8 Ways To Find Beauty In Everything.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the world for what it is. Or for what it isn’t. Or basically to enjoy it for what it is, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s especially hard when you’re going through a rough patch or have depression in general. Existential misery, the feeling that everything is meaningless or the cloud to every silver lining will blind you to the positives and leave you feeling miserable. And when you’re in that sort of a place you can’t always feel better about it.

But there are some ways to lift yourself up when you’re down and to prevent yourself from being dragged down quite so harshly. Preventative medicine for the mind, or a supplement of happiness to tide you through, as it were.

1: Respect yourself.

It can be hard to do anything at all when you don’t respect yourself. To try and cultivate self-respect, remember to always make note and give thanks when you get things right, so that these become more memorable. Learn about your own flaws and work against them when they can be fixed and accept when they can’t. From time to time, try and think of yourself as a child or a pet. Would you treat a child or puppy with the amount of love, care and attention you treat yourself? Remember that you deserve to be happy, especially when it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

2: Respect others.

It is just as important to respect those around you. When you have no respect for yourself you will breed sadness, as you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour or the silver linings in life. But when you have no respect for others you will breed anger, as their flaws will routinely disappoint and offend you. Try and think about other people rationally. Look at their skills and flaws and ask yourself if your demands are reasonable. Remember that they may not be capable of what you expect of them, and that they have the free will to deal with their flaws or embrace them. You have no power over them.

3: Hone your senses.

Everything in life can be experienced through all the senses. We have the five main senses, of course, but we also have the surrounding senses, such as proprioception, time perception and intuition. Learn about all of them and from time to time use meditation to bring them all out. Try observing and painting every colour in a flower, or listening to every instrument in a piece of music. By working on your senses you can learn that some things may have an awful scent or colour, but a pleasant sound or atmosphere.

4: Indulge your senses.

Once you have spent some time observing every sense, try and indulge or even overwhelm them. Listen to genres of music you’ve never heard before. Look at psychedelic art. Try eating high concentrations of foods that are often diluted, like saccharine, or low concentrations of foods that are often strong, like coffee. Push yourself to identify more elements of life. Try and meditate to speed up or slow down your perception of time. Try and feel every part of your body without touching it with your hands. Indulge every sense you can isolate.

5: Look for beauty.

And when you’re experiencing everything at least a little bit and striving to experience everything fully, you want to find beauty wherever you look. Maybe a tall tree in your neighbour’s garden is blocking the light from your own. But you can plant shade-loving plants beneath it and enjoy the shelter it gives from rain and sun. Maybe your child plays loud music in the afternoons. But the music may have agreeable qualities that you hadn’t noticed. Maybe chocolate tastes too sweet for you. But the bitter, astringent or spiced tastes that cocoa has shouldn’t be neglected. The beauty is there, if only you look for it carefully.

6: Protect yourself.

That said, be sure to guard yourself against things that have more harm than beauty in them. If chocolate is genuinely too unpleasant for you, then ensure you don’t have to eat it by warning people and learning to politely turn it down. If a certain type of music gives you migraines, makes you feel ill at ease or is simply irritating, explain this to anyone who plays it around you. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can take small steps to remove unnecessary harm from your life.  And these steps are entirely your own responsibility.

7: Disregard unharmful flaws.

However, some flaws are merely mild annoyances that cause no real harm. If a certain type of music annoys you and your neighbour insists on playing it, then there is nothing you can do. It is causing you no real harm, so learn to ignore these things. Inconvenient, annoying or frustrating things happen all the time. The world doesn’t care that your father died in a train derailment, that incense gives you headaches or that you take longer to cross a certain section of a road than others would. Trains, incense and crossings won’t stop existing just because they bother you. If the thing you perceive as a flaw causes you no harm, then learn to ignore it whenever you can’t avoid it.

8: Be honest about positives and negatives.

