I’ve thought a lot lately about recovery and my spiritual practice. Has working the 12 steps radically changed my life? Am I deepening my connection with my higher power and weakening the bondage of self? What am I doing right and what can I improve upon?
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I knew that something was awry because I was still holding on to some deep-seated resentments and fear. Resentments are much easier to let go of when they aren’t smacking you in the face everyday. My therapist urged me to go to Al-Anon regularly and get an Al-Anon sponsor. I followed his suggestions and those of my sponsor. I’m getting a lot better at following suggestions.
Some of my new practices are:
- Blog – journal my feelings and experience. Tell my story to a wider audience.
- Open myself up to new ideas.
- Create boundaries and stick to them.
- Re-work the 12 steps, in particular the fourth step using the “Blueprint for Progress.”
I am also doing a lot of reading and daily meditations. Centering myself at the beginning and end of each day. A new book I started to read is “Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice”
by Ingrid Mathieu. Thanks go out to The Act of Returning to Normal
blog for introducing this book to me.
Mathieu’s book came at exactly the right time. She examines spirituality and 12 step programs
from a psychological perspective. “I believe that many of us are truly yearning for a spiritual path that allows us to be whole human beings – with faults and assets, troubles and triumphs – because the truth is that we will never transcend the human condition, and we need a spirituality that can cope with that reality.”
She gets it, I want to become whole, integrated, REAL by walking the spiritual path. I am invested in the program and am using the tools to get there. I am not deluded enough to believe I will ever truly get there, after all, I am human and fallible. There is no Utopia. I learned that when I studied the works of the noted political and moral philosopher
, John Stuart Mills
, in college. My goal to transcend the human condition is unattainable. I cannot get rid of pain.
Again, underneath all this yearning and hard work is the inability to accept myself for exactly who I am. The fact that I am “right where I am supposed to be”. That strong voice of “should” is still singing to me. In fact, it is drowning me. Closing my eyes to my own intrinsic goodness. When I talked about this to my therapist last night, he said that “Should is Shit”. He has that one right.
This is hard work. Mathieu investigates a phenomenon called spiritual bypass, the focus of this book. “Spiritual bypass is a defense mechanism by which we use spiritual practicesor beliefs to avoid our emotional wounds, unwanted thoughts or impulses, or threats to our self-esteem.”
Spiritual bypass behaviors
can either be an adaptive
defense, one that is flexible, or maladaptive.
Mathieu uses humor as her first example to illustrate a defense mechanism, one I often use ”to overcome an anxiety-producing situation.”
If the defensive behavior does not hurt us or others, it is adaptive. It is when the behavior has a negative outcome, when it impacts relationships or becomes dysfunctional, that the behavior becomes maladaptive. The behavior itself is not the problem, the underlying drive and resulting outcome make it maladaptive.
“For example, prayer in and of itself is not a defense mechanism. When you pray as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings or the truth of your reality, however, prayer serves as a spiritual bypass. If prayer carries you through a painful time to a place where you are better able to cope, this is an adaptive form of spiritual bypass. If prayer keeps you unconscious about your reality and leads to detrimental circumstances, this is a maladaptive form of spiritual bypass.”
I am flying through the pages of this book. As I pointed out in earlier posts, a bit of time has passed since I “put down the drink“. I am entering the second stage of recovery. Time to shit on should.
On my way to a noon meeting…