February 28, 2005

Spend Time with Encouraging People

Most of us need people around who empower and help us feel able, on track, in balance, hopeful. We need people who tell us we can. Even if they don't use words, they believe in us and that belief comes shining through. We look at them and what we see reflected back is our own power.

But sometimes we run into those who, instead, try to convince us of their power, convince us that they have our answers, that we need them to be able to see clearly, that without them, we won't be able to find the way. They don't believe in us; they only believe in themselves. That's not empowerment. That's an approach destined to create dependency often unhealthy dependency.

Cultivate relationships with people who make you feel like you can, who help you know that you're on track, right where you need to be. Spend time with people who help you and that you can trust yourself.

By Melody Beattie ©

February 27, 2005

My Life Was a Complicated Lie

Father Leo's Daily Meditation


"To treat your facts with
imagination is one thing, but to
imagine your facts is another."
-- John Burroughs

When I was drinking, I was always confusing fantasy with reality. Lies got mingled with the facts and the facts became exaggerated. It was almost impossible for me to distinguish between reality and fantasy, imagination and fact. My life was a complicated lie.

Today I have a program of "rigorous" honesty; I must be rigorous and stop the game before it starts. I need to practice the principles of recovery in every area of my life. The spiritual road involves a comprehensive journey and nothing need be left out.

God, who created the mountains, help me to take responsibility for the grit between my toes.

February 26, 2005

Resentments Dangerous Even If Justified

Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our resentments were justified or not. A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional "dry benders" often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances--jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride--did the same thing.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p. 90

February 25, 2005

Small Things Matter Most

Early one morning, I was walking down the beach as the tide was going out. I saw a man coming the other way. As he approached, I noticed that he would occasionally stop, pick up a stranded starfish, look at it and toss the starfish back into the sea.

When we met, I asked him what he was doing. He said, "If the starfush are still on the sand when the sun comes up and hits them, they will die. I throw them back in the sea and give them a chance to live."

I responded, "But there are hundreds of miles of beach and you are just one man. Does what you doing really matter?" He picked up another starfish, looked at it, and threw it back into the sea. "It does to that one," he said.

Reprinted from Harbor Lights

February 24, 2005

The Alcoholic as Actor

"More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it."

~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Into Action, pg. 73~

February 23, 2005

Grow Here, Grow Now

From "'No Man Is An Island:"

"None of us can ever fathom the glories and the uncharted regions of the universe. But we CAN live on earth and love one another. We can let in the beginnings of CONCERN, COMPASSION, CONSIDERATION, and watch ourselves grow. With the tools and guideposts of Alcoholics Anonymous, we can learn a little of this precious gift -- our gateway to human spirituality."

c. 1973, Came To Believe..., page 120

Mysteries of Paradox


Such is the paradox of A.A. regeneration: strength arising out of complete defeat and weakness, the loss of one's old life as a condition for finding a new one.

A.A. COMES OF AGE, p. 46

What glorious mysteries paradoxes are! They do not compute, yet when recognized and accepted, they reaffirm something in the universe beyond human logic. When I face a fear, I am given courage; when I support a brother or sister, my capacity to love myself is increased; when I accept pain as part of the growing experience of life, I realize a greater happiness; when I look at my dark side, I am brought into new light; when I accept my vulnerabilities and surrender to a Higher Power, I am graced with unforeseen strength. I stumbled through the doors of A.A. in disgrace, expecting nothing from life, and I have been given hope and dignity. Miraculously, the only way to keep the gifts of the program is to pass them on.


The Professor and the Paradox

"Let me pass on what I consider the four paradoxes of how A.A. works. (A paradox, you probably already know, is a statement which is seemingly self-contradictory; a statement which appears to be false, but which, upon careful examination, in certain instances proves to be true.)

1. We SURRENDER TO WIN. On the face of it, surrendering certainly does not seem like winning. But it is in A.A. Only after we have come to the end of our rope, hit a stone wall in some aspect of our lives beyond which we can go no further; only when we hit "bottom" in despair and surrender, can we accomplish sobriety which we could never accomplish before. We must, and we do, surrender in order to win.

2. We GIVE AWAY TO KEEP. That seems absurd and untrue. How can you keep anything if you give it away? But in order to keep whatever it is we get in A.A., we must go about giving it away to others, for no fees or rewards of any kind. When we cannot afford to give away what we have received so freely in A.A., we had better get ready for our next "drunk." It will happen every time. We've got to continue to give it away in order to keep it.

3. We SUFFER TO GET WELL. There is no way to escape the terrible suffering of remorse and regret and shame and embarrassment which starts us on the road to getting well from our affliction. There is no new way to shake out a hangover. It's painful. And for us, necessarily so. I told this to a friend of mine as he sat weaving to and fro on the side of the bed, in terrible shape, about to die for some paraldehyde. I said, "Lost John" - that's his nickname - "Lost John, you know you're going to have to do a certain amount of shaking sooner or later." "Well," he said, "for God's sake let's make it later!" We suffer to get well.

4. We DIE TO LIVE. That is a beautiful paradox straight out of the Biblical idea of being "born again" or "losing one's life to find it". When we work at our Twelve Steps, the old life of guzzling and fuzzy thinking, and all that goes with it, gradually dies, and we acquire a different and a better way of life. As our shortcomings are removed, one life of us dies, and another life of us lives. We in A.A. die to live. "

From AA History - The Professor and The Paradox, a story that appeared in the second edition of the Big Book from 1955 to 1976.

February 22, 2005

Let Go of Your Expectations

Letting go can feel so unnatural. We work hard for a promotion, a relationship, a new car, a vacation. Then the universe has the gall to come along and mess up our plans. How dare it!

And so, rather than opening ourselves to the experiences that await us, we hold on to the plans that we made for ourselves. Or we hold on to bitterness about our plans going awry.

Sometimes losing our dreams and plans for our future can hurt as much as losing a tangible thing. Sometimes accepting and releasing our broken dreams is part of accepting a loss.

Let go of your expectations. The universe will do what it will. Sometimes your dreams will come true. Sometimes they won't. Sometimes when you let go of a broken dream, another one gently takes its place.

Be aware of what is, not what you would like to be, taking place.

God, please help me let go of my expectations and accept the gifts that you give me each day, knowing that there is beauty and wonder in each act of life.

*Melody Beattie*
from - "More Language of Letting Go"

February 20, 2005

Powerless Over Addiction, Not Our Behavior

"Through our inability to accept personal responsibilities, we were actually creating our own problems."

Basic Text, p. 13

When we refuse to take responsibility for our lives, we give away all of our personal power. We need to remember that we are powerless over our addiction, not our personal behavior.

