Ask the average person to make a list of what’s wrong with their life. They would have little difficulty coming up with a litany of complaints. In short order they would hand you an extensive list. Complaints would include issues with the family, the job, friends, and associates.
Now ask the same person to come up with a list of what’s good in their life. Generally, they would have much more difficulty coming up with the blessings they possess. You would also find that the list of blessings would be much shorter than that of the problems.
Listening to some people you would think that they never had a bright moment in their day. Even the thoughts they keep to themselves are often found to be of a negative nature.
Part of recovery is becoming more aware of our negativity. One suggestion is that every time we have a negative thought, we supplant it with a positive one. Initially this might occur dozens of times. With practice the frequency of our negativity will diminish and be replaced with a sense of blessing.
Personal Reflection: What blessings have I forgotten to acknowledge today?
Many people are men and women of extremes. When things are going well we are the most agreeable of people. However, if we are having one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong, then you had best get out of our way. As the day unfolds we get more and more into our negativity. This state of mind can be found in individuals both in and outside the program. There are some differences however.
The average person will have a bad day and just chalk it up to a series of unfortunate circumstances. At day’s end they will look forward to a better day tomorrow. For someone in the fellowship, a bad day can be a trigger for a person to have a slip and return to their drug of choice. The reasons for this are more complicated than simple cause and effect. When an alcoholic or addict has a bad day, they can let their negative thoughts overrun them. Their cascading thoughts lead them to the conclusion that not only is this day a bad one, but their entire life is one long failure and disappointment. When this type of thinking predominates, it is easy to understand how a person could despair and revert to old behaviors. The founders of the program understood this when they advised us to remember, “one day at a time”.
Personal Reflection: Do I still jump from bad day thinking to bad life thinking?
Sit in at any meeting and observe the faces of members. For the most part most of of us are in a fairly positive state. This is often in proportion to how rigorously we work the program. Of course, there will be times where life events challenge us. Like anyone else, we feel the stress of these moments. However, once this rough patch has passed, we in short order return to our usual state.
Then there are those who walk around like they lost their best friend. They rarely crack a smile. When they share, they usually end up complaining about their life situation. Usually, they attribute what is happening in their life to others. They feel they are victims of circumstance. If people only understood them and would comply with their wishes, then their lives would finally take a turn for the better. Of course this rarely happens. Even when on occasion it does, they quickly find something else to complain about. Their speech is peppered with negativity and sarcasm. They are miserable and have no problem letting you know it.
In the program we have learned not to attempt to rescue these people. They need to reach their bottom and come to a realization that they are responsible for how they feel. What we can do is pray for them that they have a spiritual awakening.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to pray for anyone who thinks they are a victim?
If you wanted to, you could probably spend your entire day in a rant about how nothing has gone your way. There is certainly enough material for us to complain about on a daily basis. I mean, has a day passed in the history of mankind where everything went according to plan? Where we didn’t have to suddenly scramble to take care of something. Where we either lost something, missed something or forgot something important. No, every day for everyone has multiple challenges.
The question is, really, the big question is what are you going to do about it. The easy way out is to play the victim and just complain. The problem with that is that it accomplishes nothing. Plus, it’s probably one of the quickest ways to lose friends. Who wants to be around someone who is a negative presence all the time. So there are a number of healthy steps we can take. When something has the potential to negatively affect us, we can make a choice in how to respond. Responding negatively does not have to be our default position. In the program we also recommend self assessment as to how we contributed to, or set ourselves up for the problem in the first place. Were you really surprised that their were no parking spaces when you came a half hour late to the meeting. When we ask that type of question, we discover far fewer things to complain about.
Personal Reflection: Do I complain too much?
Two members of the fellowship were walking down a busy street together talking to one another. Coming from the other direction walking towards them was a blind man with a cane. He tapped his stick on the ground slowly as he weaved around people and obstacles. “Look at that poor fellow” said one of the two people. “He must have a horrible life. He was really dealt a terrible hand by G-d. He can’t drive a car or view a sunset.I’m sure not a day goes by without him being angry and depressed about his life”. The other person said, “of course I don’t know him but I have a totally different take. I see a very independent man who is totally integrated in life. He’s out there walking by himself. I sense his courage, determination and strength. I even caught a glimpse of a smile on his face”.
Of course, without talking to the blind man we have no idea what the reality of his life really is. What does matter is that how we see things often has more to do with our attitudes than with our occipital lobe. That being the case, when we cultivate a more open and expansive attitude, then what we see will also be more positive in nature; as will our experiences.
Personal Reflection: How would I have viewed this blind man?
