THE HOPE EA HAS TO OFFER
Know yourself - be honest
Emotional illness can cripple us mentally, physically, and spiritually. It has no respect for intelligence, education, wealth, or social status. It affects not only ourselves but those who live with us and love us. This illness becomes a family illness.
When we are in the midst of emotional illness, it is hard to realize its enormity. We can understand and assess its vastness after we see the changes we and others have made with the help of the Emotions Anonymous twelve-step program.
Let us look at ourselves and at the help Emotions Anonymous has to offer. Let us see what we can do today to move toward emotional health and happiness.
It is sometimes hard for us to realize how healthy or sick we are. In our search for self-worth and identity, we may have unknowingly set unrealistic ideals and goals for ourselves. Because our ideals are too high and we can never live up to these unrealistic expectations, our sense of self-worth is low. How can we but fall? Some of these statements might describe us:
· We want no conflict, but we still have conflict.
· We want life to be perfect here and now, but it is far from perfect.
· We want to have constant pleasure, but we have pain.
· We so much want to succeed in everything we do that, when we fail in one area, we reject all our actions and ourselves as well.
· We become very fearful.
· We try to impress other people by being someone we are not, by being phony.
· We find ourselves being resentful toward other people and life in general.
· We become experts at manipulating people. We become extremely self-centered.
Many of these things happen gradually, and we may not even be aware of their presence and influence in our lives. Emotional illness can be progressive and chronic. If it is not faced and dealt with, it can lead to physical illness, illness brought on by our emotions. In the extreme, we might end up in a mental institution or commit suicide.
Our physical well-being is affected by our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Some of us have tried to avoid getting help for our emotional problems by questioning whether we have a physical illness, a mental illness, or a spiritual illness. Body, mind, and spirit make up our total human self. Each is an integral part of us and each is influenced by the others. We really cannot divide ourselves as human beings.
In the Emotions Anonymous program, we do not analyze emotional illness. We do not label and categorize everything. We stop using our feelings of uniqueness as an excuse. We stop comparing ourselves with others. We stop blaming ourselves and others. We stop feeling sorry for ourselves, being defiant, and denying our illness. We stop making excuses and trying to convince ourselves we are different from others. These kinds of behaviors prevent us from being honest. The only purpose they serve is to perpetuate our illness. We can get help in Emotions Anonymous if we really want to be well.
We keep ourselves from becoming well; no one else does. It is our own responsibility to become well. Only when we choose to act on this responsibility will we gain the ability to recover our emotional health. If we take responsibility, we can put our past behind us and start anew, living one day at a time; but it takes conscious effort on our part. At first it may not be easy, but it is possible. We need only to begin today.
THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN MIND
While we cannot fully understand the workings of the human mind, we know it is influenced by everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Many actions we do everyday become habits and are done automatically. For the most part this is good; otherwise, we would have to learn reading, walking, eating, and many other things again and again.
Along with habits of action, we also develop habits of thought. Our thought patterns help form our attitudes toward life. These attitudes have the potential to make us well or sick, happy or miserable. It all depends on how we choose to think. Here are some questions to consider:
· Is my cup half-full or half-empty?
· Is a failure someone who does not succeed, or someone who never tries?
· Do I feel I can do something today to help myself?
· Am I able to forgive and forget injuries against me?
· Do I need other people?
· If something is worth doing, is it worth doing even if not done perfectly?
· Am I able to see the good in myself?
· Is happiness a matter of chance?
· Do I think turning to a Higher Power can help me?
· Are my emotional problems too unique to be helped?
· Am I too old to change?
What thought patterns do you follow? Do your answers to these questions leave the door open for growth? Do they allow you to develop to your fullest potential? If so, this indicates a positive outlook.
With a positive outlook we know we can have feelings of self-worth. We can be happy in spite of problems. We can have energy to do our daily tasks. We can feel useful; we feel we belong. We are able to adjust to life even if life does not measure up to our expectations. Peace of mind can be ours even when we are faced with difficulties. We can have a purpose to our lives; we can radiate warmth and love. We can be optimistic and accept ourselves and others.