Many of us have misused the concept of powerlessness to avoid making decisions or to hold onto things we had outgrown. We have claimed powerlessness over our own actions. We have blamed others for our circumstances rather than taking positive action to change those circumstances. If we continue to avoid responsibility by claiming that we are "powerless;' we set ourselves up for the same despair and misery we experienced in our active addiction. The potential for spending our recovery years feeling like victims is very real.

Instead of living our lives by default, we can learn how to make responsible choices and take risks. We may make mistakes, but we can learn from these mistakes. A heightened awareness of ourselves and an increased willingness to accept personal responsibility gives us the freedom to change, to make choices, and to grow.

Just for today: My feelings, actions, and choices are mine. I will accept responsibility for them.

pg. 52

Find the Good in Every Situation

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.

Rabbi Harold Kushner

February 19, 2005

Soothing Steps to Deal With Fear

"Young and old, rich and poor, man and woman - each of us exists in the shadow of fear. From the time we first become conscious, we are plagued by fears and though our fears evolve, they never leave us. Most of us tend to make life choices based on the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of being mocked, the fear of the unknown, and the fear that we have sullied the gift of life. In many ways fear can be a comforting crutch. But while fear is a natural and necessary innate survival instinct, it can also be a hindrance that works to keep a person's soul from reaching its potential. When you live in reaction to your fears (be they big or small), that fear is in control of your life.

In Buddhism, there are two types of fear. There is the fear inspired by real dangers, and there is the fear of that which cannot harm us and that which we cannot control. This is the unhealthy fear that can make you unhappy and arrests your creativity. The latter is more like an intense worry, a doubt, or nervousness that paralyzes your desire to act.

When fear comes, there are numerous ways to soothe yourself. You may find that writing in a journal, praying, meditation, interacting with a pet, or listening to peaceful music can ease you into a less fearful and more confident state. If you find yourself overwhelmed by fear, regain control by giving yourself to the count of five to acknowledge your feelings in whatever way is comfortable, and then banish those feelings by finding a constructive solution. Another way to deal with fear is to treat it like an entity within you. Get very quiet and centered and talk to it, ask it what it wants, why is it there, what does it need? Your body has all of the answers already, you simply need to ask and then listen. You may be surprised at what you come up with if you really spend some time with this.

After you have sorted through these feelings, ask the fear to leave. If you like, make a ceremony for yourself with candles releasing the fear to the universe. See the fear leaving your body and being transformed into beautiful light.

Our entire lives are mysteries and none of us know what the future will bring. The strongest weapon we possess against fear is remembering the many blessings, talents, and loved-ones we possess in the present - for those are the gifts that can keep fear at bay."

This a reprint of the DailyOM - What Is Fear?.

Say No to Manipulation

"How does manipulation work? ...

Manipulative techniques vary, but in general, manipulators try to get our emotions to work against us. They do this by saying or doing something they hope will induce in us guilt, shame, anger, fear, or some other uncomfortable emotion. They may imply, for instance, that our failure to do as they wish will bring about a major disaster. They may describe in minute detail the various kinds of unpleasantness that will occur if we neglect to take the action they suggest. They may insist certain things are our duty or responsibility, or they may appeal to us on the basis of morality, ethics, or anything else they think might persuade us to agree with them. Some will pull out every emotional stop and tell us of the horrible pain they'll experience if we "let them down". We may be told we'll feel better about ourselves, that we'll make the manipulator extremely happy, that he or she will love us forever, or any number of other essentially meaningless terms.

Manipulators' speech is frequently laced with phrases such as these:

"You should. . ." "You ought to . . ." "If I were you, I'd . . ." "It's for the best," "I only want what's best for you," "You'll thank me for this later," "What will people say?" "What will people think?"

They use these and many other phrases which imply we will suffer a censure or penalty of some kind if we don't meet the "obligation" they've chosen for us.

What element do all these techniques have in common? The manipulator offers us nothing we value in exchange for doing what he or she asks...

So what are we to do? Unless we have knowingly obligated ourselves, when we're asked to do something that a) we don't want to do, b) isn't our obligation, and c) isn't a genuine need, we can refuse with a clear conscience. We don't have to feel guilty. We don't have to get caught up in elaborate excuses or contrived explanations. When manipulators ask for our help, we just have to say, "No".

This will no doubt shock those who are accustomed to our acquiescence, and it will be difficult for us at first if we are in the habit of giving in to unreasonable people. But saying, "No", is an acquired ability, and we will discover that the more we use it, the more proficient we become.

It's fine to exchange favors with people, of course, and it is commendable to voluntarily help others who are literally unable to help themselves. But when people try to create a feeling of obligation in us or try to persuade us to do something we dislike just to please them, beware: no matter how much they emphasize that doing what they want will benefit us, it's rarely our welfare with which they're concerned."

This post is excerpted from a longer article reprinted here form Wising Up: How To Stop Making Such A Mess of Your Life, © 1999, by Jerry Minchinton. Arnford House, Vanzant, MO, USA.

February 16, 2005

Today's Pain is Tomorrow's Joy

Sometimes in life things happen too fast. We barely solve one problem when two new problems surface. We're feeling great in the morning, but we're submerged in misery by nightfall.

Every day we face interruptions, delays, changes, and challenges. We face personality conflicts and disappointments. Often when we we're feeling overwhelmed, we can't see the lessons in these experiences.

One simple concept can get us through the most stressful of times. It's called gratitude. We learn to say, thank you, for these problems and feelings.
Thank you for the way things are. I don't like this experience, but thank you anyway.

Gratitude helps us stop trying to control outcomes. It is the key that unlocks positive energy in our life. It is the alchemy that turns problems into blessings, and the unexpected into gifts.

Today, I will be grateful. I will start the process of turning today's pain into tomorrow's joy.

*Melody Beattie* from - "Language of Letting Go"

February 15, 2005

Here and Now I Live

Before, I always lived in anticipation...that it was all a preparation for something else, something “greater,” more “genuine.” But that feeling has dropped away from me completely. I live here and now, this minute, this day, to the full, and the life is worth living.

--Etty Hillesum

How Can a Lobster Grow?

How can a lobster grow? After all, its shell is rigid and cannot expand.

When the lobster feels itself compressed within its shell, it retreats to a crevice in one of the underwater rock formations, sheds its shell, and grows a new one. When it outgrows this shell, it repeats the process and continues doing so until it reaches its maximum size.

During the stage when it is without its shell, the lobster is in great danger. A predatory fish may eat it, or a strong current may dash it against a rock. In order to grow, the lobster must risk its very life.

It is impossible to achieve success without risking failure; sometimes life can only be lived by risking death. Since life consists of growth and progress, we must learn to live with risk.

People for whom failure is devastating may never try anything. They will never grow.The greatest failure of all is the failure to grow and to maximize one's potential. This passive failure is even more serious than active failure.

We must develop sufficient courage and self-confidence to not retreat from taking risks (though reasonable ones) in order to progress.

