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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life Is Inherently Unmanageable

Do not be fooled by the delusion that somehow life has suddenly become "manageable" now that you have stopped drinking and/or drugging. This is the last of the "three delusions" that are identified in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous. Admission that one does not have the requisite power to "manage" one's  life is the completion of Step One. In reality, life becomes wholly "acceptable" to us, rather than "manageable" by us. In seeing this, the description of the individual as an "actor" at pages 60-62 of the 'Big Book' is most helpful.

"Most people try to live by self-propulsion," we read. That is, we try to manage life and all its details in order to satisfy the desires and quell the fears that arise through our constant discursive thinking - i.e., the fears and desires of the false, egoic self. In doing so we may have the best intentions. That is, if life's circumstances turn out the way we try to shape them, the results will be good for everyone, even ourselves. (But remember the old adage: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions.")

In trying to give effect to our plans and schemes we must, of necessity, try to influence and direct the thoughts, words and actions of others, for "no man is an island." In doing so, we read, we "may sometimes be quite virtuous . . . kind, considerate, patient, generous . . . even modest and self-sacrificing." Driven by what we think is necessary or desirable, we will do almost anything to have life proceed as we wish it to. And, if being the good guy doesn't work, we "may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest." In short, we will do almost anything that is required to have life come off as we want it too; and, if it doesn't, we are likely to become "angry, indignant, (and) self-pitying."

"What," we are asked, is the actor's "basic problem"?
"Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction out of life if only he manages well?" (Emphasis added.)
 In his Meditations, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, made the apt observation that: "Life is inherently unmanageable." (Emphasis added.)

It is most helpful, I find, to remember two things: (a) that "(t)he problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind" ('Big Book,' page 23); and, (b) that "lack of power (is) our dilemma" ('Big Book,' page 45). We lack the inherent power to manage life and all its many aspects; yet, when identified with the ego, and attached to its stream of incessant thoughts, we continually fall into the trap of thinking that we can - and must - shape the circumstances and outcomes of our lives. Doing so, we react to life instead of responding to it. And, typically, we react rather poorly.
"(A)cceptance," we read, "is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."
Acceptance of life's inherent unmanageability allows us to give effect to the "three pertinent ideas" set out at the end of the "How It Works" reading. Both "before and after" we give up alcohol (and/or other drugs), it must be clear:
(a) "That we (are) alcoholic and (cannot) manage our own lives."
(b) "That probably no human power (can relieve) our alcoholism."
(c) "That God (can) and (will) if He (is) sought."
Admission and acceptance of these three principles allows us to move forward to Steps Four through Step Nine which will effectively deflate our ego (and its sense of separateness), relieve of us of our old ideas and way of thinking, and thereby enable us to experience a "spiritual awakening" within our Being that truly allows us to "accept life on life's terms."

* * * * *

(Note also: The description of "the actor" applies not only to the alcoholic, but to "most people" - i.e. to so-called "normal people" - as well. When we understand that virtually everyone we encounter is self-identified and ego-centric, it helps us to understand and be unaffected by their often-times odd attitudes, their seeming eccentricities, and their selfish or self-centered behaviours. In seeing this, we are enabled to truly forgive them their "trespasses," knowing that they too are merely victims of the ego's "delusion" that they too can "wrest satisfaction and happiness out of life by managing well," and that therefore they must manage life at all costs.)

1 comment:

  1. ...Outstanding writing rabbi..Thank You once again for your very helpful...