Every decade scientists have made progress in finding cures and treatments for various diseases. A generation ago, the epidemics of polio were eliminated with the Salk vaccine. More recently, great strides have been made in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular research. With all that, one of the most prevalent diseases of the millennia has remained largely untreated. In fact, one could argue that there has been an epidemic of the disease. Almost everyone you meet is suffering it to some degree. We are of course referring to the condition of “negativity”. The symptoms are easy enough to identify. They include irritability, feelings of resentment, self belittlement and personal doubt. This disease is found in the workplace as well as in people’s homes, and especially on highways and other modes of public transportation. Unfortunately, the researchers have not come up with a vaccine to prevent this malady. What has been discovered is that individuals actually do have some tools to help alleviate some of the symptoms of negativity. One that has been shown to be remarkably effective is the expression of gratitude throughout of day. The latest research seems to indicate that when we not only have thoughts of gratitude, but actually verbally express it, their is an immediate relief of the symptoms of negativity. Sharing our feelings with others and and doing service also seem to have promise in treating the negativity disease.
Personal Reflection: What home remedies do I use for negativity?
Many species in the world are social creatures. If you disturb some bees outside of their hive, you will very quickly discover just how social they are. In short order, the few bees you upset are able to communicate to their brethren that they are being bothered. Suddenly you are confronted with a swarm of bees that are just as mad as the ones you initially encountered.
We humans are very much the same way. We can easily be affected by the attitudes of others around us. That it is why, especially in early sobriety, it is so important to choose who we surround ourselves with. Do you want to be with people who have a deep connection to their Higher Power; and who are serious about their journey of personal transformation? Or, do you want to be with people who are acting out, negative and fail to take responsibility for their actions? It is very hard to not be affected by the attitudes of others; so we might as well choose to associate with positive spiritually fit people.
Part of our own growth is to carefully examine our own attitudes. Are people seeking us out because they like our energy. Or, do they run in the opposite direction when they see us coming.
Personal Reflections: Do I seek out the right kinds of people?
Do I have an attitude worth catching?
An old timer recently asked a newcomer why his Higher Power had created him with two eyes. After entertaining a few possible answers, the old timer explained that the 2 eyes represent 2 courses of action. One eye is to be used for looking outward at the world. The other eye is to be used for looking into ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with using that one eye to view the outside world. There is incredible beauty to be enjoyed and appreciated through our sight. The problem is that sometimes we jump to judgement and resentment based on what we see. Some people spend most of their time finding fault with whatever crosses their visual path. No matter what they see, they feel impelled to put a negative spin on it.
We also need to utilize the second eye, the one used for self introspection. In some people this eye has atrophied from non use. In the program, taking an honest look at ourselves, our behavior and our defects of character is a daily ritual. We have found that as we use that one eye for looking inward, our second eye spends less time judging others; and more time seeing life’s gifts.
Personal Reflection: Do I need an eye examine?
According to scientists all of us dream at night. There are varied opinions as to why we dream. Freudians argue that the purpose of dreams is to preserve sleep while more modern theorists say that we use dreams to problem solve challenges from our waking hours. There is another category which we can call life purpose dreams. Many of us in program believe that we were sent into this world with a particular purpose. Since no two people are identical, no two people have the same life purpose dream. We believe that our Higher Power has blessed us with certain attributes and talents which can help define our reason for being here. While we were actively using, we were disconnected from how to pursue our dreams. In sobriety, upon taking stock of our strengths as well as our shortcomings, we are ready to make our dreams a reality. Unfortunately, we sometimes encounter people who for whatever reason have abandoned their own life purpose dreams. They will then do everything in their power to discourage and squash ours because they’ve given up on the possibilities of their dreams. Just smile, say “thanks for the advice”, and then full throttle ahead.
Personal Reflection: Are you actively pursuing your life purpose dream?
A number of years ago at a meeting a women was qualifying. She concluded her share by saying, “I’m either counting my blessin’s or counting my lessons”. This simple statement profoundly taps into how to live in this world. When we are “counting our blessin’s”, we are opening ourselves up to gratitude. People often walk around with a scowl on their face. They will point to problems with spouses, children, work and finances and say, “when I find a blessing I will let you know”. Were they to pause a moment, they could enumerate countless blessings including sight, hearing, mobility, freedom of choice and all the good they have in their lives.
Of course, there will be times of difficulty where things don’t go our way. At this point we need to see these roadblocks as “lessons”‘. Part of our life purpose is to figure out what insights we can gain from life’s challenges. When we do so, perhaps we won’t fall into old patterns and instead will respond in more appropriate ways. We also find that as we recognize and seek out blessings within life’s challenges, more of them become discoverable. Go figure!
Personal Refection: How have some of your lessons turned out to be blessin’s?