There are good sides and bad sides to life. Whatever your outlook, things will happen that will make you sad, hurt, angry or frustrated. Regarding these things, the only outlook that helps is acceptance. Sometimes you will find something that has no value to you. So accept them for what they are. Death is death. Devastation is devastation. Disease is disease. They may hold no reward for you, but they’re not meant to. They have their own role to play in life which, however harmful it is to you, is benefiting something, somewhere. Trying to deny their existence or the harm they cause you will only make you less happy. All you can do is accept that they’re there, accept that they play a part in this world and keep on going. After all, the pigs you eat for breakfast and the microorganisms you kill with antibiotics would have a hard time seeing the good in you too!

And those are eight ways to see the beauty in everything. If you make an effort, you will find that everything has something beautiful about it, even if that beauty is completely useless to you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Why Do We Connect To “Things”?

In a world of abundance, it’s only rational to consider that people will want to have things. Humans are meant to accumulate, exchange and use resources, be they consumables, usables, culture or consumable replacements such as money.

But we also see an interesting phenomenon in the Western world that is not quite as strongly reflected anywhere else. We see an extreme attachment to physical objects that don’t have a specific use or job. And, because we have so many things, this attachment can happen in five, ten, a hundred objects. On a simple level, almost everyone has an item they feel attached to, such as a simple wedding band or a tatty childhood toy. In extreme cases we see problem hoarders: people who accumulate things everyone else would consider rubbish to an extent where their homes are full and their lives are impossible, but who can’t bear the thought of parting with it. Often we see a deeper attachment to these things than the person feels for unknown humans. Sometimes the person will feel better about driving away a loved one than parting with their things.

But why does this happen?

As mentioned above, there are only four purposes for something in a human’s life:

1: Consumables. Things you need to use to survive that cannot be reused or recycled. Water, food are the basics. Firewood, underwear and deodorant are less obvious consumables.

2: Usables. Similar to consumables except they are not quite as degraded by use and are often not absolute essentials. Houses, machines or phones come to mind.

3: Consumable replacements. Bartering chips we use to obtain consumables and usables. The main one today is money in physical and digital form.

4: Culture. Something that serves no utilitarian purpose, but provides entertainment, satisfaction and a bonding opportunity with the individual’s social group.

When we consider what these things often are, we realize they are not consumables, replacements or usables. They may have started out that way, such as a favourite jumper, a childhood toy or a phone, but they have been elevated beyond that. The jumper isn’t worn for warmth, the toy isn’t played with and the phone isn’t used only practically. They aren’t anything practical, they’re “just things”. These things must, therefore, be cultural.

However they aren’t cultural in the traditional sense. Art is culture, ceremony is culture, fashion is culture. These are things shared by groups of people. They are understood and appreciated. They have a shared meaning, shared rules, shared boundaries.

The things people become attached to don’t have that shared meaning. Nobody will know or understand why your toy cat is so special to you until you explain its history, its meaning to you. Even then they may not understand. Your phone does not bond you to people. At best it creates a weak association-by-trend between you and users of similar phones or brands. At worst it serves as a divider between you and the people you most often interact with.

So they aren’t culture. They are culture surrogates.

In societies where they still have faith, tradition, arts and a life rich with meaning, they rarely need such items. Parents will hand their last remaining childhood toy to their own children, knowing it might be torn apart. Children will more likely treasure an item with a shared meaning than a personal one. After all, this is how culture is born.

But our society rejects culture. We actively fight it. We seek to understand a little bit of every culture around us and embrace none of them.

So we have branded “things” as surrogates for religion. They help us bond, find new people, find some sort of a meaning to life.

We have childhood “things” as surrogates for memory and family. They help us remember pleasant times, feel loved, feel worthy.

We have nonsensical “things” as surrogates for art. They make us feel individual, unique, eclectic and special.

We keep all these things around us. When we are lacking associates we find a new brand to associate ourselves with. When we are lacking memory or love we find a new trinket to hold some memories in. When we are lacking individuality, artistic appreciation or visual stimulus and pleasure we find a new random item to put in our room to collect dust.