If, on the other hand, our answers indicate a rejection of self, criticism of others, feelings of hopelessness, or a defeatist attitude, then they reflect negative thinking on our part. We may have symptoms such as anxiety, panic, abnormal fears, guilt, depression, self-pity, remorse, worry, insomnia, tension, loneliness, withdrawal, boredom, fatigue, or despair. We may experience compulsive behaviors, obsessive thoughts, suicidal or homicidal tendencies, psychosomatic and physical illnesses. If we are experiencing any of these symptoms, we must change our thought patterns or we likely will stay sick.
In the ordinary course of a day a great many thoughts pass through our minds. Naturally, some of them may be negative. It is not the occasional negative thought which causes us trouble. It is when we dwell on it, deny it, or feel guilty about it that it grows into a problem.
When we first developed our negative attitudes, we did so to protect ourselves from the pain of being rejected by others or ourselves. We chose our behaviors and attitudes to escape from reality and from the responsibility we have for ourselves and our actions. These attitudes seemed to help us for a time, but, as we built negative thought after negative thought, we became engulfed in such painful symptoms that we did not know where to turn.
Some of us sought help but could not accept the help which was offered. We may have wanted independence and hated ourselves for the dependence we felt. We may have felt too dependent on others and isolated ourselves. What we needed was interdependence with people in healthy sharing relationships. We compared ourselves with everyone; therefore, we felt inferior or superior instead of recognizing the common humanity we all share.
Our symptoms allowed us to avoid the reality of today, the reality we could not seem to face. Little did we realize that reality is heaven compared to the hell we live in with our symptoms.
We finally come to realize our true state of emotional health and to say, “I have to get well. I can't stand living like this any longer. If I don't get well I'm going to lose everything - my family, my friends, my job, my peace of mind. I’m hurting myself and everyone with whom I come in contact.”
Intellectually we may understand this dilemma, but, in our illness, we build up such a pattern of negative thoughts and attitudes toward life that change cannot come overnight. Responding inadequately to emotional situations has been a habit too long. Our intellect says, "I want to get well and stay well." Our emotions say, “I don’t want to let go of my old attitudes and behaviors. These are all I know, and I am afraid of change, afraid of the unknown.”
Before we can be well, we must realize we are not meant to be perfect for only God is perfect. We are meant to be perfectly human, and that means to be ourselves. Admittedly, we see many faults in ourselves, but we also discover many good qualities we never knew we had. Being ourselves may mean we have to change. We are always growing and discovering a little more about ourselves. There is joy and satisfaction in this discovery.
Having emotional problems should cause no more guilt than having cancer or heart disease. The guilt comes when we know we are sick, but we reject the help available. The question then is, “Do I want to get well more than I want to stay sick?” We must all answer this question for ourselves.
What can we do about our illness, about the enormity of it? Until we accept the fact of our illness, we cannot take the necessary steps to get well.
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The twelve-step program of Emotions Anonymous is the answer to our problems. The first step of the Twelve Steps is to admit we are powerless over our emotions and that we are no longer able to manage our lives. We admit this on both an intellectual level and an emotional or gut level. This first step may not be easy.
By admitting we are powerless over our emotions and that our lives are unmanageable, we admit we are not self-sufficient. Are we too self-centered or self-important to make such an admission? If we want to be well, we must admit some power in the universe is greater than we are. We must become willing to turn our wills and lives over to the care of a Higher Power. This surrender is necessary if we want to get well. Fight as we might, this is one place where surrender brings true victory.
The Emotions Anonymous program is a daily living program. We do not merely join it. We try to live it - all Twelve Steps of it. We find it works. It can work for anyone who is honest with himself or herself EA is a program of honesty. By being honest with ourselves, we can learn to live peacefully with unsolved problems. This is serenity. As we apply this program, we find we become free, free at last to be ourselves. If we want to be well, we will learn the Twelve Steps and use them. EA is our chance to learn how to live. If we stay sick, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
By being patient with ourselves, we can become happier than we ever dreamed was possible. The more we are able to share our strengths, hopes, and imperfections, the more we can grow.
It is in the third step that we make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power. Making the decision is the difficult part here, but it can be done if we work the program. No one can do it for us. We have to let go of our old ways of self-dependency.
