Monday, March 12, 2012

Common Denominators - Rigidity

 In which areas am I rigid? What are my "rules?"  Rules are different for each of us, and can range from "Don't complain" to "Dishes must be arranged in the dishwasher in this order" to "Don't let the dog up on the furniture" to "A good friend would never do _____" to "When gardening, always deadhead before watering." It can be an interesting experiment to try to figure out as many of our rules as possible, then begin to work to let them go.

I was raised by a ferociously rigid adoptive mother who enforced her many rules and regulations with physical abuse. It wasn't until I had some time in Al-Anon that I gained an understanding that her rigidity was powered by fear - she lived in a constant state of fear. She'd had a hard childhood herself, had learned that the world and the people in it were not to be trusted, and as an adult, tried to cope with her fear by coming up with rules to cover any and every eventuality.

I didn't want to be anything like her, but I'd been well-trained into the idea that there's only one right way to do something, (and that when I became an adult, I could make up my own rules and enforce them) so it was a long hard haul uphill to try to change this way of thinking. Before I could begin to change it, I needed to understand which feelings drove it, and the purpose it served.

The feelings behind most of my rules were/are: fear, and a desire for control. If it's not one, it's the other, and  I've expended much energy trying to make the various alcoholics in my life follow my many rules. (Good luck on that one.) When I catch myself being rigid, I've learned to stop, investigate what my feeling is, why has it arisen, what do I believe will happen if my rule isn't followed to the letter, and can I choose to let this go?

So many of the things that I once believed should be done my way have been repeatedly proven to be equally as successful if done someone else's way. It doesn't matter one bit how they are done, as long as they get done. Muddling through works fine most times. There's very little in most of our lives that needs to be done precisely. This isn't rocket science, brain surgery, or computer programming.

Seems like I'm always discovering new areas in which I need to let go. Whenever I hear myself using the word "should" in a sentence, I know I need to stop and take a good look at that thought process - "should" or "shouldn't" has become a red flag for me. Much of my martyrdom was about other people refusing to follow my rules. How dare they? My first sponsor suggested a better question might be, "Why would they?"

The more I can let go, the more serenity I find. The plants don't care if I water before deadheading, or afterwards. They have a few basic needs, and as long as those are met, they will thrive. I too, have only a few basic needs. I too, can thrive if I choose to.


  1. Some of my rules are trying to keep my addiction alive. Such as dont trust, martyrdom, resentments like habits really. Learning to trust and let go the universe has a plan allows a new freedom to enter more into moments of my day.

  2. Thanks for this share on rules. I am new to this filter but am really enjoying it. It was, as many great things are in life, an improvisation-- to search for Al-anon wisdom on the web. I have moved away for 2-3 months and forgot some of my daily readers back at home. So I am not only adjusting to new surroundings, but trying to do so without many of my comfortable coping tools. I REALLY am glad I forgot them or i wouldn't have found you. Thanks to u and your HP for sharing your recovery!!--Sharon in DC

  3. Letting others do things their way is a tough lesson. I owe them that though-- to be able to succeed or fail on their own.