And I guess having a few of these things is just natural. We’re human, after all, so a family heirloom or a painting that actually resonates with us will elicit strong emotions of joy, belonging, satisfaction and meaning. But do we really need quite so many of them?

What about you? What “things” do you have in your home? Are you a clutter bug or a minimalist? Do you find yourself attaching meaning to objects easily? Or do you have one or two things you need in your life and everything else is disposable? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

The Importance of Sacrifice.

Lent started last Wednesday. Which means that for Christians a time of self-deprivation and religious reflection has barely begun. Pretty much every religion has a tradition of enforcing humility, fasting and the giving up of your leisures, to surrender your earthly possessions, your greed and your desire where they are affecting your spiritual growth.

But the purpose of such tradition can be lost on most of us. We’re pampered, coddled souls in a world that offers us nearly everything we demand. Not only that, but we’re sheltered from the sufferings of others and we hide from things that our ancestors and relatives in distant lands witness daily. We haven’t really known scarcity. We haven’t really known poverty. We haven’t really known death, disaster, loneliness. Even when you’ve gone a day without food, you’re moments away from a bite, a bit of kindness away from sustenance. The idea of going a week without food and with none anywhere in sight is gone. We don’t know true hunger or true deprivation. We just know mild forms of suffering, catch glimpses of it through a screen or over a sanitary barrier.

And as such we desperately need sacrifice. We can’t actually experience the mental state of scarcity this way. After all, you can easily just go and buy a chocolate bar during Lent or get yourself a flashy red car as a Buddhist. Nothing stops you. But at least it will help us reflect on how much we have and how little we need.

Because we really are overwhelmed. We’re obese, abusing medications, developing alcoholism and drug addiction, not managing to sustain relationships, giving children vaccines for STDs, shopping our way into debt, partying all night with our 500 facebook “friends” and still somehow bored, lonely and sad. But it isn’t, as some people assume, despite the abundance and freedom we have. It’s because of it. There is too much of everything, it comes too easily and it’s killing us. Like many animals, humans are meant to jump at every chance to eat, rest, have fun, reproduce and socialize. But we’re surrounded by these chances and we’re indulging them too much. These necessary acts we used to perform to keep us alive have become abundant indulgences that make us ill.

Not only have they become indulgences. Because we have almost no upper limit for these acts, they have also become booming industries, with vast numbers of brands and products competing for our attention and wealth. So we’re not just surrounded by food, drugs, media, shops, sex and events. We’re also surrounded by constant reminders of them, a constant pressure to consume.

So eventually, in our own little way, we cave in. We eat too much, take drugs (in one form or another), enjoy casual sexual stimulation, overspend and generally obey the media around us, wondering why we’re still not happy.

And we’re not happy because too much is never enough. I used to be obese. Between that and the preceding eating disorder, I have actually lost my appetite signals, have an overly flexible stomach and can eat almost continuously. When I was obese, however much I ate wasn’t ever enough. I needed more and, even as I was getting fatter, congratulated myself on my restraint. Even after losing weight, that feeling of permanent hunger was so hard to fight that I would indulge, guiltily nibbling at unhealthy foods to kill the cravings. But then I tried fasting. It was as part of a Paleo style diet and I figured that if my ancestors managed to fast for a day once in a while, so could I. The first twelve hours were tough. I was sure that the next day I would be famished. But I wasn’t. The following day I ate moderately and cleanly, not craving junk foods and not wanting massive portions. I felt genuinely satisfied on what would have previously been seen as “too little”. And, for the first time in years, I felt full. Too much was never enough, but sacrifice was plenty.

Likewise for everything. Living on a lower income than you actually have is more rewarding and enjoyable than keeping up with the Joneses. Drinking only on special events improves the taste and enjoyment of the alcohol and helps you drink less, sometimes you’ll even turn down a drink even when you’re “allowed” one. Working your way through lethargy leaves you feeling more rewarded and at ease by nightfall than sleeping or resting until noon does. Spending time in your own company leads you to better appreciate whose company is good and whose is bad. Too much is not enough, sacrifice is plenty.