... try to increase my feelings of self-worth so that I may be able to accept new challenges without the fear that any failure would destroy me.

From the book, Growing Each Day, by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.,psychiatrist, ordained rabbi and founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment.

Recovery is Discovery


AA has accomplished so many things in my life today. It has given me my sanity and an all-around sense of balance. Now willing to listen and take suggestions, I have found that the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don't want to be.

And although the disease of alcoholism inside of me is like gravity, just waiting to pull me down, AA and the Twelve Steps are like the power that causes an airplane to become airborne: It only works when the pilot is doing the right things to make it work.

c. 2001 AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 456-7

Prayer for the Addicted

Our most loving God, may you shower your blessings on those of us who suffer from chemical dependency. You know how much of a battle it is sometimes to stay clean and sober. Lord, please watch over us this day and smile upon those who are addicts and alcoholics. In Your name. Amen

February 14, 2005

Acts of Kindness are Contagious

Kindness is contagious. A smile begets a smile, simple courtesies encourage politeness, and a thoughtful gesture lingers in the heart. It feels good to do good and doing good deeds make others feel good. And so it goes, one good turn deserves another, and kindness becomes a way of life. Kindness is fundamental to life and it is essential in creating healthy, happy human relationships. We all need to be shown kindness and we all need to express it. Acts of kindness connect us to one another. It gives us hope in humanity.

Whether random or well planned out and articulated, acts of kindness have a domino affect in creating a better world. Generosity of spirit is just as important as monetary contributions. Sincere acts of kindness are almost always appreciated, even if there is no acknowledgment. For true kindness is unconditional with no thought of reciprocation.

Kindness lingers. We may forget the words, or even the person, but we seldom forget the act, a door held open, a cookie from a neighbor, a word of encouragement when we are feeling blue. Try it today. Commit one random act of senseless kindness. Mow a neighbor's lawn, let someone cut in line in front of you, hand out balloons for no reason, say something nice to everyone you meet. Chances are those that you touch today will "pass it on" to others. We can change the world, one smile at a time.

For more information visit http://Actsofkindness.org

The Road to Happy Destiny

We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the great fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the fellowship of the spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the road of happy destiny.

May God bless you and keep you--until then.

Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 164

We are Transformed By Love

Today's thought is:

Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to joy, and makes right royal kings and queens of common clay.
--Robert G. Ingersoll

Love invites us to perform our very best. Knowing we're loved removes the edge of terror when we're contemplating the unfamiliar, the party with strangers, or meeting a new boss.

We are transformed by love. It comforts the questioning mind and the quavering heart. When we know we're loved, we can endure the long moments of suspense while awaiting a hoped-for outcome. And those times we doubt another's love, times that are sure to come, will quickly slip by if we're reaching out with a loving heart to someone else.

Every event promises greater joy when experienced with a spirit laced with love. The robin's song, the laughter of children, the vibrant colors that ooze from the petals of flowers capture our attention when we're feeling loved.

Love heals us and bonds us and promises us a life filled with moments of magic.

You are reading from the book:
Worthy of Love by Karen Casey
Copyright 1985 by Hazelden Foundation.

February 13, 2005

Living in the Moment

"We regretted the past, dreaded the future, and weren't too thrilled about the present." Basic Text, p. 7
Until we experience the healing that happens when we work the Twelve Steps, it is doubtful that we can find a statement more true than the quote above. Most of us come to NA hanging our heads in shame, thinking about the past and wishing we could go back and change it. Our fantasies and expectations about the future may be so extreme that, on our first date with someone, we find ourselves wondering which lawyer we'll use for the divorce. Almost every experience causes us to remember something from the past or begin projecting into the future.

At first, it's difficult to stay in the moment. It seems as though our minds won't stop. We have a hard time just enjoying ourselves. Each time we realize that our thoughts are not focused on what's happening right now, we can pray and ask a loving God to help us get out of ourselves. If we regret the past, we make amends by living differently today; if we dread the future, we work on living responsibly today.

When we work the steps and pray each time we discover we're not living in the present, we'll notice that those times aren't occurring as often as they used to. Our faith will help us live just for today. We'll have hours, even days, when our full attention is focused on the current moment in time, not the regrettable past or fearful future.

Just for today: When I live fully in each moment, I open myself to joys that might otherwise escape me. If I am having trouble, I will ask a loving God for help.

pg. 44 Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous

The Illusion of Controlled Drinking

AA Thought for the Day
(courtesy AAOnline.net)

We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals -- usually brief -- were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.

We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.

c. 2001 AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 30
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Thought to Ponder . . .

When a person tries to control her drinking, she has already lost control.

Intelligence is not Enough

To the intellectually self-sufficient man or woman, many A.A.'s can say, "Yes, we were like you -- far too smart for our own good . . . Secretly, we felt we could float above the rest of the folks on our brain power alone."


Even the most brilliant mind is no defense against the disease of alcoholism. I can't think my way sober. I try to remember that intelligence is a God-given attribute that I may use, a joy -- like having a talent for dancing or drawing or carpentry. It does not make me better than anyone else, and it is not a particularly reliable tool for recovery, for it is a power greater than myself who will restore me to sanity -- not a high IQ or a college degree.


February 12, 2005

The Power Within is Greater than any Fear


I like to think that the basic reason for AA's phenomenal success is the fact that it has among its members so many believable people who give abundant witness to the fact that a person can change within himself, people whose whole attitude affirms the great basic fact that a higher power exists in all of us -- and that it exists in us all, equally.

- From the December 1956 Grapevine
AA Grapevine, November 1990, p. 7

Just Drop It

How do you let go? I just can't let go! It's impossible to let go of this. These are thoughts that may run through our minds when we worry, dwell, and obsess.

Pick up something around you. Pick up this book. Hold it tightly. Then just drop it. Release it. Let it fall right out of your hands.

That's what you do with whatever you're obsessing and dwelling about it. If you pick it up again, drop it one more time. See! Letting go is a skill that anyone can acquire.

Passion and focus can lead us along our path and help us find our way. But obsession can mean we've crossed that line, again. We can be compassionate but firm with ourselves and others as we learn to release our tight grip and just let things go.

God, help me know that if I'm obsessing about a problem, it's not because I have to. Dropping it is always a choice available to me.

Melody Beattie ©

February 09, 2005

Choose to Become Willing

As Bill Sees It

Can We Choose?, p. 4

We must never be blinded by the futile philosophy that we are just the
hapless victims of our inheritance, of our life experience, and of our
surroundings--that these are the sole forces that make our decisions for
us. This is not the road to freedom. We have to believe that we can
really choose.

<< << << >> >> >>

"As active alcoholics, we lost our ability to choose whether we would
drink. We were the victims of a compulsion which seemed to decree
that we must go on with our own destruction.

