I'm your WTS Step Study leader this quarter and also a compulsive overeater.
This is a practical Step Study. It is designed to use what Iíve been taught are the directions from the Big Book to recover from compulsive eating, and to maintain that recovery on a one-day-at-a-time basis for the rest of your life.
Donít forget to go to www.oabigbook.info to download (for free, of course) some forms and documents Iíll be referring to in this Step Study, as well as a book Iíve written, based on a 2005 Step Study I did for WTS, which provides the theoretical background for this 2008 Step Study.
If youíre offended by anything I write, please donít be critical until you have read the book Iíve written to see where Iím coming from. In this Step Study I am deliberately getting to the nub
and not trying to justify and explain everything Iím saying.
This is the second part of a discussion of the instructions for Step Four. It will make little sense to you unless you have read the first part of that discussion and followed the directions there, so I encourage you to look at the first part of the discussion.
Where We Are:
Weíre now at a critical point of Step Four-where we are going to move from describing the effect on us of the fact that the world hasnít gone our way to figuring out our defects of character.
We have filled out the first three columns of the Resentment Form.
In Column One we listed things that bothered us-people, institutions, facts, ideas that were on our mind and that we wished werenít facts; the what-ifs and the if-onlys of our mind; the people and things that we thought about; people who have wronged us or others and people weíve wronged.
In Column Two we set out why those things bothered us in short, point form.
In Column Three, beside each of those points, we put a check-mark (a tick) where any of those points affected our self-esteem, our sense of security, our ambitions, our personal relations, our sex relations, and wherever fear was involved.
Then we reviewed what we had done. We saw how clouded our minds have become by the fact that life just hasnít gone our way. Our whole state of being-what we think of ourselves (self-esteem), how safe we feel (security), how frustrated we are (ambitions), how weíre unable to form good and solid close relationships (personal and sex relationships), and how frightened we are (fear involved)-is muddled and confused.
So we feel bad about ourselves, we donít feel safe, we are frustrated, we canít form good and solid close relationships, and weíre full of fear.
The mystery as to why we canít remember, at certain times, that eating certain foods or indulging in certain eating behaviors will create uncontrollable cravings, is now solved. No wonder we canít think straight about food! We canít really think straight about any thing for any great length of time!
The Nub of It All:
Thus our past is killing us. We have to find a way to change!
Because our minds are unable to remember the truth about our bodies, weíre going to die. Our bodies are being damaged in ways that will ultimately result in painful and lingering deterioration and death.
For many of us in OA, that probably means the inevitable results of obesity-diabetes (which can lead to strokes, blindness, amputation), heart attacks, joint pain, asthma, apnea, cancer, lack of mobility.
For others of us in OA, that probably means the inevitable results of being undernourished-starvation, broken brittle bones, and the host of illnesses associated with lack of proper nutrition.
If we don't deal with our resentments we will die! And it won't be pretty!
(If you donít feel that sense of urgency, then you ought to think carefully and honestly about why youíre involved in this Step Study. If youíre not willing to go to any lengths to change, then what does OA mean to you? This is a Life and Death matter to me. It is as serious to me as drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, is to other addicts. I know the fate that awaits me outside the doors of OA, and I donít want that.)
How We Change the Situation:
First we deal with people who have harmed us or others:
The first thing we have to do is find some way to deal with those people who have harmed us or others and who make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to look at our defects of character when their defects are so obvious, striking, and terrible.
There are almost certainly other resentments on our list that show up our own defects of character directly, but there are probably people on your list who have done some pretty rotten things; how can we deal with them?
We have to realize that they are spiritually sick, and that that sickness is as serious for them as any kind of physical sickness would be.
Consider the case of a person who is constantly in pain, or a person with a mental disability, or with a brain tumour-consider how you will often make allowances for their behavior. If I were constantly in pain and happened to be grouchy, I would expect that people would understand. If I had Touretteís Syndrome and said offensive things over which I have no mental control, I would expect that people would understand. We do that all the time. We certainly often expect it for ourselves ("Iím in a bad mood." "I just had a sudden death in the family and am so sad that youíll pardon me if I donít laugh at your joke." "I had a bad day at the office, so give me some slack.").
There are people in this world-those who have harmed you or others-who have the equivalent of pain or tumours or mental disabilities in their spiritual life. They are damaged and sad people, and what is even sadder about them is that they take their pain out on others. The more they do that, the worse they get. The more harm they inflict on others, the more difficult it will ever be for them to change. The more hardened they become, the more set in their ways they become.
They have less of an opportunity than you or I have to change and to become better people. The right attitude to take to them-no matter what harm they may have done to you or to others-is one of pity. The more harm they do, the less of a human being they become.
(This kind of pity is not one of superiority. It is one of compassion. You have a spiritual sickness, too. If you didnít, you wouldnít need the Twelve Steps to recovery. Your only hope is a spiritual awakening. Thatís their only hope, too. You have the hope of the Twelve Steps. They might not have that hope at all.)
