Friday, July 31, 2009

Step Five.

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

This Step requires serious, sustained effort. Most of us are not brought up to do this: rather, we learn by example to justify, to defend, and to argue for our own position. Admitting our wrongs can feel like a capitulation.

When I was trying to do this Step for the first time, my shame and self-loathing hindered and obstructed me at every turn. I found myself coming up with the most fascinatingly convoluted reasonings to justify past wrongs on my part, and at the urgings of my sponsor, wrote these down. I didn't try to do any editing, I just banged down on paper, the thoughts going through my head while I worked Step 5.

I would then put that paper away for a day or two or three, until I felt I had the energy to deal with it again. I'd take it out, read it, and because I'd had a space of time in which to forget some of what I'd written, the insanity of my thinking, and the obvious rationalisations and justifications would leap off the page at me - glaringly, blindingly, dazzlingly obvious.

I still use this technique, because it's still effective, to illuminate areas of my thinking not visible to me by any other means.

Step 5 doesn't ask us to do anything about our wrongs, it only asks us to admit them. As I've been in Al-Anon over the years, and gained in self-respect and self-love, I find this easier than it was at first, but there are still periods in which I feel as if the only way I can winkle out my true motives, is a morsel at a time, and only then with the help of my sponsor, or another program friend. I have a couple of excruciatingly honest program friends with whom I will "reason things out." I know that they will do it as gently as they are able, but they will not sacrifice honesty to my ego.

When I'm talking to one of them, and feel myself becoming defensive, I know we are getting somewhere, because I have learned that I only get defensive when there is a personal truth in what's being said to me. If it doesn't apply to me, it doesn't bother me to hear it. That's one of my touchstones in Step 5.

I thought I'd do Step 5 once, and be done with it. That's not how it works for me; seems like every new level of self-awareness I attain brings with it new realisations of wrongs I've done, and been unaware of as wrongs, before that moment. I'm comfortable with this knowledge. I'm even able to find this exciting - new vistas of possibility are revealed, with each of these new levels.

When I can detach from my ego, and just see myself as a regular person with the usual human faults and frailties, I can be more accepting of others - that's a bonus I hadn't expected, when I began working this Step.

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