aacultwatch's perspective on:
The AA (General Service conference approved) book:
“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: A co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous tells how members recover and how the society functions”
(an almost as wildly discursive commentary as our 'take' on the Big Book)
This tome is much reviled in cult circles (especially amongst the Big Book nutters who regard it as almost heretical! (A point of interest: if you're looking for meetings largely free of the aforementioned 'fruitcakes', and for that matter sundry other screwballs, then a Twelve Step meeting following the format of the above text is usually a safe bet). The text we will be using is as indicated above. And now we come to:
Step Four (pp. 48-54)
“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” [note: of “ourselves” - NOT someone else]
“Now let’s ponder the need for a list of the more glaring [ie. not every trifling little peccadillo] personality defects all of us have [including the sponsorship brigade – yes …. even them!] in varying degrees. To those having religious training, such a list would set forth serious violations of moral principles. Some others will think of this list as defects of character. Still others will call it an index of maladjustments. Some will become quite annoyed if there is talk about immorality, let alone sin [quite right too – some people are sin-obsessed!]. But all who are in the least reasonable will agree upon one point: that there is plenty wrong with us alcoholics about which plenty will have to be done if we are to expect sobriety, progress, and any real ability to cope with life.
To avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called, let’s take a universally recognized [?] list of major human failings—the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. It is not by accident that pride heads the procession [ie. of this particular list]. For pride, leading to self-justification, and always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears, is the basic breeder of most human difficulties [there exist alternative explanations as to what underlies the human condition. This is by no means definitive], the chief block to true progress. Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given [?] instincts. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses [note: our “excesses” – the pursuit of what might some term 'needs' is in itself not demonstrative of some form of pathology or moral insufficiency as some religions might have us believe].
All these failings generate fear, a soul-sickness [or not] in its own right. Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects. Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not. We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough [sounds just about normal. The basis of a capitalist society perhaps?]. And with genuine alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy [Ah! The good old Protestant work ethic! Hard work equates to virtue! A scam perhaps!]. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam. These fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build.
So when A.A. suggests a fearless moral [or not] inventory [see Socrates, an exponent and exemplar of what an inventory REALLY means], it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he can do [it ain't that hard]. Both his pride and his fear beat him back every time he tries to look within himself. Pride says, “You need not pass this way,” and Fear says, “You dare not look!” But the testimony of A.A.’s who have really tried a moral inventory is that pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogeymen, nothing else. Once we have a complete [or maybe only a little] willingness to take inventory, and exert ourselves to do the job thoroughly [according to our own inclinations and abilities], a wonderful light falls upon this foggy scene. As we persist, a brand-new kind of confidence is born, and the sense of relief at finally facing ourselves is indescribable. These are the first fruits of Step Four.
By now the newcomer has probably arrived at the following conclusions: that his character defects, representing instincts gone astray, have been the primary cause of his drinking and his failure at life [a rather large assumption. We'd say that the primary cause of alcoholism ie. physical followed by psychological addiction to alcohol, is attributable to genetic abnormality and has absolutely nothing to do with “character defects” moral or otherwise. These latter may be exacerbated by, and consequent upon the condition, but hardly constitute its cause. Any inventory may be a useful exercise in addressing any psychological trauma experienced by the alcoholic, and on reducing the risk of psychological relapse, but it will have absolutely no impact on whether an individual remains physiologically susceptible. Hence the 'chronic' nature of the disease]; that unless he is now willing to work hard at the elimination of the worst of these defects, both sobriety and peace of mind will still elude him; that all the faulty foundation of his life will have to be torn out and built anew on bedrock. Now willing to commence the search for his own defects, he will ask, “Just how do I go about this? How do I take inventory of myself ?”
Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice [so Step Four can't be DONE but is merely continued in Step Ten], it can be suggested that he first have a look at those personal flaws which are acutely troublesome and fairly obvious. Using his best judgement [note: “his” best judgement …. not someone else's!] of what has been right and what has been wrong, he might make a rough survey of his conduct with respect to his primary instincts for sex, security, and society. Looking back over his life, he can readily get under way by consideration of questions such as these:
When, and how, and in just what instances did my selfish pursuit of the sex relation damage other people and me? What people were hurt, and how badly? Did I spoil my marriage and injure my children? Did I jeopardize my standing in the community? Just how did I react to these situations at the time? Did I burn with a guilt that nothing could extinguish? Or did I insist that I was the pursued and not the pursuer, and thus absolve myself [rationalisation] ? How have I reacted to frustration in sexual matters? When denied, did I become vengeful or depressed? Did I take it out on other people? If there was rejection or coldness at home, did I use this as a reason for promiscuity?
