Monday, April 27, 2009

Yes, But...

From the ODAT, page 200:

"A phrase that turns up quite often in Al-Anon meetings is "Yes, but..."

Member A is explaining how an Al-Anon idea can be applied to B's problem. B, interrupting, says, "Yes, but..." and proceeds to show how different her case is, how much worse than others, and that it couldn't possibly be solved by anything as simple as applying a Step or a slogan, for example."

We've all been on the receiving end of this little conversational diverter, and most of us have used it - as a way to garner sympathy, rationalise, and justify. When I've used it, I'm usually giving token credit to whatever the other person has said - "Ye-e-e-ss," (usually in a doubtful or dissmissive tone) and then stating what I really think - "but..." (much more firmly enunciated.)

Every one of us needs a safe place, where we can speak without interruption, and be heard. This is why newcomers to Al-Anon are given a fair amount of leeway when it comes to their sharing. As we regain our sanity in 12-step, it is to be hoped that we will self-regulate. This is not always the case. So what are our choices, when a sponsee, or fellow program member, asks for help, then when we offer it, dismisses it with those two words? I suppose it depends upon one's level of patience. I don't have a lot of patience with chronic complainers. It's such a waste of time and energy. (I know this with absolute certainty, because I was one.)

We all suffer, and our suffering is relative. We can become almost comfortable in our own misery, and vent just enough, to allow us to continue in an untenable situation. We can take advantage of the good nature of our fellow program members, making them suffer through repeated recitals of our troubles. (I know I did this.) I was fortunate enough to have a sponsor who became tired of this coping mechanism of mine, and began to call me on it.

I'd phone her, moan and groan about how awful my life was, she'd offer suggestions, and I'd meet them all with "Yes, but..." until one day, she said, in exasperation, "Did you just call to complain?" (longish pause) I answered, reluctantly, "Yes."
We both started to laugh, and were soon having a discussion I've never forgotten, in which she explained to me that I was always making choices, and choosing to complain, kept me locked inside my misery.

I've learned to pay attention to what I'm thinking, and saying, for therein lie clues to my recovery, and how I'm working it, or some days, not working it. If I hear myself saying, "Yes, but..." I can stop, and think - what am I sidestepping? What am I trying not to hear? My first sponsor trained me to pause, take back any protests, and instead, say, "Thankyou for that, I'll give it some thought."

And then do so.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Definately hit the spot today. Thanks!jeNN