We find hope as we attend EA meetings and meet other people who have found help by working this twelve-step program. A chance to be well is something some of us did not know was possible. As we attend our weekly meetings we no longer feel alone. At last we feel we belong somewhere. We are among people who understand.
The love and acceptance we experience in the group help us to accept ourselves. When others accept us as we are, we can more readily accept ourselves. We are then free to change.
Acceptance does not necessarily mean we will like who we are. Nor does acceptance mean we will stay as we are. Acceptance means admitting who we are at this moment and realizing we are powerless to change ourselves by willpower alone. Acceptance means being realistic about ourselves and saying what we really feel, instead of what we think we should feel or what society says we should feel. When others accept our feelings without trying to analyze them or judge them, we find the courage to be more honest about ourselves. In this atmosphere we do indeed grow.
As we grow, we experience the pain of healing since there is pain connected with recovery from every illness, whether physical or emotional. This healing pain is a sign of our opening up to life and self, it is a feeling of newness, of discovery. We find the rewards of an enriched life to be greater than the pain. If we heal, we will grow. If we do not, we will surely die, at least inside. As we grow, we become the unique people we are capable of being.
With the help of the Twelve Steps, we find a new way of life. With the acceptance and encouragement of the friends we make in the program, we learn to love and accept ourselves and others. With the help of a Higher Power, we find the serenity to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. With the help of the Twelve Steps, our new friends, and our Higher Power, we find ourselves and the reason for our existence. The choice is ours.
EMOTIONAL ILLNESS AND RECOVERY
Below is shown the progression of symptoms that many people may experience when in the downward cycle of emotional illness or in the upward cycle of emotional recovery. We may not all experience each symptom nor follow this exact order, and this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. Also, everyone will sink to a different depth before admitting defeat and becoming ready to accept help, this we call our emotional bottom. We can start upward toward recovery from our own emotional bottom when we truly accept the help which the EA twelve-step program offers us.
Most of us want instant recovery, but that is not possible. As with any illness, recovery needs proper treatment and care, and the time for that to work. However, often our emotional recovery will be much faster than time spent getting sick. We need only be honest, open minded, and willing to work at our recovery.
DOWNWARD CYCLE OF EMOTIONAL ILLNESS
· I have minor difficulties.
· I feel sad.
· I have more and more problems.
· I have disagreements with family and friends.
· I feel worried and anxious.
· I am irritable.
· I indulge in excessive daydreaming.
· I feel guilty.
· I feel depressed.
· I have psychosomatic ailments.
· I am losing interest in activities.
· I feel indifferent about most things.
· I make excuses.
· I try a change of location.
· I blame other people and situations.
· I feel inferior.
· I withdraw and avoid people.
· I develop chronic depression.
· I am unable to function.
· I feel extremely lonely.
· I am preoccupied with myself and my problems.
· I am unable to concentrate.
· I make varied and frustrating attempts to get help.
· I am afraid of living and of dying.
· I have an irrational but overwhelming fear.
· I feel panic and terror.
· I abuse drugs.
· I can no longer rely on my alibi system.
· I feel I am a failure.
· I consider suicide.
· I am in complete despair.
UPWARD CYCLE OF EMOTIONAL RECOVERY
· I am at my emotional bottom.
· I admit complete defeat.
· I have an honest desire to get well.
· I find the fellowship of Emotions Anonymous.
· I feel hopeful.
· I accept help and find some relief
· I learn emotional illness can be relieved.
· I find relief from tension.
· I attend EA meetings regularly.
· I feel optimistic.
· I benefit from the shared experience of the program.
· I work the Twelve Steps.
· I meet recovering people who were formerly ill.
· I increase my faith in a Higher Power.
· I learn new attitudes, feelings, and values.
· I seek help with my fourth-step inventory.
· I can laugh again.
· I am not as fearful.
· I gain self-respect and begin to like myself
· I am grateful.
· I am able to accept reality.
· I am happier.
· I accept my responsibilities.
· I feel a sense of well-being.
· I am able to love again.
· I have more faith and courage.
· I find life becomes smoother.
· I know the joy of living.
· I understand serenity and peace of mind.
(excerpt from the book, Emotions Anonymous, available through http://www.emotionsanonymous.org/)