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.
Fear Without Danger
Especially for people with time in the program, I find this business of self-centered fear is both challenging and persistent. I think much of this is because, usually, the longer we stay sober and the better our life becomes, the more we perceive we have to lose.
And, yes, if we lose what we have, that would be terrible. But, I found when I am afraid, the fear is almost entirely irrational. Plus, my mind makes a B-Line to the worst case scenario. These scenarios are ridiculous and automatic at the same time. And, this is with years of sobriety.
Here is an Example
I don’t get along with my boss, so I am afraid I’m getting fired any day now. Getting let go, of course, will lead to divorce. Divorce means we’ll have to sell the house, which will lead to me living on the streets. Then, in no time, I will be, drunk, muttering to myself with a shopping cart! So, there I am in bed waiting to get up, in fear thinking and believing as real this silly and impossible narrative!
Ridiculous, right? But ask anyone who has experienced this type of self-centered fear, it is debilitating. And, that is exactly how it goes. It is hard to see yourself with any clarity when you’re feeling it. In addition, with the alcoholic brain, your capacity to believe complete nonsense is pretty strong. Isn’t it amazing that stupid, irrational, and completely imagined stuff can have such a deleterious effect on your serenity?
Back to the example. What started this?
Well, my boss didn’t reply to an email. I figure he must not like me, or something must be up. Otherwise, he would have responded. So, yup, I’m getting fired! And, incidentally, there has been no performance problems or warning. Later, I learned he didn’t reply because he was out of the office and forgot to put his “out of office” alert on. A perfect expression of self-centered fear! BTW, I was not fired.
How to Deal with It?
I have found three things to do when I feel some uneasiness that seems like fear:
- Recognize and call it for what it is. “Oh, I’m feeling self-centered fear.” Doesn’t make it go away, but, does lessen the blow.
- Ask, “what is the real danger here?” There probably is none. Real danger (like being on a plane that is crashing), is not that common. And when it happens, it is 100% OK to be afraid. Otherwise, it’s in your head. Knowing that most likely won’t change the feeling, but, at least you’re honest with yourself.
- Get into action. Any action will do. Write about it. Share it. Go to a meeting. Do the dishes. Clean the garage. Help someone. Call your sponsor. And This too will pass.
And What About Being Demanding?
The other part of that great 12 + 12 passage is about “failing to get something we demanded.” Demanded? I don’t know about you, but doesn’t that give you an image of self-centered brat pounding the table demanding things? Where’s the gratitude? Where is humility?
What I do know, is that when I am grateful, in tune to all that I have, and the power greater than myself that makes it all possible, I am not frustrated or disturbed.
And, you know what? That is a good thing. Disturbed and frustrated people are no fun to be around.