Also of importance for most alcoholics are the questions they must ask about their behaviour respecting financial and emotional security. In these areas fear, greed, possessiveness, and pride have too often done their worst. Surveying his business or employment record, almost any alcoholic can ask questions like these: In addition to my drinking problem, what character defects contributed to my financial instability? Did fear and inferiority about my fitness for my job destroy my confidence and fill me with conflict? Did I try to cover up those feelings of inadequacy by bluffing, cheating, lying, or evading responsibility? [describes cult members perhaps?] Or by griping that others failed to recognize my truly exceptional abilities [ditto]? Did I overvalue myself and play the big shot [and again]? Did I have such unprincipled ambition that I double-crossed and undercut my associates [ooh! The similarities are growing. Narcissism?]? Was I extravagant? Did I recklessly borrow money, caring little whether it was repaid or not? Was I a pinchpenny, refusing to support my family properly? Did I cut corners financially? What about the “quick money” deals, the stock market, and the races?
Businesswomen in A.A. will naturally find that many of these questions apply to them, too. But the alcoholic housewife can also make the family financially insecure. She can juggle charge accounts, manipulate the food budget, spend her afternoons gambling [down the casino …... again!], and run her husband into debt by irresponsibility, waste, and extravagance.
But all alcoholics who have drunk themselves out of jobs, family, and friends will need to cross-examine themselves ruthlessly [not others] to determine how their own personality defects have thus demolished their security.
The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression [to be distinguished from clinical depression]. These stem from causes which sometimes seem to be within us, and at other times to come from without. To take inventory in this respect we ought to consider carefully all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble. It should be remembered that this kind of insecurity may arise in any area where instincts are threatened. Questioning directed to this end might run like this: Looking at both past and present, what sex situations have caused me anxiety, bitterness, frustration, or depression? Appraising each situation fairly, can I see where I have been at fault? Did these perplexities beset me because of selfishness or unreasonable demands? Or, if my disturbance was seemingly caused by the behaviour of others, why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change? These are the sort of fundamental inquiries that can disclose the source of my discomfort and indicate whether I may be able to alter my own conduct and so adjust myself serenely to self-discipline [ie. not the discipline of others].
Suppose that financial insecurity constantly arouses these same feelings. I can ask myself to what extent have my own mistakes fed my gnawing anxieties. And if the actions of others are part of the cause, what can I do about that? If I am unable to change the present state of affairs, am I willing to take the measures necessary to shape my life to conditions as they are? Questions like these, more of which will come to mind easily in each individual case, will help turn up the root causes.
But it is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. We have been especially stupid and stubborn about them. The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Our egomania digs two disastrous pitfalls. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know [cult conduct], or we depend upon them far too much. If we lean too heavily on people [eg. sponsors], they will sooner or later fail us, for they are human, too, and cannot possibly meet our incessant demands. In this way our insecurity grows and festers. When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own wilful desires [cult conduct again], they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution ['victim' mode], and a desire to retaliate. As we redouble our efforts at control, and continue to fail, our suffering becomes acute and constant. We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it. This self-centred behaviour blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us. Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension.
Some will object to many of the questions posed, because they think their own character defects have not been so glaring [ie delusional]. To these it can be suggested that a conscientious examination is likely to reveal the very defects the objectionable questions are concerned with. Because our surface record hasn’t looked too bad, we have frequently been abashed to find that this is so simply because we have buried these selfsame defects deep down in us under thick layers of self-justification. Whatever the defects, they have finally ambushed us into alcoholism and misery.
Therefore, thoroughness ought to be the watchword when taking inventory. In this connection, it is wise to write out our questions and answers. It will be an aid to clear thinking and honest appraisal. It will be the first tangible evidence of our complete willingness to move forward.”
(our emphases)(our observations in red print)
Coming next – Step Five
The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)