So give up something, anything, everything. Maybe for Lent, maybe for a day, maybe for a year or forever. Reflect on the abundance around you, on the pleasure of indulging in a controlled manner, on the joy of prohibition and the freedom of sacrifice. Your body, mind and soul will thank you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Humans Cannot Act Against Human Nature

“We are exactly as nature “intended”. We couldn’t exist otherwise, as the process of evolution would have cut us from the tree long ago. Our minds are exactly as nature “intended”. All nature “intends” us to be is successful or dead. Our minds have made us what we are, have made us immensely successful, and that includes our rational decisions regarding our own instincts. As we are still alive, it’s safe to assume nature “intended” reason to be part of our human nature.”

Again, as always, let’s be clear on the definitions of “human nature”. The Oxford English Dictionary currently defines it as:

“The general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioural traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.”

So, that would make “human nature” better defined as “human behaviours, feelings and other characteristics”. By paying special attention to the word “psychological”, we note that we are not talking exclusively about actions committed, ideals or instincts, but a combination of all three and more. By paying special attention to the word “regarded”, we note two things. Firstly, the opinion of human nature is not an absolute. It is perceived to be, or “regarded” as shared by all humans, however this does not mean that any specific behaviour actually is. Secondly, as an opinion, it is subjective. Need I say more?

As the view on what constitutes “human nature” is subjective, generalized and broad, we must try and regard “human nature” without trying to make it objective (implying complete knowledge of the human condition and mind), absolutist (making it automatically incorrect, as an absolute is either right or wrong and one exception makes it wrong) or specific (forcing us to focus on the nuances rather than the entire state). To do so, let’s say that “human nature” is an abstract concept. It’s intangible, we can’t witness it, but it is necessary and at the very core of our every behaviour, feeling and characteristics. It is the puppet-master behind the scenes that triggers everything we are, say, think and do. Human nature is everything that makes a human human.

Now, here is where most find their first and final pitfall: we often confuse human nature with pure instinct. We assume that, as every aspect of human nature must stem from our biology and, therefore, our instincts, that the purest form of human nature is animal instinct. That, if we act against our baser drives to eat, fight, mate, flee, or our simplest impulses we are somehow acting against human nature.

Yet, if you observe how humans behave, this Freudian simplicity is… well, too simple. Humans are social animals. Humans are rational animals. We may feel an impulse to eat, but first inspecting the berry is wise. We may feel an impulse to mate, but mounting the Alpha’s partner is unwise. We may feel an impulse to flee, but to first scan the area, follow a lead or consider other evasion tactics is also wise. The right, rational decision can make or break our success. Our behaviours are just as much influenced by our minds and society as they are by our impulses and environment. Ergo, our human nature is just as much rational and social as it is instinctive.

In fact, our minds are what make humans distinct from other animals to begin with. Instinct and impulse did not create metropoli. Sure, you could argue that the desire for food, mates and safety created metropoli. But, without our minds and social natures, humans would, like so many other animals, have settled for following the migrating game and gathering seasonal produce, forcing ourselves upon suitable partners and defending ourselves through evasive and defensive means. Our minds are absolutely necessary to explain our successes. Our social structures are also necessary, as, without intricate hierarchies and extensive bonding and trust, sedentary life and all the things that can be created within it would be impossible. Without our minds, we are animals. Without society, we can’t use our minds. When we have both, we are human. The take-away message is that, if our minds and society make us human, then anything created by our minds and our societies also stems from human nature.

“If we take the angle that reason and society are also parts of human nature, then we can understand why people act against their instincts or best interests. The woman who kills her own child does so, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because she believed it was the best option. An anorexic starves themselves, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because they feel they should. Humans engage in unnecessary risk-taking, not because we are following an impulse but because we consider the reward to be worth the risk. We use our minds to overcome our instincts, and often to excellent results.”

