Identify It: Do Something Differently
Americans spent over 10 billion dollars in 2016 for self-improvement, which includes books, CD’s, seminars, coaching, stress-management, and gyms. All of these self-help aids are so people can change something.
We know there is a desire in people to change. Spending millions of dollars for books and therapy to get to the root of their problem.
Many religions and beliefs put an emphasis on the emotional suffering of attachment, negative behaviors, and man’s responsibility to change for the better.
Those familiar with 12 Step based recovery hear character defects talked about in opening readings as the underlying cause of dissatisfaction with life. Shortcomings are descriptions of the aspects we need to change, and they, too, are often mentioned in meetings.
However, if the hidden or less obvious motives for the self-defeating behaviors, actions, and thoughts remain unaddressed, there is usually just surface change.
What Needs Changing – It’s Within You
We all know that stealing, or taking something that belongs to someone else, is wrong. Although there are laws against it, religions have rules about it, and most people acknowledge that it is bad, it happens every day.
So why do people steal? What are the motivators for theft? What prompts a person who does not need the stolen item to embezzle, take, or use what does not belong to them? There are many underlying reasons that people steal.
One may steal because they are jealous of what someone else has, or because they are greedy. Another steals because they feel entitled to have what they want, when they want it, and think that they are deserving of having someone’s possessions. Someone else may take something that does not belong to them to inconvenience someone else – revenge is what fuels that action.
And unfortunately, even if the individual stops stealing, without working on the underlying motives, they still have theft in their hearts.
Changing the Insides Doesn’t Cost You
Therefore, you can see that the why or motive for theft is different for each person. Attitudes, Character Defects, Negative Aspects, and Self-defeating Behaviors are the underlying “why” of behaviors.
These character defects or self-defeating behaviors, thoughts, and actions, consciously or unconsciously drive the person and they are what needs to change.
What Fuels the Self-defeating Behaviors?
Oftentimes, you will find that fear fuels or eggs on your Attitudes, Character Defects, Negative Aspects and Self-defeating Behaviors. For instance, you are arrogant, believing that you know all things. But the reality is that you do not have either the experience or knowledge in early to recovery to know everything. When you’re dismissive of directions and suggestion, you’re probably going to get the same negative results you’ve always gotten.
Becoming open-minded, willing, and determined to followed new directions means that your outcomes will probably be better as well. Twenty-eight years ago, my mentor, a 75-year-old Native American by the name of Grey Hawk, told me, “Whatever you know has value; whatever you don’t know might have more value and worth, please follow the directions.”
34 Years of Recovery? I Should Have Listened
Grey Hawk had 34 years in abstinence-based recovery, and freely shared his experience, strength, and hope. When he asked me to read a paragraph in a recovery book, I, of course, read the entire chapter. I took notes, used a dictionary for unfamiliar words, and even did an outline with bullet points of important information, complete with page and paragraph. Oh, was I ready.
When he asked me what I had learned in the first paragraph, I wanted to impress him with my comprehension so started discussing the merits of the chapter.
He let me “enlighten” him for about 15 minutes before he interrupted me and then informed me of the about 10 very important concepts, words, or phrases that I had missed in the first paragraph.
Fear and the Illusion of Self
What fueled this need for me to prove to Gray Hawk how smart I was? I was afraid that my drug and alcohol use had so drastically impaired me that I would not be able to comprehend even simple recovery writings.
I was also afraid that if I was not the “best student”, that he would find someone to take my place. Although he was incredibly popular and a sought after speaker at meetings, he did not coach many people and I felt privileged to work with him.
I also felt guilty that I was in the situation that I was in, because I believed that I had to recover quickly. My attitudes, fueled because I squandered personal resources on my addiction, and given my children up, forced me to rush. My actions harmed my family and children. I falsely believed that the sooner I got all the materials read, digested, and was putting them into action, the sooner I would recover.
Changing: It’s Not Always Costly
When he asked me about my character defects and self-defeating behaviors in the experience and I told him. He laughed and said, “At my age, it might be okay to rush; after all, how much more time do I have on the planet? You, however, need to take the time to inspect the aspects of yourself that cause you problems. You’ll look thoroughly, and fearlessly, without rushing through it. You need to take the time to read, understand, comprehend, look at, and find the underlying behaviors, and then change them.”
It was at that point that I knew that change was a lifelong job; that it would create fears, uncover aspects of myself that generated and caused embarrassment, but that I would only benefit from my recovery if I went beyond not using to healing the underlying motives that produced negative outcomes in my life.
Looking at ourselves and deciding what to change takes courage. I found it easier to views these as the things that no longer worked. This only happens after we overcome the natural resistance to change.
Using Resources at Hand to Change
My next assignment from Grey Hawk was to use a dictionary and learn the words and meanings for negative attitudes, self-defeating behaviors, and problematic feelings.
Since this was 1988, there were not all the Internet resources for finding information on Character Defects, therefore, it was not an easy search. However, I was determined to change, so I found what I needed.
I started with the 7 Deadly Sins. Although not a religious person, I knew that they could not possibly be productive. Going back to school in my late thirties, I had textbooks as well. That gave me more qualities that were self-destructive and self-defeating.
In recovery support meetings, I asked if anyone could tell me where to find defects of character in our literature. Several group members starting laughing and one spoke up and said, “Oh, you know what they are.” I politely stated that if I knew what they were, I would not be asking; then a kind woman told me we would have coffee after the meeting. I got many ideas from her, and did not interrupt with what I knew, so I genuinely could see some progress in my arrogance and fear of not being the best student.
Changing: Adopting Better Qualities and Positive Aspects
When Grey Hawk and I met the following week, he thought the negative list very inclusive. Then, he wanted me to decide what aspects were positive.
Again, I got out the trusty dictionary and found these attitudes, behaviors, and feelings that I thought represented better qualities:
Better Qualities are Within Us: We Just Have to Use Them
I was genuinely surprised to find many of the qualities within myself from my list. Granted, I didn’t use them in my addiction. I could refer to a time on the playground when I had been caring and compassionate towards a little girl who other students bullied. I decided to play with her instead of joining the cause and bullying her.
I realized that I did have some humility when I listened to the women after the meeting. People leaving detox needed someone who was patient with them. Remembering how foggy I was right after detox, I listened quietly as people struggled to read and didn’t make comments like some other participants.
While I had to unlearn many of the negative aspects and character defects, I was not going to have to learn nearly as many “good” qualities as I had originally thought. All I had to do was use the ones within, and add a few more.
If apples and oranges are both fruits, then Character Defects or Spiritual Principles are similar; both are behaviors.
You can use character defects and self-defeating behaviors, or you can use better attitudes, admirable qualities, spiritual principles, or positive aspects. Just as the fruits are readily available, it is your choice which you choose to eat, so it is with which aspects you choose to use in your life.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart