Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Act Yourself Into Right Thinking

One powerful slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is "You cannot think yourself into right acting, but you can act yourself into right thinking."  There is an article into today's New York Times by a psychologist that questions whether or not self-insight can lead to happiness.  He concludes that it cannot and uses the story of a man who went into a profession he did not like due to paternal pressure to illustrate his point.  When this man was able to quit his job and get one in the area of his passion he was happy.  He acted himself into right thinking.

How can we leap over the obstacles that keep us from acting in a way we know does not make us happy?  My observation and experience says it is the genuine support of other people that empowers us to do what we would not do.  Consider that working AA is the most successful way to beat alcoholism.  The program is based on two critical components:  1) attendance at meetings where the basic activity is listening to others talk about their successes to help out those who are just getting sober and 2) working one on one with some one who has had success getting sober and whose job it is to unflinchingly let the newcomer know that it can be done.  This is factual.  There is also the more etherial component of relying on a power greater than oneself.  I would guess that at first this is almost without exception experienced as the power of the group at that meeting and the voice of the Sponsor (that one on one person).  This support sends the message that is counter to our culture's (let alone most family's values) emphasis on rugged individualism and pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.  Many people in all stripes of twelve step groups dealing with work, money, sex, drug and alcohol addiction, food, relationships and cigarettes are learning to let go of actions that do not make them happy or truly satisfied with the cheering on by other people and, especially, one other person to help them act their way into right thinking.

When struggling with discouragement and dispair we can remember that the best thing we can do is take action, even we don't feel like it, that we know will make us happier.  If we are struggling with taking that action the key is to give that aunt, brother, friend or cousin who will not hesitate to cheer us on a call and tell us we can do it.  If we don't have that kind of person in our lives we can find some kind of supporting group that is safe who can help. 

Act your way into right thinking!

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