"Yet we finally did make choices that brought about our recovery. We
came to believe that alone we were powerless over alcohol. This was
surely a choice, and a most difficult one. We came to believe that a
Higher Power could restore us to sanity when we became willing to
practice A.A.'s Twelve Steps.

"In short, we chose to 'become willing,' and no better choice did we ever

1. Grapevine, November 1960
2. Letter, 1966

Your Thoughts Become Your Destiny

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors.
Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.


February 08, 2005

Be Set Free to Live and Love

If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love. . .

Bill W., January 1958
c. 1990 The AA Grapevine Inc., The Best of Bill, p. 58

Rediscover Lost Faith

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

"Why should we be bothered with theological abstractions and religious duties, or with the state of our souls here or hereafter? The here and now was good enough for us. The will to win would carry us through. But then alcohol began to have its way with us. Finally, when all our score cards read 'zero,' and we saw that one more strike would put us out of the game forever, we had to look for our lost faith. It was in A.A. that we rediscovered it. And so can you."

© 1952, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 29

February 07, 2005

Learn to Lose Interest in Unhappy Childhood

"SOME OF US were abused or neglected when we were children. Our parents' attitudes may be the reason that we first became unhappy, but once we've grown up, it's no excuse for us to go on complaining. Our own attitudes sustain that needless suffering and it is ourselves that we must learn to forgive.

Our parents did whatever harm (and/or good) to us they may have done. There's no changing that. If we go on trying to be what we believe they wanted us to be, our nostalgia becomes a form of revenge. It is our way of showing them that they should have given us another chance and that we are preoccupied with how things might have been.

Acting as though we deserved their past mistreatment only makes us miss opportunities for happiness in the present. It may allow us to feel that we were loved when we were children, no matter how badly our parents may have treated us, but to maintain that illusion, we must go on feeling bad about ourselves.

We must learn to lose interest in our unhappy childhoods and forgive ourselves for having stayed stuck for so long."

Serenity Amid the Turbulence

"That word 'serenity' looked like an impossible goal when we first saw the Serenity Prayer. In fact, if serenity meant apathy, bitter resignation, or stolid endurance, then we didn't even want to aim at it.

But we found that serenity meant no such thing. When it comes to us now, it is more as plain recognition -- a clear-eyed, realistic way of seeing the world, accompanied by inner peace and strength. Serenity is like a gyroscope that lets us keep our balance no matter what turbulence swirls around us. And that IS a state of mind worth aiming for."

c. 1975, Living Sober, page 19

Let Go of Unreasonable Fears

Sometimes, saying woohoo means working through our fears. Fear can be a good thing. It can signal danger and protect us. Sometimes our fears are bigger than life and bigger than they need to be.

Many of us have panic and anxiety attacks. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. But sometimes we can calm ourselves down by reinforcing a little reality. Maybe we're not really drowning, after all. Maybe all we have to do to save our lives is just sit up.

Explain to yourself that your fears are unrealistic and you don't need to be that afraid, learn to calm yourself down.

God, help me let go of my unreasonable fears, the ones that are preventing me from living my life.

Melody Beattie ©
An Excerpt from "More Language of Letting Go"

God is Always By Your Side to Help

Just For Today -- This is not a test

"We have found a loving, personal God to whom we can turn."
Basic Text p. 27

"Some of us come into recovery with the impression that life's hardships are a series of cosmic tests designed to teach us something. This belief is readily apparent when something traumatic happens and we wail, "My Higher Power is testing me!" We're convinced that it's a test of our recovery when someone offers us drugs, or a test of our character when faced with a situation where we could do something unprincipled without getting caught. We may even think it's a test of our faith when
we're in great pain over a tragedy in our lives.

But a loving Higher Power doesn't test our recovery, our character, or our faith. Life just happens, and sometimes it hurts. Many of us have lost love through no fault of our own. Some of us have lost all of our material wealth. A few of us have even grieved the loss of our own children. Life can be terribly painful at times, but the pain is not inflicted on us by our Higher Power. Rather, that Power is constantly by our sides, ready to carry us if we can't walk by ourselves. There is no harm that life can do us that the God of our understanding can't heal.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will have faith that my Higher Power's will for me is good, and that I am loved. I will seek my Higher Power's help in times of need.

Just For Today Daily Meditation is the property of Narcotics Anonymous ©
1991 by World Service Office Inc

February 06, 2005

In Recovery, We Make True Friends

Treating others to drinks gave us a kind of satisfaction. We liked to say, "Have a drink on me." But we were not really doing the other people a favor. We were only helping them to get drunk, especially if they happened to be alcoholic.

In A.A. we really try to help other alcoholics. We build them up instead of tearing them down. Drinking created a sort of fellowship. But it really was a false fellowship, because it was based on selfishness. We used our drinking companions for our own pleasure. In A.A. we have real fellowship, based on unselfishness and a desire to help each other. And we make real friends, not fair-weather friends.

A.A. Thought for the Day
©Hazelden Foundation PO Box 176 Center City, MN 55012©

Closeness of a Higher Power Calms Fear

We face fear many times in life. Sometimes it's an inner voice, warning us of danger. Some fears remain from the paranoia caused by our former abuses and excesses. In recovery, we feel many new emotions, and we're afraid because we don't understand them. Any normal feeling can seem abnormal and frightening to a man who is feeling it for the first few times. We may think it isn't manly to be afraid, so we become afraid of our fear! At these times, we need to turn to our Higher Power for guidance.

We have friends we can talk to. When we simply say, "I am afraid" to a trusted friend, the fear may vanish. Sometimes it's not that easy, and we have to talk in detail about our fear. In the end, when we submit our lives to the care of our Higher Power, we know that whatever happens, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

In my fear, help me remember the comfort of my closeness to my Higher Power and my loved ones. I can reach out, and I am never alone.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Today's meditation comes from the book
Touchstones: A Book of Daily Meditations for Men
by Anonymous C 1986

"Change is What Happens..."

"Change is what happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go!"

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world -- that is the myth of the "atomic age" -- as in being able to remake ourselves.
--Mahatma Gandhi

If we had no Winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; If we did not sometimes taste the adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
--Anne Bradstreet

God's love and grace are bigger than all our worries.
--Denise DeKemper

February 05, 2005

~This Week's Spiritual Joke~

When the new patient was settled comfortably on the couch, the psychiatrist began his therapy session.

"As your a new patient with me, I do apologize, but I haven't had time to review your case file and I'm not really aware of your problem." The psychiatrist said, "So perhaps, you should start at the very beginning."

"But of course." Replied the patient, "In the beginning, I created the Heavens and the Earth ..."

Spiritual Wings
© -G.A.Hazelwood

Meditation Primer

"Meditation techniques have been practiced for thousands of years. Originally the goal was to help individuals deepen their understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. And for many, meditation continues to be a spiritual and religious practice. Variations of meditative practice are found in all of the world's religions.