This goes a long way toward explaining that which Freudian simplicity and the absolute perspective of instinct=human nature fail to: why is it that humans act against our instincts, our impulses, even against our own best interests? If all of human nature could genuinely be boiled down to our base instincts, the survival of our genes, or sex, food and survival, then many behaviours are hard to explain. For example, faith is not instinctive, about your genes or about survival. On the contrary, faith often requires humans to make sacrifices, act against their basic reproductive instincts and even die. Yet faith continues to form part of our lives, as it fulfills emotional, social and spiritual needs that go beyond what an animal requires, but are necessary for humans to thrive.

Likewise, a mother who plans to kill her child, a man committing suicide, an anorexic starving themselves or a voluntary celibate are acting directly against their main biological imperatives. Often, they are viewed as “outliers”, or “exceptions” that act “against their nature”. However, this is just an excuse for a limited, absolutist view of human nature; a way of arguing that the absolute view is still correct, rather than accepting that it has been proven incorrect by a variation. Yet, these “exceptions” are very much the norm. If you wish to argue that the main driver of human nature is survival of the individual, then you must ignore the fact that most humans engage in risk-taking that threatens their lives, directly or indirectly, often for no apparent reason. If you wish to argue that the main driver of human nature is the spread of our genes, then you must ignore the fact that humans without access to contraception are very consciously selective about their choices of mate, rather than going by their horniness alone. On the other hand, if we take the angle that reason and society are also parts of human nature, then we can understand why people act against their instincts or best interests. The woman who kills her own child does so, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because she believed it was the best option. An anorexic starves themselves, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because they feel they should. Humans engage in unnecessary risk-taking, not because we are following an impulse but because we consider the reward to be worth the risk. We use our minds to overcome our instincts, and often to excellent results.

Of course, you could then say that the mind is an add-on that complicates matters. That, without the mind, we would still exist. That to act without the mind is to act the way our bodies were made to act. But to deny the mind is to deny humanity. By negating the mind, you are implying our entire lives would be better if we were instinctively driven, as “nature intended”. But nature did not “intend” us to be irrational beasts. Nature made us as we were and we took what we were and turned into what we are today. If applied to everything, the negation of the mind would cause society to disintegrate and humans to devolve. If we exclusively ate what felt good, we would get ill. But it’s natural to eat what feels good. If we exclusively eat as our ancestors ate, we would suffer famines, poisonings and malnutrition. But it’s natural to eat following nature and the seasons. If we exclusively mated with people we see as “hot” and did so whenever we wanted, we would have many illegitimate, attractive children that would die from lack of social structure, creating a bottleneck. But it’s natural to want sex with lots of hot people. If we exclusively mated with those who are functional and were very selective about ever mating before bonding, matings would be few and few matings would result in children. But it’s natural to select the very best mates we can obtain. If we acted on every impulse, would we be being “truer” to our nature? Even if acting on these impulses killed us en masse, resulting in another bottleneck or even the extinction of the human race? We are small, weak, maladaptive animals with extraordinary brains. We are exactly as nature “intended”. We couldn’t exist otherwise, as the process of evolution would have cut us from the tree long ago. Our minds are exactly as nature “intended”. All nature “intends” us to be is successful or dead. Our minds have made us what we are, have made us immensely successful, and that includes our rational decisions regarding our own instincts. As we are still alive, it’s safe to assume nature “intended” reason to be part of our human nature.

“If you are currently trying to explain why you choose to act on your instincts rather than not, you are making your instincts a matter of reason. If you try and rationalize how you embrace instinct and reject reason, or how you decide which instincts and impulses are to be followed and which not, you are making this a matter of reason. If you try and explain why all reason is, at its core, instinct-driven, you are making this a matter of reason. As a rational animal, the only way you can escape your rational and social nature is by rationalizing yourself into a state of unreason or opting for a lobotomy.”