Interestingly enough, the Big Book doesnít talk about forgiveness. It talks about tolerance, pity, and patience. You arenít required to forgive those who have done harm to you or to others. But you do have to learn to treat them with tolerance, pity, and patience.
Say a prayer for them. "_____ is a sick man/woman. God, grant me the same tolerance, pity, and patience, I would cheerfully grant to a sick friend."
In many many cases this may be enough to get you to realize how sick they are and how pitiful they are. In some cases you may come to the conclusion that you were wrong, and they werenít that sick and didnít do that much harm.
In some cases, however, you may still not be able to develop that sense of tolerance, pity, and patience.
If that occurs-and we can all imagine cases where the harm done was so great that it feels impossible to give the person who did the harm any sense of pity-then do this:
You WILL feel pity. You canít help but feel pity. The greater harm done by a person, the less of a human being that person is.
- Get a sense of what you want out of your life, what you want your life to be. The chances are good that you will come to a conclusion much like mine: you want peace and serenity; you want to be useful to others; you want to be able to love and to be loved. Arenít these the real things that you want out of life.
- Say a prayer for this person. Say something like: "I pray that ___________ get peace and serenity; that he/she is useful to others; that he/she is able to love and to be loved."
- After saying that prayer, think on it. If that person is capable of doing such great harm, do you think itís at all possible that that person is peaceful and serene? That he or she is useful to others? That he or she is capable of loving and capable of being loved?
- Say that prayer for that person every day for two weeks. Sooner or later, within those two weeks, you will see so clearly how that person has nothing, nothing whatever, of what you want out of life? That person is probably living in fear and anger, trusts almost no one, is always frustrated and clearly doing harm rather than good, and canít possibly have a deep and loving relationship with anyone else!
(For me, as a Jew growing up in the 1950s, Hitler and other Nazis were the hardest. But as I went through this process, I began to understand how they were not human beings at all by the time they died. I couldnít even call them animals. They were something completely foreign to what constitutes the best of humanity. They were incapable of any of the deep feelings or holding any of the spiritual values that I treasure. They were pitiful wrecks. They did horrible horrible things. Each horrible thing they did was a nail in the coffin of their humanity.
(And I have friends who have suffered so much more than I ever have, who have been victims of rape and incest and childhood abuse; this process has allowed them to look at the perpetrators of the harm to them as pitiful human beings who lost their humanity. Then and then only were they, as well as I, able to look at our own character defects.)
Then We Look at Our Own Character Defects:
Take each sheet of the resentment paper columns and fold it so that the first column is next to the fourth column. (If youíre doing it on your computer, just donít look at the second or third column when you fill out the fourth.)
Beside each name or a person, or an institution, or a principle, you are asked in the fourth column to write down where you have been Selfish, Dishonest, Self-Seeking, and Frightened. Iíll explain each term in full, but before I do, itís important for me to point out that you will find that these four words constitute ALL of your Character Defects.
What do these words mean?
If you recall from our discussion of Step Three, the word "selfish" means much more than it means in the dictionary. It means "wanting my way"-period, whether for good, bad, or mixed motives. In relation to many things, I am selfish because I wanted things to go my way for my own comfort, my own pleasure, my own security, my own self-esteem. In relation to many others, I may be selfish simply because I wanted things to go my way for other peopleís happiness, or so that they wonít suffer, or so that the world would be a better place. Or it may be a mixture of motivations. Whatever the motivations, from the Big Book perspective, wanting your way is being selfish (or self-ish, if thatís easier to take).
So you will write down in column 4 under "Selfish" things like: I wanted him/her to be different, I wanted things to work out, I wanted a better mother/lover/son/teacher/boss, etc., I wanted people not to suffer, I wanted this, I wanted that. If the motives are not particularly nice motives, put them down too.
We normally think of dishonesty as perpetrating deceit of some sort-lying to, cheating, stealing from, defrauding, fooling, someone else. Of course there is that kind of dishonesty, and it occurs quite frequently. It is the first kind of dishonesty.
But there are two other kinds of dishonesty that are important to note.
The second kind of dishonesty is when we lie to ourselves. For instance, under "selfish" respecting Hitler, I wrote down something like "I wish Hitler hadnít occurred." Under "dishonest" I had to write down: "Stupid, it occurred before you were born; get real! Youíre being dishonest with yourself about realilty!" Respecting people who had harmed me or others, I wrote down under "dishonest": "You thought they could change, but they couldnít. You were fooling yourself to expect them to become something they werenít capable of becoming."
The third kind of dishonesty is when we donít tell the truth when the truth should be told. That is the people-pleasing part of us. We arenít honest with people when we donít tell them the truth. We will often (but, of course, not always) find that when people harmed us we didnít say anything, or we didnít say what should have been said, or we didnít get out of the relationship, or we didnít go to the police, or we didnít tell the family, or we didnít demand that the person seek counselling.
