I'm writing this e-mail at an internet cafe, my TimeWarner internet server has been down for almost a day now. But - recovery marches on, right?
One of the things I have done after completing step 5, is to make a summary list of all those patterns of behavior that we discovered in turning over step 4, that caused me problems. This summary, whether it's the first or the fifth time you've turned over a 4th step, is the part of the basis of our recovery for the rest of our lives. This is what step six is all about: becoming clear of the defensive behavior that caused the bad feelings that compelled us to need to eat compulsively. Once we are clear on this behavior, we envision how that behavior can be turned around into a more positive, constructive response. For example, if I have discovered that I continually reject new friends after they've done something I don't like, i.e., then the behavior I write beside that defensive behavior, is to try to understand the disappointment I have, look at the root cause, and if it isn't a blatant act of rudeness or hostility on their part, and I like the person, to forgive that indescretion and give that person a second chance. So - being more tolerant and forgiving in social situations, perhaps being honest about letting people know what bothers me, is a character asset that I strive to develop. What's the outcome: more friends!!!
Step six is often referred to as the behavior modication step. Yes, just like compulsive eating, God will do for us what we can't do for ourselves, i.e., will our defects to go away, but in this situation, we need to do our part. I like the expression "let God steer the boat but keep rowing". Having this list of defects and the corresponding list of positive, loving behavior handy during our prayer time, our morning meditation time, keeps theses goals in the forefront. And it's more likely that we will more readily recognize opportunities to respond to life differently if we've been looking at our 6th step list.
For me, most of of my troubles, the ones that drove me to eat and drink compulsively, stemmed from my relationships with the world around me, which weren't going very well. People weren't doing what I wanted. It is said that the fundamental driver of our character defects is fear - of not getting what we want, or losing something we have. On that basis, the expectations and demands of of my foggy, food numbed mentality were often unmet.
So awareness of our character defects is part of taking step six. Acting "as if", trying to recognize opportunties to respond differently to life on life's terms is part of step six. And ultimately, the sincere, sometimes desperate desire to be rid of a character defect is what prepares us for the next step.
Questions for reflection:
How did it feel to hear, perhaps for the first time, that your own behavior was a part of a resentment that had been troubling you for a long time?
What glaring defects of behavior came up continually in your 5th step share?
Picking one or two of the most prominent character defects, what would be the positive behavior you'd like God to help you replace it with?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps