stage 01

Recognise that we need to do something

In the first section the idea of taking responsibility before things could change was mentioned. The idea being that when we stop blaming our circumstances and other people we can do something to change our situation. Yes, they will have influenced us but we have the choice whether or not to accept the situation. This is why the first step of any 12 step recovery program is to recognise that we have a problem.

Once we have done this, we can do something about the situation. If we never recognise that a situation or way of thinking is a problem then we cannot take the next step i.e. do something about it. We will say if they change then we will be able to change as well. In other words, when they stop behaving badly then I will be able to stop behaving badly as well. I only behave badly because they do. If my behaviour improves then the situation will not improve because their behaviour is so bad that any improvements I make will not change the situation. Yet there are times when the circumstances change and our behaviour or attitudes do not change. This is because they are not making us do things we are responsible for what we do.

Of course, that does not mean that there are some people who bring out the worst in us. There are people who rub us up the wrong way. You know Mrs Sandpaper, the person who when you get close to her rubs off a bit off your skin leaving you with a sore area. We have the choice how to respond to them. They may hurt us but we are responsible for the choice of how we respond to that hurt.

Recognising that we need to do something is not always as easy as it sounds, as we can feel so secure in our wrong thinking that it can be scary when we have to face what is on the other side. Sometimes, especially when wrong thinking or behaviour is a cover for something else we then find that we have to face the things that we were trying to hide. This is often what makes escaping from any form of chemical dependency or even just overeating seem so hard.

Take away the coping mechanism and you have to find another way of coping. Some people move from one form of coping to another. They stop smoking so they start eating more. Some people are so fearful of putting weight on in the short term if they give up smoking that they would rather face the long term consequences of smoking. The best way for them to change their situation is to look for strategies that would help them reduce the level of the problems that made them feel as if they needed a coping mechanism. This still means that we need to take responsibility to change as if we are the ones who need to look for an alternative survival strategy.

Until we take responsibility to do something to improve our own situation then it cannot change. Someone else can nag us and even drag us to the doctors but unless we take the doctor’s advice about our health problem, it will have been a useless exercise. We are the only one who can change our situation. No one else can do it for us. We cannot change other people so that they are more supportive. Yes making changes in our behaviour and attitudes can encourage others to change but that only happens because they choose to do so.

People who are successful are normally those who take responsibility to change the situation that they find themselves in. They believe that they can do something to change the situation. They know that they cannot blame others for their lack of progress or depend on chance to change their circumstances. They believe that they can victors in whatever situation they find themselves in. Others believe that they are victims. Victims will blame anyone or anything other than themselves for their situation. The only way that a situation can be changed is if we do something about it. No action means no change.

The process is given as a series of steps to help make it easier to understand it. That does not mean that this has to be a process that always goes in a straight line. For some of us we may go so far and then come back round in a circle. What is worse many of us need to go through the procedure in relation to a number of areas in our lives. That does not mean that we should not try because every time we move along the path we will see some improvement, even if we then have a set back. When you have succeeded once then you will know that it is possible to succeed again. It may even get easier to succeed next time around when you have gained a bit of experience working through the process. If you keep on going things will improve.

If you recognise a serious issue, such someone behaving in such a way that would at the time have triggered a police investigation, then you need to seek professional help. One good starting point would be your GP. Another would be one of the reputable charities that specialise in supporting people dealing that particular issue.

Moving on and overcoming wrong thought patterns is not a journey that we can take on our own. This is why we need to find helpers that we can trust to support us. These could be friends and as step four says it could also be our higher power. My personal recommendation is to seek out the God of the Bible and ask Him for help as He has a lot of experience helping people through difficult circumstances. It might sound flippant and irreverent saying that I could give him a very good reference in terms of being like a Father and even at times husband to me but it is true. He is better than the human ones that I had because He is perfect and they are or were human.

a. Developing a willingness to change

I once heard the story of someone who was struggling to do something. Their counsellor had helped them work through a list of similar tasks but there was one that was just so big so demanding that they could not face doing it. The counsellor took them a step backwards. She asked them if they would be willing to be willing to do it. They said that they were not able to do that. So she took them a step further back and asked them if they were wiling to be willing to be willing to do it. That was OK. After they had settled that issue, the counsellor moved forwards again and asked them if they were willing to be willing to change and this time they were ready to do that. Once they had got to that stage the counsellor asked them if they were now willing to do what they needed to do.

That goes to show that there are times when we just cannot face going forwards and dealing with situations. We can only handle so much at any one time. If we are pushed too hard or are asked to deal with something that is more than we can handle it will only create more problems.

One of the problems that we may face is that the thing that we need to change is so much a part of us that we cannot believe that it is possible to change it. We can be so firm in our beliefs that nothing or no one can change them. A mental health professional would describe someone who held a wrong belief like others hated them so much that they wanted them dead so strongly that nothing would shake them as having a delusion.

The problem is that if we believe lies like we are no good or that good things cannot happen to someone like us we cannot move on into all that we can be. Remember the belief expectation cycle mentioned earlier. If we believe the lie that we should be treated badly we then expect things to happen then we encourage people to treat us badly and the experience of being treated badly reinforces that belief. The difficult bit is working out what the lie is so that we can do something to change the situation. The lies that we tell ourselves can feel so much a part of us that we think other people are crazy when they us the truth.

If we just accept the things that prevent us from moving on and becoming all that we can be then nothing can change. Once we have made the decision to do something different and are willing to overcome the limitations we can move on to the next step in the process and do something about them.

