Physical well being is inseparable from emotional well being. Happy people are healthy people. The wisdom traditions of the world tell us that happiness does not depend on what you have, but on who you are. Let’s take a moment to reflect on what really creates happiness in us.
The following ten keys, gleaned from the wisdom traditions, may give us some insight.
- Listen to your body’s wisdom, which expresses itself through signals of comfort and discomfort. When choosing a certain behavior, ask your body, ‘How do you feel about this?’ If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, watch out. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, proceed.
- Live in the present, for it is the only moment you have. Keep your attention on what is here and now; look for the fullness in every moment. Accept what comes to you totally and completely so that you can appreciate it, learn from it, and then let it go. The present is as it should be. It reflects infinite laws of Nature that have brought you this exact thought, this exact physical response. This moment is as it is because the universe is as it is. Don’t struggle against the infinite scheme of things; instead, be at one with it.
- Take time to be silent, to meditate, to quiet the internal dialogue. In moments of silence, realize that you are recontacting your source of pure awareness. Pay attention to your inner life so that you can be guided by intuition rather than externally imposed interpretations of what is or isn’t good for you.
- Relinquish your need for external approval. You alone are the judge of your worth, and your goal is to discover infinite worth in yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks. There is great freedom in this realization.
- When you find yourself reacting with anger or opposition to any person or circumstance, realize that you are only struggling with yourself. Putting up resistance is the response of defenses created by old hurts. When you relinquish this anger, you will be healing yourself and cooperating with the flow of the universe.
- Know that the world ‘out there’ reflects your reality ‘in here.’ The people you react to most strongly, whether with love or hate, are projections of your inner world. What you most hate is what you most deny in yourself. What you most love is what you most wish for in yourself. Use the mirror of relationships to guide your evolution. The goal is total self-knowledge. When you achieve that, what you most want will automatically be there, and what you most dislike will disappear.
- Shed the burden of judgment you will feel much lighter. Judgment imposes right and wrong on situations that just are. Everything can be understood and forgiven, but when you judge, you cut off understanding and shut down the process of learning to love. In judging others, you reflect your lack of self-acceptance. Remember that every person you forgive adds to your self love.
- Don’t contaminate your body with toxins, either through food, drink, or toxic emotions. Your body is more than a life-support system. It is the vehicle that will carry you on the journey of your evolution. The health of every cell directly contributes to your state of well being, because every cell is a point of awareness within the field of awareness that is you.
- Replace fear-motivated behavior with love-motivated behavior. Fear is the product of memory, which dwells in the past. Remembering what hurt us before, we direct our energies toward making certain that an old hurt will not repeat itself. But trying to impose the past on the present will never wipe out the threat of being hurt. That happens only when you find the security of your own being, which is love. Motivated by the truth inside you, you can face any threat because your inner strength is invulnerable to fear.
- Understand that the physical world is just a mirror of a deeper intelligence. Intelligence is the invisible organizer of all matter and energy, and since a portion of this intelligence resides in you, you share in the organizing power of the cosmos. Because you are inseparably linked to everything, you cannot afford to foul the planet’s air and water. But at a deeper level, you cannot afford to live with a toxic mind, because every thought makes an impression on the whole field of intelligence. Living in balance and purity is the highest good for you and the Earth.
All of us—recovering alcoholics, addicts and non-addicts alike—can benefit from the practical wisdom of the Twelve Steps, first adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and subsequently adapted by other groups whose members struggle with various forms of addictive behavior.
Recovering people know they are always vulnerable to relapse. That knowledge keeps them vigilant, and that’s why they take a mind, body and spirit approach to life every day to avoid slipping into behaviors that caused them and their loved ones so much pain.
The strategies those in recovery employ to keep themselves clean, sober and serene are also good prevention tools. Awareness of what behaviors or “mind games” can lead to relapse can also keep a non-alcoholic person from turning to alcohol or drugs in the first place as an escape from problems, feelings, or situations that may seem unbearable.
In his book “12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery: Avoiding Relapse through Self-Awareness and Right Action”, Allen Berger talks about some self-destructive behaviors that can sabotage recovery. His straightforward advice easily translates to everyone who seeks to live a more balanced life in which individuals tap inner strengths, their higher power, and healthy resources instead of turning to destructive behaviors or mood-altering substances.
For example, Berger cautions readers to be aware of “self-erasure” and self-hate. Self-erasing, a term coined by psychiatrist and writer Theodore Isaac Rubin, is an inappropriate dependency on others and the obsessive need to be liked.
When we self-erase, we try to become invisible by avoiding conflict and rejection, by denying our own needs, and by stifling our own opinions. In short, Berger says we give way to fear and abandon ourselves, thinking others have the power to make us feel good or bad. “This leads to an avoidance of both authenticity and intimacy,” he writes.
“If we are self-erasing, we are sabotaging our life. Any life based on a rejection of or alienation from self is doomed to failure.”
He says self-hate starts when we don’t live up to the person we think we should be. “When we don’t live up to our ‘shoulds,’ we despise ourselves,” says Berger, leaving us to feel unworthy of help, joy, happiness, success, freedom or love, and making us vulnerable to addiction or relapse.
The Twelve Steps encourage people to take an honest look at themselves and, by practicing spirituality and humility, place “self” within a larger and more realistic framework. “We must accept that life can be difficult and that most of the time the path of least resistance isn’t the best one,” says Berger. “We need to quit trying to get other people to yield to our demands so that we can feel better about ourselves.”
At AA meetings, members are often reminded that they are “as sick as their secrets.” The more honest we are with ourselves and with others, the more genuine our lives and our relationships will be. Abandoning our false selves leads us to a solid place of integrity, which Berger defines as “wholeness: a process in which we are committed to respecting our true or spiritual self.”
Recovery is called a “process” or “journey” because those in recovery know it is an unending endeavor that requires daily diligence. For instance, recovering people don’t just “make amends” one time for hurts they have caused others. They understand that they are imperfect humans who will make more mistakes. Instead of excusing themselves or blaming others for harmful or inappropriate behavior, they learn to acknowledge their own mistakes when they occur and try to repair any damage they have done. This practice, although difficult, can benefit everyone because it strengthens humility, lessens anger and resentment, and improves relationships.
You don’t have to be a recovering alcoholic to benefit from the volumes of sound advice those in recovery have to share.
AA has been with us since 1935, and the principles on which it was founded are timeless for some very good reasons: they make sense and they work.
Alive & Free is a health column that offers information to help prevent and address addiction and substance abuse problems. For more resources check the Web site at www.hazelden.org.
|12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery: Avoiding Relapse Through Self-Awareness and Right Action
by Allen Berger Ph.D.