Self-Centered Fear

The AA Perspective

The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear – primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living on a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. 12 + 12 p.76.


The main instigator of our defects has always been self-centered fear—primarily, the apprehension of losing what we already have or the failure to acquire what we desire. When living on the basis of unfulfilled demands, we dwell in constant unrest and frustration (12 + 12, p.76). Particularly for those with some time spent in the program, this issue of self-centered fear can be both challenging and persistent.

The Paradox of Fear and Progress

Interestingly, the longer we remain sober and the better our lives become, the more we perceive we have to lose. The fear of loss can be potent, but upon introspection, I’ve discovered that when I’m anxious, the fear is mostly irrational. Moreover, my mind instinctively jumps to the worst-case scenario—often scenarios that are outlandishly unlikely, yet automatic.

A Personal Illustration

For instance, let’s say I’m not on good terms with my boss, leading me to fear an imminent termination. The logical sequence then ensues: losing my job would result in divorce, necessitating selling the house, eventually landing me on the streets, and before I know it, I’m relapsing. This narrative might seem absurd, yet when you’re in the throes of such self-centered fear, it can be utterly paralyzing.

The Root of the Problem

What sets off this spiral of fear? It could be as simple as my boss not responding to an email, leading me to assume he dislikes me or is plotting my dismissal. However, later I might discover he was simply out of office and forgot to set an autoresponder. The fear was based entirely on self-centered assumptions. Fortunately, I wasn’t fired.

Tackling Self-Centered Fear

In my journey, I’ve found three strategies helpful when I feel a sense of unease that manifests as fear:

  1. Identification: Acknowledge it as “self-centered fear.” Although this won’t make it disappear, it does mitigate its impact.
  2. Reality Check: Ask yourself, “What is the real danger here?” Most likely, there is none. Real threats are not as common as we think, and when they happen, it’s completely natural to be scared. However, most fears are mental constructs.
  3. Action: Get moving. Write about it, share your fears, attend a meeting, or engage in a task. Helping someone, contacting your sponsor, or simply acknowledging “This too will pass” can work wonders.

Addressing Unmet Demands

The second half of the insightful passage from the 12 + 12 book refers to failing to acquire what we demand. This mental picture of a self-centered individual demanding things neglects gratitude and humility. When I am grateful, aware of all my blessings, and the Higher Power that enables them, I find no room for frustration or unrest. This state of contentment is not only beneficial for us but also makes us more pleasant companions.


To navigate the road to sobriety, recognizing and overcoming self-centered fear is essential. It requires honest self-assessment, action, and an attitude of gratitude and humility. This approach might not eliminate fears entirely, but it helps us manage them better and fosters a more serene existence in our journey toward sobriety.