Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh Please, Not That Again!

I saw a doormat the other day, which read, "Oh no, not you again!"  It reminded me of the cry of one sponsee I had years back, who was very determined to get her own way in each and every encounter with the alcoholic - so much so, that she would work out elaborate scenarios, in which she would set him up, just so she could chop him off at the knees. When she'd call me, to run these past me, I'd ask her what her motive was, and her initial reply was always the sentence I've chosen for the title of this post.

It's a thin dividing line between certainty and arrogance, and I can cross over without realising it, if I don't take care to be aware of my motives.

I know I've bored more than one sponsee over the years, with my "What would be your motive in responding that way/taking that action/making that statement?" questions, but I am a firm believer that most of us are fairly skilled at self-deception when it comes to our own motives.

I know I am. I can spin entire castles out of straw, when I'm determined to convince myself that something I'd like to do, or say, would be not only satisfying, but completely appropriate. I laughed today, reading MrSponsorPants :

"...some people get creative with their tax deductions -- stretching what qualifies as a write-off to comical degrees."

I was thinking about a friend who has a business, and does precisely that very thing.  Hearing about his tax deductions has given me good practise in keeping my mouth firmly closed.  I make noncommittal noises like "Mmmm?" in response, rather than saying what I truly think, since he isn't asking for my opinion, and I need the exercise in keeping silent.

My first sponsor used to suggest that I would benefit from talking less and listening more - I'd felt deeply offended by this suggestion, but working a Fourth Step made it clear to me that this was nothing more than the simple truth. I got to where she'd start the sentence, "Perhaps you'd benefit from talking.." and I'd interrupt her to finish it, "...less and listening more, yeah, yeah, I know." She'd fix me with that basilisk glare, and ask, "If you know it, why aren't you doing it?"

Why? Because I have a tendency towards arrogance, that's why.
(You get two, two, two co-dependents in one! The arrogant control freak, and the craven people-pleaser!)

Whenever I hear myself starting an argument inside my head with someone who is trying to tell me their truth, that's arrogance. Whenever I decide that I know how someone else should better run their life/ pick their partner/ do their job, I am falling into an arrogant mindset. And when I'm in that mindset, I am not teachable, because I've decided there's nothing here to learn, I know it all already.

When I'm feeling humble, I cringe to think of the times I am arrogant. When I'm arrogant, I feel a creeping unease that I'm not behaving the way I should, and it often only serves to harden my position at the time. I have to get away by myself, meditate, read some program literature, run whatever it is past my sponsor, and then I can see my arrogance clearly.

For me, it's almost always about fear. I'm afraid - of rejection, abandonment, loss, pain, sorrow. I have a tendency, developed in my earlier life, to leap straight from fear into anger, because anger feels powerful, and fear feels vulnerable. I was astonished the first day I realised that. It tilted my worldview sharply, to realise with a calm understanding that all those times I was stomping an angry road, I'd started down it, stumbling along in fear. When I'm afraid, I have a hard time admitting to it, because I see it as a weakness.

Where did this come from? Same place most of my insanity got started - in the craziness of my childhood. Before Al-Anon, I was still reacting like a small child who is terrified, but denies her fear even as she wets herself in terror.

Fear ruled my life. It still comes knocking, insisting that if I just let it in, it will tell me the real story. It tooks me years in Al-Anon to be able to get to a place where I could understand that my fears were possible, yes, but so was a positive outcome - it was 50/50 most times, so why did I never consider that?

When I'm in a fragile state emotionally, or ill, or fatigued, I am far more likely to fall back into that state of fearful dread of the future. Whatever is coming, I just know it won't be good. Times like that are when I become arrogant and controlling, stubborn and judgemental - all my character defects come rushing to the fore, willing and ready to take me over, if I allow it. A line in today's reading in the ODAT leapt out at me:

"No-one can distort my thinking unless I permit it."

That includes me, that "no-one."


  1. Awesome post. I understand the fear and the resultant anger. The meeting topic last night was on anger. I have 3 choices: detach with love, stand and fight (which isn't a good option BTW), or recognize the feeling and let it flow through me. I prefer the first and last options.

  2. I'm just going to keep my mouth shut and listen today to this post. ::zipping mouth::


  3. Thanks for sharing. Being aware of our tendencies puts us in the best position to try to deal with them when we're under stress and they raise their ugly heads. You're doing that in spades! We're also shooting for progressm, not perfections Great to have the 10th Step! Have a good one!!

  4. What a terrific post. It hits close to home. I also tend toward arrogance. My reaction is also based in fear. Thanks for this great reminder.