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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Hole In the Doughnut . . . Or, Becoming Whole

Bill Wilson was a very good writer with a gift for to-the-point wording and suggestive imagery. The "juggernaut of self-will" (at page 38 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) springs to mind. Like actions based on self-will, juggernauts - the massive battle ships built for the First World War - once underway take a great deal of power to stop and are enormously difficult to turn around.

My favorite of Bill's images, however, is that of the "doughnut hole." In his discussion of Step Three in the Twelve and Twelve (at page 36) Bill puts words in the mouth of a newcomer who is willing to turn his will and life over to the care of A.A. ("a Power greater than himself") insofar as it relates to alcohol. But that's it! In all other areas he clings to the notion that he must retain control.
"What will become of me? I'll look
like the hole in the doughnut"
 "Yes," the imaginary newcomer says, "respecting alcohol, I guess I have to be dependent upon A.A., but in all other matters I must still maintain my independence. Nothing is going to turn me into a non-entity. If I keep on turning my will and life over to the care of Something or Somebody else, what will become of me? I'll look like the hole in the doughnut."
The "hole in the doughnut" is my favorite image  because it shows not only the fear and insecurity of, in fact, turning one's will and life over to a still-mysterious "Higher Power" - even on an experimental basis - but it also shows how backwards our thinking can be. To the newcomer, the "hole in the doughnut" is just how it is described, a "non-entity." But, from a different perspective, the "hole" is the essence of the doughnut. A doughnut is hardly a doughnut without its hole.

At a deeper level, too, the struggle of the self-conscious, self-focused, self-centered alcoholic addict is to leave his or her egoic "self" behind in order to become part of the Whole. The nagging question - "What will become of me?" - can be either a compelling obsession to base all one's actions on the self-conscious thoughts coursing through the mind, or it can become the death rattle of the ego. Bill notes that the existential ("What will become of me?") question "is the process by which instinct and logic always seek to bolster egotism, and so frustrate spiritual development."

We hear much talk of fear at meetings and in the fellowship, but we hear far less talk about the flip-side of fear: desire. In Steps Four through Seven in the Twelve and Twelve, there is much discussion of desire, although Bill alternatively talks about it in terms of instincts, drives or desires. We all have "instincts" or "desires" for personal security, financial security, emotional security, sex and the society of our fellows etc., but a nagging sense of lack (or at least an often unrecognized sense that fulfillment of all of these desires is temporary at best) can drive us, as Bill notes, to blindly strive for more and more gratification of these demands of the ego without ever fully satisfying them. (As A.A. pioneer, Chuck C., so often noted, "It is divinely impossible to satisfy the human ego.")

Indeed, we are overtly and covertly taught or accultured to the sense that the fulfillment of these "instincts" is the primary purpose of life. Isn't "the American Dream" of marrriage, the house with the white picket fence, the 2.4 children and a comfortable retirement, not merely securing to oneself the fruits of these "universal" desires? But, as many (although perhaps not enough) people know, even when obtained these "rewards" for hard-work well done, diligence and good fortune are not sufficient in themselves to overcome the ego's insecurity and sense of wanting "something more."

". . . instinct and logic always
seek to bolster egotism . . ."
Indeed, it is in letting go of the ego's constant seeking and planning to get the "something more" or the "something else" that it always seems to need, that we find true purpose and happiness. Letting go of the relentless grinding of "instinct and logic" we are able to grow spiritually, and thus overcome "egotism." In doing so we reconnect with others, with life, and with "a Power greater than ourselves."

In letting go of "ego" and its "self-consciousness," we reconnect with a deeper God-consciousness and the "Essence" at the center of our being. In truth, we become that Essence - an essential part of the Whole - just as the doughnut hole is always the essence of the doughnut.

1 comment:

  1. while i appreciate the things you have said here,i wonder if you have possibly not grasped the real issue. I very much like the hole vs. whole and the hole as essence bit ,but for me this fear has been more about losing the ability to relate to people in or out of recovery. I have had the agonizing experience of being so afraid of being selfish , that I can no longer have or be any fun. The people around me become more and more annoyed with my "high roadednes" and I become more and more sober and alone. How can this be? I'm spiritual and they're not? I haven't quite worked this out to my own satisfaction, but i would be interested in discussing this issue with you