Society, culture and faith are human. They stem from our needs and are an integral part to how our minds work. To argue that instinct trumps culture in the game of “what should we do” is, as explained above, to regress. To act against all society, all culture or all faith is to destroy these structures. By destroying social constructs we remove society as we know it, which removes the need for humanity as we know it. Therefore, we must act in accordance, or at least in harmony with our society. And that includes culture, trends, fads, religion, etc. As a human, to choose to act against your instincts is part of your nature, as you are a rational animal. As a human, to consider society in your reasoning is part of your nature, as you are a social animal. Of course, you may choose to reject religion and insist there is nothing out there. But that is also a belief, replacing the absence of a belief in a faith. You may choose to join or create a counter-culture or even an anti-culture. But that is still the formation of culture. You may choose hermitage, but that is still a socially-motivated choice. You can’t escape your human nature.

Finally, let’s consider that your choices and actions matter more than your instincts. Indeed, if you are currently trying to explain why you choose to act on your instincts rather than not, you are making your instincts a matter of reason. If you try and rationalize how you embrace instinct and reject reason, or how you decide which instincts and impulses are to be followed and which not, you are making this a matter of reason. If you try and explain why all reason is, at its core, instinct-driven, you are making this a matter of reason. As a rational animal, the only way you can escape your rational and social nature is by rationalizing yourself into a state of unreason or opting for a lobotomy. Even then, no success is guaranteed. Your mind makes you human. It makes you who you are. It gives you the choices that let you embrace or reject instinct, embrace or reject society, embrace or reject faith.

And, as a human, as a rational animal, your only biological imperative is to make whatever choices you believe are correct. If you believe you should not reproduce, you are acting against your genes’ desires, but in accordance to human nature. If you wholly embrace your basic instincts, you are acting against your reason, but in accordance to human nature. If you strictly control your diet, you are acting against your basic impulses, but in accordance to human nature. You may be biologically successful or not. Socially successful or not. You may embrace nihlism and reject any concept of success in this world. Move and behave according to your goals. But don’t try and pretend you, or anyone else, is acting against human nature. That is a complete impossibility.

The 12 Steps are for Everyone.

Let’s start by addressing what the Twelve Steps are.

The Twelve Steps are a life guideline, designed to help those recovering from an addiction, trauma or something else that has overwhelmed them and taken control of their lives. They were originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous in an effort to provide some sort of structure to the recovery process, encouraging members to share their progress, discuss their efforts through the different stages and generally to stick it out.

They are as follows:

12s3

1:    We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2:    Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3:    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4:    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5:    Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6:    Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7:    Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8:    Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9:    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Of course, everyone can read them as they wish to, as long as none of the interpretations directly contradict the main step. For example, it would be fine to say that making amends with someone would remind them of a very painful incident that they’re not ready to deal with yet, so you should wait and not make amends for now. However, to say that making amends would remind you of your errors and make you feel ashamed, so you should not make amends, is not a valid interpretation of step 9.

12s4

Here are my interpretations, in the context of addiction:

1: To accept that the addiction has taken over their life and interfered with it. It’s not a habit any more. They don’t have control over it. It rules their every decision and is stopping them from living as they want to or should.
Example: Someone who doesn’t go out with friends any more, as their desire to feed the habit is more intense and urgent than their desire to spend time with their friends.

2: To welcome the belief that, whilst their person has been overwhelmed by addiction, there is something that can help them. To welcome the belief that their powerlessness doesn’t mean there is no power that can help them.
Example: Someone deciding that, despite their repeated personal failures at quitting, God’s power and love could guide them through this attempt.

3: To give the power over. Now they have accepted their power is useless and that there is a power that can help them, they must actively give the reins to this power. They surrender control and welcome any changes the power wants to make.
Example: Someone giving the control of their body over to Nature and asking Her what she wants them to do, how she wants them to act. Ceasing to be a servant to their addiction and becoming a servant to the Higher Power.

4: Now they have accepted that they are not in control and allowed a HP to take control for them, they must practise introspection. Ask themselves what flaws of character, what moral dilemmas, what poor decisions led to this state.
Example: Someone writing a list of the problems that contribute to their addiction and tracking them back.
-I have always felt awkward in social situations. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel awkward around people.
-It helped me forget my depression. This depression started a few years into starting the habit.
-I felt better being around people. This started when I first began abusing the substance.
-I feel ashamed of what I do when under the influence. This makes me want to consume enough to excuse my behaviour. This started a few years ago.

