Friday, April 3, 2009

Keep An Open Mind

The Al-Anon closing contains this sentence:

"If you try to keep an open mind, you will find help."

As I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I grew up in an environment saturated in criticism and judgement, and I internalised those ways of viewing the world and my fellow humans. I had a critic inside my head, keeping a running commentary, all negative, of everyone, and everything, I encountered in a day. My first sponsor suggested that I keep a notebook for a week or so, and write down each and every critical thought I had in that time. I was resistant, (and critical of her suggestions) so I decided instead to try to be aware of my internal dialogue, instead of writing it all down.

I was shocked. Gobsmacked, to realise how negative I was. My first awareness was of driving to work the next day, seeing a pedestrian waiting at a crosswalk, and thinking derisively, "Nice hair!" Ooh, that sort of jolted me, but I put it down to morning grumpiness. I arrived at work, having had critical and negative thoughts about every second driver along the route, spent the day being irritated and critical with 3/4, (no, be honest, more like 9/10ths,) of my co-workers, then drove back home and commenced feeling critical of the alcoholic.

I didn't need a week of keeping track, for the lesson to be rammed home - a couple of days was sufficient. I had spent my life up to that point, deciding how everyone should behave, then inwardly chastising and judging them, for not abiding by my precepts. I was a control freak. I am a recovering control freak. Control freaks tend not to be the most openminded of persons.

So, what does it mean for me, to "keep an open mind?" I see this as:

- When I'm in an Al-Anon meeting, striving to listen with my internal critic bound, gagged, and shut in a soundproof room. I can let her out later, but for the sake of my spirit, while I'm in the meeting, she's not welcome. I never know when God is going to offer me a treasure in the words of another; I want to be paying attention.
- When my sponsor is offering me suggestions, if I feel resistant or critical, either admitting this immediately, to lesson the power of my resistance, or going away and praying for guidance, and not pretending I didn't hear the reply.
- When an alcoholic is testing my patience, asking myself if perhaps it is that my patience is in short supply, and not that they're being more irritating than usual.
- Accepting that there are more ways of doing things than my way, and that my way may not even be the best way. (gasp)
- Learning that life, and my Higher Power, offer me lessons all day long in being open-minded; I can choose to accept them, or turn away.
- In times of conflict or stress, reminding myself that: I am not necessarily right. I may be right, I could be right, but unlike gravity, it isn't a law of Nature that I am invariably right.

Keeping an open mind means I am receptive to joy from unexpected places. I feel much more of a connection to people I meet in a day, and to my Higher Power.
I'm happier. Those around me are happier. I become a welcoming, loving, accepting companion. I become approachable. I become teachable.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you hit on so much in this post. Acceptance, open-mindedness, and willingness are great triads for recovery. And the issue of controlling can take so many forms--now I have the more subtle form to work on.