Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Step 4.5

"Larval realities are defined by chunks of local environment attached to the nervous system at the time of imprinting."
Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology

A note: please don't think that Al-Anon is a place where people "whine." This is what I used to think and it's why it took me so long to get there and, paradoxically, to stop feeling sorry for myself. Like most Americans, I was unsophisticated and repressed enough to often label any emotionally honest statement as "whining," whether I made the statement or someone else did. It was easier than facing the emotion.

The fear of whining and the disproportionate anger it inspires are to be expected in a culture where people are taught to be 100% outer- and other-directed, where "unconditional love" is widely believed to have been practiced only by a lone Jewish guy who died a long time ago. (Merry Christmas!) But repression only gives emotions more and more power, and as they say in Al-Anon, "You are not your feelings." To truly live that insight, though, you gotta face those feelings, find their true origins, and discern their influence on your behavior patterns.

People do, of course, attempt genuine whining in Al-Anon meetings and to members, i.e., they try to indulge in self-pity or to gain sympathy. If it's their first meeting they're allowed to do this for a few minutes and then someone gently tells them something like "We're not here to vent. We're here to find solutions." If it's someone who should know better, they get "Call your sponsor" or "Look for your own role." I remember getting that last one when Teresa did something "to" me that was outrageous, unconscionable, unthinkable, etc. I didn't like hearing it one bit, but it jolted me out of victim-mind into captain-of-my-soul-mind. (Of course I now haven't the slighest memory what T. did...must have been a bit less significant than I made it out to be.)

An anonymous Al-Anon, who suffered horrendous abuse as a child, puts it like this in her story (included in the book From Survival to Recovery): "Even in the unusual situation in which another person is ninety-five percent at fault and I am only five percent, I am still responsible for my five percent." She has clearly gone far beyond the "larval" state!


  1. Then there's the step of actually celebrating one's responsibility for unpleasant things because the responsibility stems from a survival mechanism that -- though it may no longer work -- helped one last long enough to embark on the healing process....

  2. wow. I'm not there yet...but I've heard tell o' that there sort of thing from my recovery pals.
    the island of misfit toys is a fun place--as you probably know-- :)

  3. Yep -- an ongoing process!
    PS: Just found in my 2006 We'Moon calendar a terrific poem by Katie Valerie Wilson called, "Love is like Kali" -- found it online here.

  4. thank you...that's SO beautiful. I used to get the we'moon calendar every year...just the thought gives me wicca-nostalgia...