about it, what we’re doing about it, how we’re affected by it and how it affects others. Then we are in a position to decide how we can change it.
  3. Balance of lifestyle. We look at the balance in our lives, at how we are juggling our work, social life, physical fitness program. We ask whether we are consciously caring for our mental and spiritual health. We may feel as though we’re constantly teetering on a tightrope as we try to keep these things in order. We feel overwhelmed and lose the pleasure that work, family, friends or jogging used to give us. Step 4 helps us identify our true nature so we can decide what lifestyle balance best fits our unique needs.
  4. Conscious versus unconscious messages. We ask whether the conscious messages we give ourselves are different from the ideas that appear in our dreams. There is often a wide disparity between the messages we get from our dreams, spontaneous images and “thoughts that come from nowhere” and the directives we give ourselves. If we are truly examining our exact nature, we’d better listen to the breakthroughs from our unconscious mind. These messages, whether we like them or not, are often gifts of honesty to be used to make deep change in our lives.

Reality Is Always Ours To Change

The Fourth Step is about changing reality. Everyone’s reality is different. Two people can experience exactly the same situation and feel differently about it. They can even physically see it in contrasting ways. The world is made up of billions of people, each with a separate reality developing out of their particular set of genes and lifelong experience. And each reality is true for the person who lives it. Unfortunately, many of us live in a reality formed and limited by elaborate systems of denial. The Fourth Step helps us examine this.

An honest and deep understanding of ourselves is the basis of all our thought. This is important because it’s our thought that directs the actions of our lives. It’s true that the thoughts we think form our reality, whether that reality is honest or based in pretense and denial. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

In every situation there are many ways to react. For example, if a friend forgets to meet us for lunch, we can be angry, understanding or laugh about it. We might be any of these. The important thing is that we make a thoughtful choice about what our response will be. Having the first reaction that comes is a primitive reaction that is often related to the pain of our childhood. If we follow through on our instinctive response, we are responding to a past reality. But Step 4 encourages us to change this. It helps us choose thoughts and actions that are appropriate – not to our past, but to our present.

The process is never smooth, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. We will work this Step again and again. But when we get discouraged, we hang in there, we wait, we remember to breathe and pretty soon we begin to work again. It’s hard and it’s a struggle, but our healthy, hopeful, honest future is worth it.

Search honestly and deeply within ourselves to know the exact nature of our actions, thoughts and emotions.

Today I will closely examine the exact nature of one action, thought or feeling. I will accept without self-judgment whatever I find.

http://aaagnostica.org/2014/05/28/step-4/

Closing Words

Be ye lamps unto yourselves,
be you own confidence,
Hold to the truth within yourselves
as to the only lamp.
Singing the Living Tradition, Beacon Press  pg.679 Source, Buddhist

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