But for a growing number of people, meditation is about clearing your mind and focusing on the moment. So how do you meditate and where do you find the inspiration to quiet your mind? Follow these steps to explore different types of meditation.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practice that falls under the category of mind-body techniques. These types of therapies strengthen communication between your body and your mind. Other types of mind-body techniques include support groups, hypnosis, biofeedback, and creative outlets such as art, music or dance therapy.

While there are different paths to meditation, in general, when you're meditating, you're concentrating. The focus of your concentration can be anything — an object, a sound or even your own breathing. The goal of meditation is to focus o­n the moment, clearing away your worries.

How does meditation help?

Meditation isn't typically used in place of traditional therapies, such as medications your doctor prescribes. Instead, you might use meditation to supplement your other treatments. Meditation can also be used by people who are perfectly healthy as a way to reduce stress.

Medical research into meditation is limited, and the validity of some studies has been questioned. Keeping that in mind, some research shows that meditation may be beneficial for certain conditions when used along with medications or other interventions recommended by your doctor, including:

* Anxiety
* Depression
* Stress
* High blood pressure
* Heart disease

Because meditation can relieve stress, it might also be helpful if you have a condition that's worsened by stress. Meditation may reduce the stress-related effects of allergies, asthma, chronic pain and arthritis, among others.

What are the different types of meditation?

Several different forms of meditation exist. Meditation can involve movement or complete stillness. Here are some different types of meditation.

Concentration meditation: Calming your mind

Concentration meditation involves focusing your attention o­n a single object. Objects of meditation can include your breathing, an image you visualize in your mind or a real image you look at, such as a candle flame or sacred icon. o­ne purpose of concentration meditation is to help you focus your attention and concentrate. If you have a lot o­n your mind and find you're having trouble concentrating in your everyday life, take a break to meditate and return to your project refreshed. Here are some examples.

* Breathe deeply. If you're a beginner, consider starting with this technique. Breathing is a natural function that you won't have to consciously learn. You simply pay attention to your breathing — how it feels when air enters or leaves your nostrils. Don't follow it down to your lungs. When you feel your attention wander, gently return your focus to your breathing.

* Scan your body. When using this technique, you'll focus your attention o­n sensations, such as pain, tension, warmth or relaxation in different parts of your body. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.

* Repeat a sacred name or phrase. A mantra is the name of a sacred deity or a sacred phrase that you repeat silently or aloud. You can create your own mantra, if you'd like. Mantras are the building blocks of transcendental meditation. Examples of religious mantras include a Jesus prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the om mantra of Tibetan Buddhism.

* Exercise your imagination. A related practice is guided imagery, in which someone's voice, whether taped or live, directs you through a visualization exercise. o­nce you reach a state of deep relaxation, most likely through meditation, you create a visual image of whatever the person directing the exercise suggests. Perhaps it's a peaceful place, such as a garden, where you feel calm and safe.

Meditation in motion: A conscious blend of body and mind

Meditation that includes movement can be spontaneous and free-form or involve highly structured, choreographed, repetitive patterns. This type of meditation may be particularly helpful if you find it hard to sit still. The following are examples:

* Yoga. Yoga involves a series of postures, during which you pay special attention to your breathing — exhaling during certain movements and inhaling with others. You can approach yoga as a way to promote physical flexibility, strength and endurance or as a way to enhance your spirituality.

* Tai chi. Tai chi involves gentle, deliberate circular movements combined with deep breathing. As you concentrate o­n the motions of your body, you develop a feeling of peace and tranquility.

* Qi gong. This technique arises from ancient China. Similar to yoga and tai chi, it integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused attention.

* Walking meditation. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere — in a tranquil forest, o­n a city sidewalk or even inside a building where you work. When you use this method, slow down the pace of walking so that you can focus o­n each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus o­n a particular destination. Concentrate o­n your legs and feet, repeating action words such as "lifting," "moving" and "placing" as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot o­n the ground. You can substitute other words if you like. Some people prefer to signal the beginning and end of a walking meditation with a ritual, such as the ringing of a bell, a ceremonial bow, silent prayer or spoken words of thankfulness.

* Sufi walking or dancing. A form of moving meditation that developed in medieval Islam, you'll walk or dance in a rhythmic fashion while chanting. From the Islamic perspective, the intent of the chant is to focus your mind o­n a specific quality of God, or Allah. If you're Muslim and want to focus o­n strength and courage, you could walk or dance with forceful steps, arms swinging, and chant "Allah akbar," meaning "God is great." You can merge this meditation technique with any faith tradition and focus o­n any sacred object or deity. If you don't consider yourself spiritual or religious, you could focus o­n an aspect of a phenomenon, such as birth or nature, and chant words or phrases symbolic of that phenomenon.

Soothing your spirit: Reflection o­n meaning and purpose in your life

Do you find that you feel more hopeful after attending a worship service? Do you enjoy taking time to read a daily meditation? Many people find that taking the time to sing, pray, read and reflect o­n the meaning and purpose of life with like-minded people helps them face life's challenges. Consider these examples:

* Engage in prayer. The best known and most widely practiced example of meditation is prayer. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help or 12-step-recovery section of your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about resources. You may also consider joining a prayer group.

* Read or listen and take time to reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts silently or aloud, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect o­n the meaning that the words bring to mind. You can listen to sacred music, spoken words or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.

* Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention o­n a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the object. The adoration of the Holy Eucharist is an example found in Roman Catholicism.

Getting started

Meditation can calm your mind, relax your body and soothe your spirit. If you're interested in meditation, consider these suggestions as you get started:

* Select a meditation technique that fits your lifestyle and belief system. Many people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, you can start your day with a prayer or take a 15-minute walking meditation break in the afternoon. At the end of your workday, you may find inner peace by attending a yoga or tai chi class at your community center.

* Set aside some time. Start with 5-minute meditation sessions o­nce or twice a day and work up to 20 minutes each time. Unless you have an excellent innate sense of time, keep a clock nearby and glance at it occasionally, or set an alarm that's not jarring when it goes off.

* Keep trying. Be kind to yourself as you get started. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing o­n. You can use an image to bring yourself back to your focus if you'd like. Try this: Picture balloons floating away with your thoughts, or imagine your thoughts as pigeons and mentally clap your hands to get them to fly away. Apply this technique to your worries.

* Make meditation part of your life. Many people prefer to start and end their day with a period of meditation. Others prefer to take meditation breaks during the day. Experiment and you'll likely find out what works best for you.

Meditation is simple and inexpensive. It requires o­nly your time and effort, and the risks are minimal. If you're interested in achieving some relaxation, give meditation a try.

