Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Common Denominators - "Knowing"

Conversation between my sponsor and I when I was new to Al-Anon:

(Me:) "Well, I know she ...."
"How do you know?"
"I can just tell."
"How can you tell?"
"I just can."
"Ok, I hear you saying that, I'm asking for an explanation of how you do that."
"Well, by the way she looks at me; her tone of voice."
"Have you asked?"
"I don't need to, because I already know."
"I'd like you to try asking."

Next conversation on the subject:

"Did you ask?"
(Laughing) "She had no idea what I was talking about."
"So what happened was that you saw an expression of some sort on her face, a tone in her voice, decided what that meant without checking that out first with her, and then spent two days chewing it over, ruining your mood, getting ever more upset, only to discover that it was all inside your head... would you say that's an accurate description of what went on?"
(Pause) "Well, sort of."
"Sort of?"
(Really laughing now) "Yes, okay?  Yes, that's exactly what I did."

I have had this conversation, in various forms, repeatedly. I've been the sponsee who "knew" and I've been the sponsor challenging that "knowing."

We may have developed this as a way to keep ourselves safe when we were small children dealing with unhealthy adults, it may have not have started until we were in an alcoholic marriage, but this assumption that we "know" what's really going on inside someone else's head, this is a form of arrogance,  and it devours time - devours my life.

Not only does this "knowing" allow me to disregard what someone else is saying, in favour of my own interpretations, it gives me a focal point upon which to obsess. I have an obsessive sort of mind. If I open that door even slightly, there's a good chance it will be ripped out of my hands, slammed open against the wall and I'll be carried off by a tidal wave of obsessing.

This is the habit. How do I avoid this? By not opening the door. Not even enough to peer through the crack to "just see what's in there today." I know that if I don't want to waste my time obsessing, it's a good idea not only to avoid looking through the peephole, but don't even go into the room in my mind in which that door is set.

Stay out. Let go. Live in the moment. If I want information, or interpretation, I can ask the person themselves.

What if I don't receive what I consider an honest, or satisfactory reply? Let it go anyway. Turn it over.
Get out of that dark damp creepy room, and into the light. Find something else with which to occupy my mind. If I can't get myself off the gerbil wheel under my own power, ask for help. Read some program literature, call a friend or my sponsor, ask my Higher Power to take it. It's my choice. I know what obsessing over someone else feels like, I've spent a great deal of my life doing it. I have obsessed over a parental figure, friends, coworkers, husbands - the list goes on. I've wasted hours, days and weeks, "knowing" what someone else is thinking, and ramping myself up into a state of unmanageability because of it.

All that I can know for certain is what is happening with me. The rest, I must take on faith, because whatever I may like to believe, no, I can't read minds. And if I could, it'd be an invasion of privacy. Let go. Let it all go. Stop wanting to "know" and accept that I am fallible, human, and limited. Trust my Higher Power in the same wholehearted way my little dog trusts me - she "knows" that she is safe in my arms.
Let that be enough.


  1. Thank you for sharing, great post! I like that "Let that be enough". Wow, living in the moment and not in my crazy head is a true blessing. It's a beautiful thing to see that transition of the "knowing" to applying the principles of the program... brings a smile to my face. :)

  2. Yes, I agree that I cannot know what is in the mind of another. And I don't like making assumptions or projecting what might happen I have heard that what others think is none of my business. It frees me up to believe that.