This is where itís all about us rather than about the situation. Itís about how we were affected. How we feel about ourselves. About how that person or that situation or that institution or that principle made us feel bad about ourselves. We were "seeking" our "selves" in others. You did that to me, and you made me feel bad. That is self-seeking. (It will crop up again with the action that comes from self-seeking-being inconsiderate of others.)
This is where fear crops in. Fear that we will lose something we have, or that we wonít get something we want (thatís from the AA 12 & 12). Fear that weíll be found out. Fear that people wonít like us. That weíll be lonely. That weíll be sad. That horrible things will happen. Fear that because the past didnít go our way, the future wonít go our way.
Examples of What Might be Written:
Going back to the examples I gave the previous week:
Selfish: I wanted him to be something he wasn't. I wanted reality not to exist. I wanted life to be different. I don't want suffering.
Dishonest: It all happened before I was born. People do suffer. I can't fool myself about that.
Self-seeking: The things Hitler was responsible for have shaped how I look at people and myself.
Frightened: That it could happen again.
Guy on the cellphone in the movie:
Selfish: I wanted him to stop talking so I could enjoy myself.
Dishonest: I didn't say anything or do anything to stop him.
Self-seeking: I didn't want to draw attention to myself.
Frightened: That I'll always run away from confrontations.
People are suffering and it wonít get any better:
Selfish: I don't want people to suffer now or in the future.
Dishonest: People do suffer.
Self-seeking: If only I were in charge, life would be better. Only I can change the world.
Frightened: That people will suffer.
Selfish: I wanted perfection. I wanted him to apologize to me. I wanted him to act the way I thought he should act.
Dishonest: He acted the way he acted. He might have been very embarrassed and didn't know what to say.
Self-seeking: I deserve better.
Frightened: That he'll be mad at me and do a bad job on my shoes next time; or that if I don't go to him I'll get a worse job at another shoemaker.
An imaginary wife (I stress this is NOT my wife nor me - but itís an example of what someone might put down):
Selfish: I want her to do what I want when I want it. In all respects. In every way.
Dishonest: I don't do for her what I want her to do for me.
Self-seeking: I think I deserve it, but she doesn't.
Frightened: That our relationship will not last.
I hope you can get a sense of the many different kinds of things that you might discover. Honesty is absolutely the most important thing. Notice how brief this can be. There's not always a need for lengthy discussion, but of course sometimes there will be. Just get to the heart of it!
What to Look for as You Fill Out the Fourth Column:
Past experience has shown that as you fill out that fourth column, you will probably see a few patterns that repeat themselves over and over in your relationships. You will probably be saying, "ditto for this person" or "see above". Youíll be seeing that your character defects have truly blocked you off from the sunlight of the spirit. Youíll be understanding how important it is to have these four character defects removed.
Notice what we havenít done. We havenít listed forty character defects like jealousy and lust and gossipping and pride and control-freak and things like that and set out all the examples of that. Weíve really gone beyond that by focusing on something entirely different-how our need to have things go our way has created situations that have baffled us, confused our minds, and controlled our thinking.
Notice as well that this is a very CONSTRUCTIVE and POSITIVE process. We're not beating ourselves over the head with horrible things we've done. On the contrary, we're figuring out what we can do to improve ourselves!
If you use this way of doing Step Four, you will see clearly, I think, how these four character defects of being selfish, being dishonest, being self-seeking, and being frightened, play themselves out in your entire life.
If only you could get rid of them, if only they could be cast off! They are blocking you off from the sunlight of the spirit!
Well, tune in next week, because weíre going to find out that the Fear and the Sex Conduct forms will be showing us how to do that. Then in Step Five, weíre going to be checking that out with another human being, and on the same day as we do Step Five, weíre going to be ready and to ask that our character defects be removed through connecting with our higher power in Steps Six and Seven; and on that same day, or within a day of that, weíll be making our list of amends to make which, once we make the ones we can make, WILL remove those defects of character.
Things are rolling along very quickly. Once you finish Step Four, recovery is just around the corner!
Assignment for the Week:
- Are you keeping abstinent? Work on that hard.
If you want to give yourself a deadline, make an appointment with the person you want to do Step Five with to do the Step Five in two and a half weeks. Itíll take two to five hours, not much more than that.
- Have you been able to look at those who have harmed you or others as persons who have to be looked at with tolerance, pity, and patience?
- If not, have you figured out what you want out of life, and prayed for them to have it? And if you have, have you realized that they have not been able to achieve anything you want out of life? Now donít you feel pity for them?
- Have you ignored the second and third columns and set out in the fourth column, beside each person, institution, or principle that you put down in the first column, where you have been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened?
- Do you now realize how those four character defects are keeping you from connecting with your deepest values, your higher power, and thus from being sane?
If youíve been able to complete the resentment form, filling out the fear and sex conduct forms next week will be a revelation, I promise!
Your Step Study Leader