By Mayo Clinic staff
April 22, 2005
© 1998-2005 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use o­nly. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
This article comes from Integrative Spirituality
The URL for this story is here.

Another article from the Buddhist perspective is available here.

February 04, 2005

Acceptance, Then What?

Acceptance, Then What?

One of the teachings that has been emphasized by many teachers is that of cceptance. Accepting what is. What exactly does that mean? Does it mean accepting the way things are? Well, yes it does, but it doesn't stop there.

Acceptance is in a sense acknowledging how things are -- without judgment, without negativity, without anger and blame. It is an impartial observation: I see how this is, I acknowledge that this is so. Yet, does it mean that nothing can change? No. It is said that the only constant is change -- in other words, everything is always is a state of change, either growing or disintegrating. There is no such thing as stability, everything is always moving, changing.

So when we accept things as they are, we are simply noticing them, acknowledging that they exist. For example, let's say that your house is dirty. In order to clean it, you first have to accept, acknowledge, admit, that it is dirty. From that observation, you then decide to clean it (or not). In order for things to change, one must first accept, or acknowledge them as they are.

The important part of acceptance is to accept or notice without judgment,criticism, blame, or anger. We seem to have a tendency to attach emotions to our observations, as in, My house is dirty, I'm such a slob or I just can't seem to keep this house clean. It's overwhelming. These statements are charged with judgment and criticism. Acceptance on the other hand simply says, The house is dirty. The next step then becomes simply another step in the observation process, asking what I can do about it -- and then doing it without having beaten myself up about it.

Yet, so many times, we get angry when we notice behaviors that we have, or that others have. Noticing in itself is impartial -- we simply notice, we are aware of something. But the next step is the one that gets us in trouble -- the part where we attach a judgment to the observation. We look at something and then get into criticizing it, blaming someone, heaping anger upon it. Then we get caught up in focusing on "the problem" and noticing all the things we don't like about it, everything that is "wrong with it".

Acceptance, or non-judgment, on the other hand also notices these things but without the added charge of anger, blame, self-righteousness, etc. Acceptance sees what is, and then goes on to ask if there is anything that can be done. If the answer is yes, then we can move forward. The choice in direction or attitude comes immediately after noticing something -- that's when we have a choice. We can launch into criticism, anger, etc., or we can say, I can do something about this.

To go back to the example of the dirty house. Once I observe that the house is dirty, I can choose the self-recriminating path (bad girl, blaming someone else, etc.) or I can say, what can I do about it now? Maybe I can only do a very small step now -- like deciding that I will pick up one thing now and put it away, I can make a decision to do that each time I walk through the room, or I can "make an appointment" with myself to clean it up after work, or I can stop and clean it up now. Whatever the decision is irrelevant. The important thing is to make a decision to move forward and change the situation -- a decision that is not based on blame, criticism, anger, blame, etc.

First I accept the fact that the house is dirty -- after all if I don't accept that fact, then I get caught up in either pretending it is clean, or simply trying to ignore it. We do this a lot with other situations in our life. We ignore (or criticize) things that we really need to accept (or be aware of), so that we can then go on and make a change. If we are unhappy in our job, we first need to accept that (acknowledge it), then we can ask ourselves what we can do about it. If we feel stressed, we first must notice the stress, and then we can see what has to be done. If we are ill, we must first accept that this is a fact, and then make choices as to what we can do to become well again.

Without self-examination, or self-observation, we do not see the way out. Yet, many times, we are afraid to look closely, because we fear that there is no solution. Yet, there is always a solution, there is always an alternative. If at first the solution or alternative that appears before you seems undoable, then you have choices. You can keep looking for another alternative, you can examine the one that you see and decide which part is workable and which part is not, or of course, you can choose to do nothing about it at the moment. That is what is called free will.

The important part of any decision we make is to accept the choice we are making, and realize that we can always make a different choice later on. For example, let's say that we are dealing with an addiction (either substance abuse, relationship addiction, behavior or habit, etc.). First we acknowledge (accept) that there is an addiction. Then we ask ourselves if we want to change this behavior. If the answer is yes, then we go from there. If the answer is no, then we need to accept the choice we have made -- which doesn't mean we can't make a different choice later. We always have another chance to make another decision.

There are many things in the world that we can look at and judge and criticize and seek to lay blame. However, where does that get us? Simply deeper in the mire of judgment, negativity, and anger. If we apply the concept of acceptance to "the outside world", we accept what is -- in other words we notice it, we become aware of it without getting all worked up about it. We notice the corruption in business, in government, in human behavior. We notice the problems in our educational system. We notice that the environment has been polluted, and damaged. We notice these things
without getting into a rage about them. We accept that these things are currently a reality.

However, accepting that they are a reality, doesn't mean lying down and "taking it". In other words, seeing that "something is" doesn't mean that we can't change it. Once we notice these things (whether in ourselves or in the outside world), the next step is to ask ourselves what we can do about it. There is always something we can do -- usually there are many things we can do. This is where our choices lay -- we can see the ways things are and ignore them; we can see the way things are and get angry and rant and rave and do nothing constructive; or we can see the way things are and choose to make a difference.

The only way our world will change (our personal interior world and the world outside) is for us to take action, in whichever way we feel appropriate. However, it behooves us to realize that acting from acceptance means letting go of the energies of anger, blame, criticism, revenge, self-pity, etc. We can much more efficiently affect change by doing so with an impartial energy -- one that seeks to improve, to heal, to "make better" -- rather than one that want to prove the "other behavior" wrong.

Whether we focus on cleaning our living room, or the planet itself, we will get much better results if we do so from love instead of anger and impatience. We can decide to make a difference because we want to live in harmony, beauty, and peace. We can decide to make changes in our lives because we desire to live in a more harmonious and loving environment. We can decide to make a difference in the world because we have a vision of a better world.

We first accept that changes are needed, then we take the steps to create those changes. It is our life, it is our energy, it is our world. We can choose to live in heaven on earth, or in hell on earth. It is our choice because we decide which direction we go from here. each and every moment of our day. If not us, then who?

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the publisher of InnerSelf Magazine and The Natural Yellow Pages. She produced a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity. Marie can be reached at marie@innerself.com with personal comments and feedback, or to be placed on a mailing list to be advised when her book becomes available. http://www.innerself.com

February 03, 2005

Let Yourself Begin Anew

Beginnings can be delicate or explosive. They can start almost invisibly or arrive with a big bang. Beginnings hold the promise of new lessons to be learned, new territory to be explored, and old lessons to be recalled practiced, and appreciated. Beginnings hold ambiguity, promise, fear, and hope. Don't let the lessons, the experiences of the past, dampen your enthusiasm for beginnings. Just because it's been hard doesn't mean that it will always be that difficult. Don't let the heartbreaks of the past cause you to become cynical, close you off to life's magic and promise. Open yourself wide to all that the universe has to say.