We have to take responsibility to change ourselves and when we do that the environment around us changes. There are people who find themselves in a difficult situation so decided to move on only to find that after some time they find themselves in the same situation all over again. It is as if the problems they have chase them from job to job, relationship to relationship, even town to town. They look for something new believing that this time things will change. It cannot change until the one constant in those situations changes i.e. them. It is easy to blame everyone else for our situation and deny that it is anything to do with us. If it is nothing to do with us then nothing can be done about it so we will stay where we are. If we believe that things can change and that we have a part in changing them then they can be changed. Change starts with a choice do we go forwards or do we stay where we are. If we want to start blossoming them then it starts with our choice to take responsibility to see things changed in and around us so that we can.

b. Checking where the limitations are

There has to be a definite choice made to look for limitations and do something about them. One thing that is common is that other people can see our limitations better than we can do ourselves. Close friends and family will be able to give us a variety of ideas. Another approach is set a time aside and note down every negative comment that you make e.g. I couldn’t do that or they would not let me do that or someone like me couldn’t do that.

One day the leader of group I was in asked God to show people what the lenses were that they were wearing. The idea was to show us the thoughts and ideas that were causing members of the group to see things in an inappropriate manner. Doing something like this depends on trusting God to reveal things to you. Personally, my experience is that we can trust him to deal with us gently and kindly and only show us the things that we can cope with at that time. Yes, you could say that those are the lenses that I use to look at such situations.

It was having that expectation that made it easy for me, on another occasion, to say “God will you please show me what things I believe that do not agree with what you say I should believe”. For the next 24 hours I had a pad and pen by my side ready to jot down all the negative things that came to my mind. The list grew and grew there must have been 50 or more ideas. Some were slightly different ways of expressing the same limitation. It was quite a surprise when I realised just how many negative statements I had written down. I then grouped them into various categories and realised that somehow I needed to break free of them because even though not all of them were causing severe restrictions in their own right the combined effect of so many negative ways of thinking must have be causing me a problem.

Other suggestions for ways of discovering inaccurate or inappropriate limitations include:
•  Write down all the statements you heard about that area of your life when you were young. In other words, if you struggle with something then you need to revisit your memory bank in an attempt to work out why.
•  Consider the ways of being and habits each of your parents had around in relation to that area of your life. Write down how you may be identical or opposite to either of them.
•  Consider what influence any other significant adult such as grandparents or teachers have had on your attitudes towards any area of your life.
•  Consider a specific emotional incident you experienced that could have an effect on your life from that point on.

Dealing with things that stop us from blossoming such as dismantling limiting beliefs is an ongoing process. Don’t expect to be able to discover all of them in one go. Don’t be surprised if you after you feel that you have conquered soma that there are further layers beneath them. Each time some emerge and are dealt with the greater the freedom you will be able to enjoy.

c. What we achieve depends on how we play the game

If we play a game with the intention of not losing then it is very difficult to win. We may feel as though we are facing an opponent who is larger and bigger than ourselves and therefore try to play the game by stopping them from winning. If all the players are defending the goal who will be available to make an attack if the opportunity arises?  In this situation the aim of the game is survival. For some people their need for security and the fear of losing means that they struggle to play to win. People who take this approach will find it difficult to analyse why they are not blossoming because they are frightened of what they will find. They would rather stay as they are and not face the challenge of thinking about changing.

If we play the game with the intention of winning there is the possibility of both winning and losing. We can minimise the risk by setting up contingency plans. We may decide that the cost of losing the game is higher than we can accept and therefore withdraw from the game. However, we cannot win unless we decide to play the game. People who take this approach struggle to work why they are not blossoming.

There are some people who play the game with the intention of winning by a large margin. These are people who are prepared to make a lot of effort. They train hard. They play hard. They take hold of all the opportunities that are open to them. These are the people who want to work out what they will need to do to blossom. Blossoming can have different levels. Some are big bold and showy others are smaller but are still important in the overall scheme of things. The important thing is to blossom and reach their full potential.

There are others who want to win but also want to be comfortable. They will not put as much effort in and therefore the results they obtain will not be as good but at least they will do better than those who do not try at all. They will look see some reasons why the are not blossoming and deal with those that they find. Their lives will improve but not as much as those who seek them out enthusiastically.

Another way of thinking about playing the game is the level of commitment that we show. If we show a great deal of commitment and put a lot of effort into reaching a goal then we are more likely to reach it. We may say that we want to win but somehow the level of commitment that we show does not reflect what we say. Our level of commitment may be the reduced because the old limitations still have an effect on us. It is as if we are double minded. A double minded person is unstable in all their ways because they do not know which way to turn. The only way to win the game is to go after the results we want whole-heartedly. We can only win if we have decided that this is what we want and we know that this is our only alternative. There can be no excuses, no ifs no buts no maybes, no hesitation no pulling back, just total commitment if we are going to win.

To change the metaphor around a bit there is another saying that if you aim for the stars and then do not achieve all that you want to achieve then you have the possibility of reaching the moon. In other words if you try very hard to reach a target that in the end is actually impossible you will still do better than if you did not try at all.

Another thing that we need to recognise is that if we are going to achieve something more than what we already have done then we need to do something different from what we have done previously. We cannot do something different if we think that we were doing the right thing and that there was simply some kind of unforeseen response to it. If we think we have it all figured out and we have nothing more to learn then we limit ourselves and make it harder to learn any further new ideas or attitudes. We cannot do something different and remain the same person. If we want the situation to change, we have to be prepared to take action