Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This is a term used in the helping professions to describe a type of emotional conflict in which one person has to be "right" regardless of truth, reality, or circumstances. A "right-fighter" insists upon having the last word, and being seen as the winner, in every altercation. These people can be exhaustingly stubborn, and resistant to help; their self-image is so damaged and fragile, they tie their very self-worth to being "right."

Before Al-Anon, I was a right-fighter. I could never, ever, allow the alcoholic to have the last word. Or anyone else, for that matter.

12-Step works its magic because it allows us to see ourselves mirrored in our fellow members around the tables, and if we are fortunate, to begin to view our personality traits and defects with some objectivity. I recall a meeting from my early recovery; I admit I was daydreaming a bit, as the member speaking had a tendency to be long-winded in her shares. I tuned-in again just in time to catch her saying: "I feel like if I ever admit he's right about anything, it's the beginning of the end for us."

Over the next week or so, that comment kept materialising into my consciousness like one of those floatation devices that one can push underwater with some effort, but the moment one relaxes one's grip, up it comes, to bob gently on the surface. And then just as a reinforcement of the point, page 29 in the Al-Anon daily reader "Courage to Change" came up, either in a meeting, or when I was reading it in the morning, as is my habit; I can't recall.

I'd catch myself about to make some comment or remark to the alcoholic, and ask myself, what was the purpose? Was I speaking just to be "right?" If so, could I let that go unsaid? I tried to do this elsewhere in my life, also. I'd allow myself at most two or three comments on a subject, then regardless of how the other person was responding, agreeing or arguing, I'd stop talking. If asked why I'd suddenly stopped talking, I'd say, "Oh, I'm just thinking."

If I felt the heat of annoyance rising in my chest after my first remark, I'd stop talking immediately, before I had the chance to say anything further in service of my desire to be "right."

After some time of practising this new behavior, I found myself able to detach from many situations in which I'd have previously felt obliged to argue my corner. It was great, I could just make a non-committal noise, and let it go. I found, to my surprise and delight, that very few topics in a week truly required my input.

To quote one of my sponsors: "You will never regret not blurting something out."

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