Let yourself begin anew. Pack your bags. Choose carefully what you bring, because packing is an important ritual. Take along some humility and the lessons of the past. Toss in some curiosity and excitement about what you haven't yet learned.

Say your goodbyes to those you are leaving behind. Don't worry who you will meet or where you will go. The way has been prepared. The people you are to meet will be expecting you. A new journey has begun. Let it be magical. Let it unfold.

All parts of the journey are sacred and holy. Take time now to honor the beginning.

From "Journey to the Heart" © 1996 by Melody Beattie

The Truth of Impermanence

"When we encounter difficulty, we often ask: "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" We look at all of life from our own personal viewpoint, seeing ourselves as fixed features in a world fraught with all kinds of bodily harm and unexpected danger. Even as we grow older, we worry about the inevitable changes our body encounters and the fact that life is not endless.

From a Buddhist perspective, human beings cause their own suffering when they consider their egos to be fixed and permanent and therefore at conflict with a world of change. Instead, people should awaken to Dharma, the truth of impermanence. The term Dharma has come to refer to a number of concepts, including truth, virtue, teachings and Nirvana. But Dharma always means the change that occurs when we awaken to the true nature of our lives.

According to Buddhist lore, the Buddha awakened to the Dharma of impermanence while meditating under the Bodhi tree. He realized that all living things - humans, animals and plant life - would someday pass away from the world. Sensing that we all face the same fate, he felt great compassion for all living things and felt deeply that we are all interdependent. He understood that the root of suffering was a lack of acceptance of this fact of impermanence and he decided to devote his life to teaching all people this truth and ending suffering.

But the Dharma cannot be taught to people in a traditional way. Change occurs when we are "filled with" Dharma and can then lead by example. Most importantly, we become aware that all of life is woven together in an interconnected tapestry. Then we feel true compassion for all that is alive."

For more information visit About Dharma

God is in AA

I was always fascinated with the study of scientific principles. I was emotionally and physically distant from people while I pursued Absolute Knowledge. God and spirituality were meaningless academic exercises. I was a modern man of science, knowledge was my Higher Power. Given the right set of equations, life was merely another problem to solve. Yet my inner self was dying from my outer man's solution to life's problems and the solution was alcohol. In spite of my intelligence, alcohol became my Higher Power. It was through the unconditional love which emanated from A.A. people and meetings that I was able to discard alcohol as my Higher Power. The great void was filled. I was no longer lonely and apart from life. I had found a true power greater than myself, I had found God's love. There is only one equation which really matters to me now: God is in A.A.


February 02, 2005

Rescued by Surrendering

Characteristic of the so-called typical alcoholic is a narcissistic egocentric core, dominated by feelings of omnipotence, intent on maintaining at all costs its inner integrity. . . . Inwardly the alcoholic brooks no control from man or God. He, the alcoholic, is and must be the master of his destiny. He will fight to the end to preserve that position.

A.A. COMES OF AGE, p. 311

The great mystery is: "Why do some of us die alcoholic deaths, fighting to preserve the 'independence' of our ego, while others seem to sober up effortlessly in A.A.?" Help from a Higher Power, the gift of sobriety, came to me when an otherwise unexplained desire to stop drinking coincided with my willingness to accept the suggestions of the men and women of A.A. I had to surrender, for only by reaching out to God and my fellows could I be rescued.


Seek to Serve Others

"Goodwill is best exemplified in service; proper service is doing the right thing for the right reason."

Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous p. ix

The spiritual core of our disease is self-centeredness. In dealing with others, the only motive our addiction taught us was selfishness — we wanted what we wanted when we wanted it. Obsession with self was rooted in the very ground of our lives. In recovery, how do we root self-obsession out?

We reverse the effects of our disease by applying a few very simple spiritual principles. To counteract the self-centeredness of our addiction, we learn to apply the principle of goodwill. Rather than seeking to serve only ourselves, we begin serving others. Rather than thinking only about what we can get out of a situation, we learn to think first of the welfare of others. When faced with a moral choice, we learn to stop, recall spiritual principles, and act appropriately.

As we begin "doing the right thing for the right reason;" we can detect a change in ourselves. Where once we were ruled by self-will, now we are guided by our goodwill for others. The chronic self-centeredness of addiction is losing its hold on us. We are learning to "practice these principles in all our affairs"; we are living in our recovery, not in our disease.

Just for today: Wherever I am, whatever I do, I will seek to serve others, not just myself. When faced with a dilemma, I will try to do the right thing for the right reason.

pg. 34

February 01, 2005

Avoiding Manipulation

Avoiding Manipulation
by Jerry Minchinton

We can define manipulation as "getting people to do what you want without giving them something they value in return".

How does manipulation work? When someone says to you, "If you don't help me clean my house I'm going to be mad at you," that person is attempting to manipulate you. He is not offering you anything except to withhold a display of bad temper, which he could do in any case. But if the same friend says, "If you'll help me clean my house, I'll take you to the baseball game this afternoon," and your friend knows you love baseball, that is not attempted manipulation because you are being offered something you value in exchange for your efforts.

Or if we tell someone, "I'll be very disappointed if you don't come to my party," we're trying to manipulate her by indicating she will be responsible for the state of our emotions, a highly dubious "privilege" at best. On the other hand, suppose we say, "If you come to my party, I'll introduce you to the famous producer you want to meet." If the person we're talking with is an aspiring actress and the famous producer actually is coming to the party, then we are non-manipulatively offering her something she desires in exchange for what we're requesting.


Why do people seek to manipulate us? For reasons ranging from the meanest to the most benevolent:

They derive emotional satisfaction from others' negative reactions.

Some people, because they are so dissatisfied with themselves and their lives, try to create problems for us so we will feel bad, too. If they are able to make us unhappy or uncomfortable they can focus on our pain instead of their own and momentarily feel better.

Manipulating others gives them a feeling of power.

People who consider themselves weak and believe they lack power sometimes try to manufacture it by persuading people to do as they wish. When they are successful, they experience a temporary feeling of domination. Unfortunately for them and those with whom they associate, the sensation dissipates quickly, and they must continually reinforce it.

They believe they aren't important enough.

Some individuals believe they are so unimportant that others are unlikely to give them what they want simply for the asking. To make up for their lack of bargaining chips, they try to convince us we should feel guilty or ashamed if we do not do as they ask, thinking (often correctly) that our desire to avoid those painful feelings will be so great that we'll do what they want.

They believe certain tasks are beneath them.

Some profoundly misguided people tend to regard us more as servants than as equals. Because of the lowly status they've assigned us, they expect us to do tasks they're averse to doing themselves, whether because of their ignorance, reluctance, laziness, or an unwillingness to clean up after themselves.

They don't know how to do or get what they want.

