Tag Archives: transformation

blogathon: 6 questions about change – twelve-step’s step 6

i haven’t done an entry on the twelve steps for a while. the last one was on step five. the idea of discussing the 12 steps here is to look at how they can help anyone, not only people who go to groups like alcoholics anonymous, overeaters anonymous or alanon (for people with alcoholics in their lives).

warning: if you’re not into god or religion, please wait until the end of the post, don’t get turned off the second the g-d word comes up!

step 6 says

“were entirely ready to have god remove all these defects of character.”

background: step 6 comes after step 4, where an individual takes a thorough personal inventory, and step 5, where this inventory is shared with god and another person.

if we want to make this a little less heavy on the god language, we can translate step 6 like this:

“were entirely ready to work towards change, accepting help, and without immediately jumping to the desired results.”

we can also rename the “character defects” (that’s 1930’s language) and call them unhelpful attitudes and behaviours.

we’ll deal with the working towards change in a second. first, though, a few words about accepting help.

if we’ve been “trying” and pushing for a different life for a long time and nothing has worked – maybe it’s time to take a different approach. maybe it’s time to accept help. this help may come in many ways, and it’s good to be open to the many ways. it might be in the form of a pesky co-worker, a pet or an article in a newspaper we don’t normally ready. it may be god. whatever it is, it’s probably not going to be the petty, demanding little ego that’s been driving the bus for way too long.

and a few words about “entirely ready” and “not jumping to the results”. when i work with people, one way i can usually see right away that it’s going to take a little while is when they have a one-dimensional view of what they want. it’s usually coached in words like, “the only way this is going to work is …” or “i couldn’t use an X, it has to be a Y”. being entirely ready means being open. you want to become a happier, healthier, more giving person? then open yourself to the possibilities.

so what about this “working towards change”? the question here is, do you REALLY want to change? often, that’s not the case. we may want to become more accepting of others not because we truly want to open our hearts but because we’re teed off at the constant bickering. so really, we want to get rid of the bickering and all kinds of aspects of not being accepting are just fine, thank you very much.

if that’s the case, the unhelpful attitudes and behaviours need to be taken under a magnifying glass.

here are some questions that can help:

  1. how has this attitude/behaviour helped me in the past? how has it helped me cope?
  2. what is it doing for me today? what do i still get out of it?
  3. can i get what i truly need in some other way?
  4. what is this attitude/behaviour doing to me? how does it hurt me?
  5. what is it doing to others?
  6. what are the consequences of hanging on to it?

canadian mental health association

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, email me or use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link; if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps.

thank you for visiting, reading, commenting and, if you can, donating!

(this post is part of the carnival of healing #154)

transformation, chaos, and the straw that breaks the camel’s back

last month, i started a little series on change and transformation, inspired by a post by my blogging friend nancy that asked, how does change occur? that time i talked about the precursors of change – the “rumblings”, so to say, that precede an earthquake.

aaah, but is it an earthquake? is transformation really about the “disorienting dilemma” that transformative learning guru jack mezirow talks about? is it a “burning bush” experience?

for sure, that is the case for some people. in my research on transformative learning, i talked to people who had been transformed through tragic events like accidents and cancer. one person’s life changed completely after surviving a few days locked in a caved-in mine.

it was interesting, though, how often transformative moments in people’s lives were rather small. this is one of the main reasons why i became interested in the connection between transformative learning, psychotherapy and chaos theory. in chaos theory, too, small, even minute changes at crucial moments can make a huge difference. it’s like the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

in my research, i asked interviewees to describe the moment of change, the actual turning point in their transformative experiences.

one person had grown up thinking that people with blue-collar backgrounds like hers could not become successful professionals, and that along with being professional came being “brilliant.” she tells us:

i didn’t know i could set goals. even with one of my daughters who had to work very hard at her schooling – when she said she wanted to become a teacher, i was wondering, can she really do that? i still thought she had to be brilliant, even suggested she’d become a teacher’s assistant instead – so i still put her in a category. … i knew that i was complying with these structures and in a way i wanted my daughter to comply, too … [but then] my daughter graduated and i thought what am i doing? that’s what broke the mold.

after that experience, this person started to set professional goals for herself that were completely different from before.

here’s another example of someone who, rather by accident, took a women’s studies course. this is what happened when she read a particular article.

i had thought that i had “let go” of this notion that i needed to be a dutiful, obedient, subordinate wife. what i realized was that i had let go of that on the surface but at a deep level, i felt like i was doing something wrong. it took this article to raise my consciousness about that.

after reading that article, she completely revised her ideas about being a wife and mother and realized that she’d be quite happy not having children. again, this dramatically changed her career path.

this little story is interesting because it shows the power of being open to revisiting and examining earlier insights – maybe we could call it the “i-thought-i-had-dealt-with-that syndrome.” it reminds of the ever continuing cycle of action and reflection that people as early as dewey (1933, p. 102-118) talk about.