5: Now that they accept what their problem is (step 1) and have found out why the problem took hold (step 4), they need to be honest about it. Actively telling themselves fulfills the same purpose as step 1, in that it helps them accept the nature of their problem. Telling their Higher Power is a form of confession and a sort of spiritual accountability; the idea of confessing is to accept that you did something wrong and that you will actively avoid doing it ever again; by confessing, they are asking the Higher Power to guide them and hold them accountable. Telling a trustworthy, loving person is a second layer of accountability as well as an emotional outlet. They will from now on help them stick to the path and hold them accountable when they themselves do not. They will also become someone to lean on in the sufferer’s times of need.
Example: Someone admits to themselves, The Lord and their partner that they have a problem and know where it comes from and why they haven’t defeated it before. They read their list out loud, addressing themselves, The Lord and their partner. They accept that these problems need to be challenged and ask The Lord and their partner to guide them and hold them accountable. The Lord offers spiritual counseling and the partner offers emotional counseling.

6: As in step 2, they accept that, whilst their flaws are a part of them they have never been able to challenge, there is something that is NOT entirely powerless and that can help them change these flaws of character.
Example: Someone asking themselves how Krishna could help them with their flaws of character, what He would suggest and how He may guide them to making the right decisions and taking the right direction.

7: As in step 3, now they have discovered and understood these flaws and accepted that a Higher Power could help them correct these problems, they must begin speaking to their Higher Power and asking it to help them with these flaws.
Example: Someone explaining their character flaws to their internal morality and asking this morality to guide them on their path to recovery and show them how these flaws could be removed.

8: Pretty self-explanatory. They must ask themselves how they have hurt others and make a list of those they have hurt, how they have hurt them and how they would be willing to make amends. Next, they must embrace the idea of making amends, no matter how personally shameful or painful it may be.
Example: Someone contacts a friend and asks about any people the friend remembers them hurting whilst they were intoxicated. They list the people, the harm caused and what they would be willing to do to help them. They then ask themselves whether there’s any way of making amends that would work better, and whether they shy away from it out of fear of personal repercussion.

9: Again, self-explanatory. They decide whether making amends would hurt or help the person relevant and, where it would help them, they make amends.
Example: Someone looking through the list and deciding who to make amends to based on whether the wronged party would benefit. If making amends would make them feel good, but hurt the wronged party, they must abstain. If it would make them feel ashamed, but help the wronged party, they make amends.

10: A return to step 4. Is there any other personal problem that could contribute to the addiction? Is there anything they can do to better themselves further?
Example: Having addressed their alcohol addiction, they now asks themselves about a gambling habit, a poor ability to maintain relationships or an uncontrolled aggressive streak. They wonder how they could improve these problems.

11: The Higher Power is now a permanent part of their life. It will guide and support them throughout all troubles, suffering and any potential relapses. They are forever protected and held accountable.
Example: Someone continuing to pray to the Gods, even when they have addressed every character flaw they are able to identify. The Gods offer support, accountability and guidance when they feel unsure of their own decisions or ability to decide.

12: Once they have healed themselves entirely, they spread the help and offer the guidance of the Twelve Steps to anyone who they believe needs it.
Example: Having recovered, someone now starts talking at AA meetings and helping others on the path. They embrace the philosophy and apply it as best they can to any recurring problems they see in their friends and family. They strive to remain helpful and courteous throughout.

So, that’s my interpretation. Of course, everyone sees them differently, usually in the way that helps them or suits them the most. But, regardless of interpretation, I’d like to repeat the last three steps:
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

As you may have noticed, these don’t pertain to the original addiction. They are about continuing to use the steps to address your character, continuing your relationship with the Higher Power you have embraced and encouraging others to use the steps to help themselves.

