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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not Like Other People . . . But More So

 ". . . (T)hinking without awareness," writes spiritual teacher/author, Eckhart Tolle, "is the main dilemma of human existence."

* * * * * * * * * * * * 

Many years from my last drink, but only one warped train of thought and fatal decision away from my next, Tolle's observation rings true and is, perhaps, the clearest and most concise description of the mechanical nature of the human ego. Why is this important for, and so aptly applicable to, the alcohol addict? The simple answer is because (as we read at page 23 in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous)" the main problem of the alcoholic centres in his mind, rather than his body."

Later in the 'Big Book' we come to understand that we must see through the false illusion that one day we will be able to once again "control and enjoy our drinking." We are also told at this point that we must get rid of the delusion that "we are like other people, or one day will be." ('Big Book', page 30.) A full understanding of the second of these delusions enables us to more easily practice the 'meat' of the program.

In one sense this second delusion is right. We have exhibited a progressive addiction to alcohol, and in A.A.'s experience it is fatal and progressive. It does not get better. The old adage that you can't turn a pickle back into a cucumber holds true. We have long experience in our fellowship - too many at the funerals we have attended - that shows alcoholic drinkers do not turn into moderate or social drinkers. In respect to the consumption of alcohol, we are not like other people. They will be fine if they have a couple of drinks, while the odds are steep that if we do so, we will quickly get very sick and, perhaps, die.

In other matters, however, it seems to me that we are exactly like other people, perhaps only more so. The third delusion the 'Big Book' discusses is in the description of "the actor" on pages 60-62. Here, the 'Big Book' notes that "(m)ost people try to live by self-propulsion, that each person is like an actor that wants to run the whole show. . ." (Emphasis added.)

And what is the "basic problem" of each such person (alcoholic addict and non-addict alike)? "Is he not really a self-seeker," we read on (page 61), "even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?" (Emphasis added.)

Still speaking about most people, in general, the 'Big Book' observes that "(s)elfishness (and) self- centeredness is the root of our troubles." "Driven by a hundred forms of self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity," it points out, "we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate."

And what is "self" - what is "ego" - if it is not the "thinking without awareness" Tolle describes, above? What is "ego" or "self" if it not the incessant chatter of the mind, the "painful inner dialogue" and "terrifying ghosts" of the past that the vast majority of all people suffer from?

Look at the nightly news, pick up a newspaper, read the history of the modern world, and it becomes readily and quickly apparent that most people, even whole nations, are "driven by" a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity." Whole industries, not least the advertising industry, are founded upon this curious human trait of ego identification. In this respect, alcoholic addicts and  non-addicts alike suffer from the same dysfunctional mindset, mode of thinking, and method of interacting with the world. (Psychologically, it seems that each man is an island, despite the famous caution that no man is.)

"(O)ur troubles, we think, are basically of our own making," we read. "They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so." ('Big Book', page 62.)

Thus, in one respect - i.e., with respect to the consumption of  alcohol - "we are not like other people," nor will we ever be. In all other respects, however - i.e., in how each of us tries to "manage" life well in order to "wrest satisfaction and happiness" out of it - we are just like other people only, perhaps, more so. Most people are self-centered (that is, ego-centric) and do not know they possess an 'inner center' beyond the limited egoic self. "Alcoholics," we read at page 24 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, are "self-centered in the extreme." Other, so-called 'normal' people, it seems to me, are just 'extremely self-centered.'

Why is it important for us to understand that apart from the alcoholic addiction we are just like other people, only perhaps more so? Principally because it allows us to get over the deep resentments that have crippled us in our relationships to others and, thus, fueled our alcoholism. If we understand that other people are, for the most part, identified with and driven by their own egoic way of thinking - of "thinking without awareness" - then we can more readily realize "that the people who harmed us were perhaps spiritually sick." ('Big Book,' page 66.)

Realizing that most people are just as driven by their ego-centric mode of interacting with the world as we are, and while not liking "their symptoms and the way these (disturb) us," allows us not to react, but rather respond to them with "tolerance, pity and patience," perhaps, even with love. ('Big Book,' page 67.) Recognizing that virtually all people suffer from the same human dilemma of mistaking their smaller selves or egos for their true identity allows us to more readily forgive others for what they have done to us (and in that process to receive inner forgiveness for what we have done to others.)

Next time someone "offends" you, makes a mistake in traffic, follows too closely, forgets to signal a turn, or whatever, instead of rushing to judgement, realize that he or she is more likely than not just as caught up in the stream of unconscious self-consciousness as we usually are. And don't get sucked into your own inner and egoic dialogue about them. Practicing this non-judgmental identification with the egoic suffering of others is a key to freedom from "the bondage of self," a practice that lies at the heart of "self-forgetting."

1 comment:

  1. ...Thank you for recalling this very insightful and practical piece of Wisdom Bhuddini..undoubtably,I will find it necessary to apply/use this at some point today