Some people believe themselves incapable of achieving their goals directly, as mature adults do, so they feel they have no choice but to manipulate us so we will achieve their goals for them.

They are sure their manipulation will benefit those manipulated.

This idea is embraced by fanatics of every kind, who have deluded themselves into believing they know what's best or right for practically everyone. Since they are certain they are gifted with a special insight, they feel gratified if they can manipulate "less knowledgeable" people like us into taking the path they've chosen.

In fact, most would-be manipulators are not genuinely bad; they are just weak, self-centered, insensitive, inconsiderate, and misguided. They think of those they seek to manipulate as members of a lower order of creature, a less important form of life, whose needs and desires are also less important. To manipulators, other people are less "real" than they are, somewhat like a clever puppy or a beast of burden, which is to say, a nice enough creature, but one without a real existence of its own.


Manipulative techniques vary, but in general, manipulators try to get our emotions to work against us. They do this by saying or doing something they hope will induce in us guilt, shame, anger, fear, or some other uncomfortable emotion. They may imply, for instance, that our failure to do as they wish will bring about a major disaster. They may describe in minute detail the various kinds of unpleasantness that will occur if we neglect to take the action they suggest. They may insist certain things are our duty or responsibility, or they may appeal to us on the basis of morality, ethics, or anything else they think might persuade us to agree with them. Some will pull out every emotional stop and tell us of the horrible pain they'll experience if we "let them down". We may be told we'll feel better about ourselves, that we'll make the manipulator extremely happy, that he or she will love us forever, or any number of other essentially meaningless terms.

Manipulators' speech is frequently laced with phrases such as these:

"You should. . ." "You ought to . . ." "If I were you, I'd . . ." "It's for the best," "I only want what's best for you," "You'll thank me for this later," "What will people say?" "What will people think?"

They use these and many other phrases which imply we will suffer a censure or penalty of some kind if we don't meet the "obligation" they've chosen for us.

What element do all these techniques have in common? The manipulator offers us nothing we value in exchange for doing what he or she asks


Since manipulators often seem to get what they want, it appears as though manipulation works for them and against those being manipulated. But in fact, no one involved in manipulative transactions gains any real benefit. Appearances to the contrary, manipulation is a game played only by victims. Whether we manipulate or are manipulated, we lose. And interestingly, no matter which end of the manipulative spectrum we're on, we experience the same negative feelings, although not for the same reasons:

Powerlessness: Manipulators, because they feel powerless, try to create power for themselves by persuading others to do things for them. If we are manipulated we feel powerless, too, because we have allowed the manipulator to dictate our course of action.

Inadequacy: Manipulators believe they lack certain characteristics and skills possessed by most others, so they try to gain access to these qualities by "using" those they believe have them. If we are manipulated we feel inadequate, too, because we think if only we were smarter or quicker, we could have escaped or outwitted the manipulator.

Victimization: Manipulators feel victimized because they believe life has dealt unfairly with them and given them far less than they deserve. Those of us on the receiving end of their manipulation also feel victimized, because we feel we must do as the manipulator asks, even though we don't want to.

Anger and frustration: Manipulators often feel irritated and thwarted because those whom they try to manipulate either fail to do what they ask or do it differently than they wish. Those whom they manipulate experience the same feelings as they resentfully do what the manipulator wants them to do.

As you can see, when manipulation takes place no one wins. If we allow ourselves to be manipulated, we sacrifice our right to self-determination, our self-esteem, our time, money, or energy and, often, our principles. Letting others control us, however briefly, makes us undervalue and compromise ourselves.

If we manipulate others, we are diminished by our maneuvering. We surrender our self-respect, resourcefulness, and self-reliance when we try to use others to achieve our goals. Worse still, if we are successful, we remain childish, emotionally immature, and dependent throughout life.


So what are we to do? Unless we have knowingly obligated ourselves, when we're asked to do something that a) we don't want to do, b) isn't our obligation, and c) isn't a genuine need, we can refuse with a clear conscience. We don't have to feel guilty. We don't have to get caught up in elaborate excuses or contrived explanations. When manipulators ask for our help, we just have to say, "No".

This will no doubt shock those who are accustomed to our acquiescence, and it will be difficult for us at first if we are in the habit of giving in to unreasonable people. But saying, "No", is an acquired ability, and we will discover that the more we use it, the more proficient we become.

It's fine to exchange favors with people, of course, and it is commendable to voluntarily help others who are literally unable to help themselves. But when people try to create a feeling of obligation in us or try to persuade us to do something we dislike just to please them, beware: no matter how much they emphasize that doing what they want will benefit us, it's rarely our welfare with which they're concerned.

Important Ideas to Consider

. My time and energy are as valuable as those of anyone else.

. My "not wanting to" is at least as important as the other person's "wanting me to".

. I definitely do not have to do everything I am asked to do.

. I don't have to provide an excuse for not wanting to do something.

. Only people who want to manipulate me insist that I should.

. If I don't say "No", my silence can be taken as a "Yes".

. Cooperation is a good alternative to manipulation.

. It is easier to avoid being manipulated if I am not a manipulator myself.

. My wants, needs, and happiness are as important as anyone's.

. I have the right to say "No" to doing things I dislike or find objectionable or inconvenient.

. I am not stubborn or mean just because I don't want to do what others ask.

Questions to Ask Yourself

. Do I often feel I've been taken advantage of?

. Do I attempt to manipulate others? If I do, what are my reasons?

. Do I think I would be able to avoid a lot of unpleasant tasks if I were smarter?

. Can people usually talk me into doing things I don't want to do? If they can, why do I let them?

. If I allow people to manipulate me, what manipulative approach seems to work best with me? What can I do to change this?

. Do I feel guilty when I don't do what people ask of me?

. Do I frequently feel uncomfortable, resentful, and angry? Do I feel that way more around some people than around others?

An Experiment

When people attempt to manipulate you, tell them exactly how you feel about the matter in a positive, but firm manner. To prepare yourself for doing this, practice saying the phrases "No, thanks", "Thanks, I'd rather not", "Sorry, but I've made other plans", "No, I don't want to", "Because I don't want to", and "I don't have to give you a reason", until you can say them with sincerity and conviction. Your skill will improve quickly with experience.

This article is excerpted from Wising Up: How To Stop Making Such A Mess of Your Life, © 1999, by Jerry Minchinton. Arnford House, Vanzant, MO, USA.

About The Author:
Jerry Minchinton has read extensively about self-esteem, motivation, and Eastern philosophies and religions. He combines the insight he's gained from these studies with practical business experience to shed light on some age-old problems of human behavior. He is the author of Maximum Self-Esteem: The Handbook For Reclaiming Your Sense of Self-Worth, and 52 Things You Can Do To Raise Your Self-Esteem. He can be reached at arnford@townsgr.com.