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Now, as I mentioned, the Twelve Steps originated to help recovering alcoholics. The next two largest groups to use them involve recovering drug abusers and friends and family of alcoholics (recovering or otherwise). However, as is implied by the last three steps, the use of this philosophy needn’t be restricted to just addicts and those around them. This is not a radical theory. Many followers of the Twelve Steps acknowledge that they embrace the philosophy in other aspects of their life and apply it to other situations. The last three steps themselves imply that, once the main problem is addressed, you needn’t abandon the philosophy. This means that the Twelve Steps aren’t just for addicts and their relatives: they’re for everyone. Allow me to rephrase the Twelve Steps, to illustrate what I mean.

They are as follows:

1:    We admitted we were powerless over a negative aspect of our lives—that these lives had become unmanageable.
2:    Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could guide us away from this negative aspect.
3:    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power we can believe in and trust.
4:    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5:    Admitted to the HP, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6:    Were entirely ready to have the HP remove all these defects of character.
7:    Humbly asked the HP to remove our shortcomings.
8:    Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9:    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our HP, praying only for knowledge of the HP’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in need of help and guidance, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Remove the references to alcoholism, and suddenly it applies to so many things. Imagine how the Twelve Steps could help someone in any of the following situations:

-A person suffering an intense phobia that limits their ability to function in real life.

-A person whose ability to work is limited by their lack of confidence.

-A person in an abusive relationship who is beginning to be aware of the fact.

-A person with poor control over their money who wants to save for education or a house.

-A person who has gradually retreated from society and sees no way to reintegrate.

-A person who is obese and has given-up on ever losing weight.

-A person with an addiction that is encroaching on their lives and identity.

-A person in a degrading relationship, seeking to revive the love.

-A person with an eating disorder who desperately wants to recover.

-A person who feels aimless and unmotivated, but doesn’t understand what to do.

Now, having told yourself how the Twelve Steps could help these people, ask yourself: what is the common variable? What is the problem they all suffer before, which, by correcting it, leads to the improvement they desire?

Introspection.

It seems a long-lost art in today’s world. The ability to look at yourself, see all your flaws laid bare, accept that there are problems in how you behave, how you see yourself, how you think, to ignite a desire to change these flaws, to become better. We have become too confident, too self-absorbed, too ignorant or too happy being special snowflakes to notice that we’re flawed. Most narcissists I know (you know who you are and, yes, myself included) are more capable of introspection than the average human I encounter nowadays. Sure, a narcissist may say “I am still far better than anyone else, but I could be more awesome if…”, but at least they acknowledge that there is room for improvement. The average person today will shy away from that. I don’t know or understand why. If you’re reading this and wondering whether there’s anything about yourself like that, telling yourself you’re perfect and there’s no room for improvement or offended at the suggestion that you may be one of these “average” people who can’t introspect, then ask yourself: what am I afraid of? To need improvement is natural. The deer with the biggest horns could grow bigger ones next year. The fastest cheetah could be faster. The tallest tree is still growing. Nothing is beyond improvement. And to improve is better than to deny the need for improvement. If you’re 80% of the way to being the world’s greatest chessmaster, then you do better by working on that 20% than you do by pretending 80% is the best there is, or the best you can do. Denial will never help us. Working on being awesome helps us.

The Twelve Steps are one of the most perfect patterns of introspection I have ever encountered. Sure, if you’re already capable of introspection it may be superfluous. But even someone who regularly introspects could use a little help once in a while. And if you’re new to it, the Twelve Steps will light the way.

Once you begin to introspect, your life will improve dramatically. You will find previously insurmountable mountains becoming molehills, feelings of shame and regret disappearing, life feeling so much lighter and brighter. Introspection allows you to see who you are, who you want to be and who you need to be. And improving yourself is far easier when you can see the start and finish lines.

And now, a quick reminder that not everything can or should be addressed with the Twelve Steps. Use your common sense to decide what is and isn’t an actual problem. Remember, not everything about you is imperfect.

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