Dear Mark (a letter to a prisoner and friend on ego and humility

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Dear Mark,

Gregg and I were discussing ego today, and
among other things, the number of people who fight so hard to preserve it, which is, in actuality nearly everyone, at least in this culture. And unfortunately it is growing to be so in
most other cultures where selfish immediate gratifications are becoming more
and more misconstrued as the source of real happiness. Which of course is why most of the world is so incredibly unhappy today. He mentioned some of the arguments you
have, which actually are the same
arguments nearly everyone has, as well as being the same ones I struggled with
myself in the first few years of sobriety,
and the same ones Gregg has had.

It is only by ridding ourselves of some of that ego that we begin to discover that
the fight to hang onto ego, or
pride, whichever you want to call
it, is only a fight to hang onto
anger, resentment, frustration, envy,
jealousy, impatience,
intolerance, self pity, depression,
hatred, anxiety, fear, and other
like minded emotions. In other words, all of the things that actually diminish our
happiness rather than add to it. And
we discover that by becoming aware that those things which cause our
unhappiness have left our lives to the exact degree that we have rid ourselves
of ego. So to that exact degree our
lives have become that much better,
happier, and filled with peace of
mind, regardless of outside
circumstances in our lives. That to me
seemed like an absolute impossibility when I began this program, as I was positive it was those very outside
circumstances that were either responsible for my happiness or my unhappiness
at any given moment.

But you can’t fight ego with the ego driven mind,
it won’t allow it’s own self destruction. And the way it fights that self destruction
is to only allow us to see that which it desires us to see, which is that ego is good and necessary and
that we are right in protecting it. And even if and when that battle is won to
some degree and we see that it is not necessarily good and contributing to our
happiness, it will fight to tell us we
are rid of ego, even when the reality is
far different than that. It is just our
ego’s ability to allow us see only what it desires us to see. And it
does this seemingly all by itself and without our conscious knowledge it is
happening. It is
blocking out the conscious awareness of the very reality which would end
it. We believe we are seeing
everything, when the reality is that we
are only seeing what our ego wants us to see.
The great irony or paradox is that the things our ego wants us to see, for it’s own immediate gratification, are the very things that are making us
miserable in the long run, and which
causes us to own every single one of those defects of character which so diminish
our own happiness, and which we normally
blame on other people, places and circumstances.

It is exactly the same thinking problem which causes us to pick up a drink, (or drug)
convinced that somehow this time everything will work out differently, despite the fact that we have volumes of
personal history which should be letting us see the reality that it never works
out as we feel certain that it’s going to before we pick up that first
drink. They call it denial, but that is not a very good term to use, as
it infers that we see all the bad things that are going to happen, and yet we decide to pick up the drink
anyway. The reality however, is that
when we picked up the drink we saw what we wanted to see, and did not see the reality that was looming
behind that drink. Picking up a drink
has looked like the most insane thing in the world to me ever since I saw the
reality of what would really happen if I picked it up, instead of seeing what my immediate desire
for a drink, or my immediate desire to
change how I felt, wanted me to see. And
that’s been since I was 1-1/2 yrs sober,
or almost 11 yrs now. The cause
of that difference in perception is the result of a change in my desire, from the desire simply to be rid of the
consequences of drinking, to a genuine desire to live a sober
life. That simple change in my desire
changes the very way my brain will see or retrieve the information that is already in it. That is a true freedom. But as Roosevelt
said, “The price of freedom is
vigilance”, and it takes vigilance to
prevent that same desire blindness from returning and convincing me once again
that I can safely pick up a drink.

The same thing is true for ego, it comes from the same thinking problem that causes
us to be blinded to the reality behind that first drink, and there is no other cause for it. When we begin to rid ourselves of it, we begin to understand very clearly, (if we
remain aware of what is happening in our minds,
and that ability will vary from person to person) that it is the result
of nothing more than irrational desire.
This is science, not
speculation. The biological fact is
that when one side of the brain or the other is receiving extra electrical
stimulus, it not only enhances activity
(information retrieval and computation) on that side, it can suppress information from the other
side. And it will suppress information
from the other side depending on the nature and strength of our immediate
desires. If I have a desire purely to
see the honest truth about any situation,
or about myself or others, then I
will make best use of both sides of my brain in finding the answers I
seek. If however, I seek a specific answer, (like an answer to how can I justify this
desire for a drink) rather than the purely honest answer, my brain will give me what I have asked
for. And it will do so in much the same
way a computer does. If you ask a
computer to find the words ego and good in
all of the documents you have stored on it,
it will bring you back only those words and nothing else, despite the fact that there are many
thousands of other words in that database.
Our brains do the same things.
The old adage says that ‘love is blind’,
but the reality is that desire is blind,
and it is the desire itself which blinds us. And the nature and strength of that desire
will determine just how effectively it blinds us. The desire for a drink grows when we romance
that desire for that first drink. (or even just something in the drinking
lifestyle without even romancing the actual drink itself) And the more that desire grows the more it
blinds us to the almost inevitable consequences of taking that drink. My ego is the same, the more I romance seeing the desired
differences between myself and others (as well as many other ego related
desires), the more that desire
grows, and the more it grows the more it
automatically blinds me to the reality of me.
But at that time I am certain that I am seeing everything and coming to
an absolutely irrefutable conclusion, that to me, proves beyond a shadow of a
doubt what I desired to see in the first place was true.

That much is science, this is my speculation. That is that we (we being real alcoholics and addicts) are all right brain dominant,
creative thinkers. We are
certainly not the only people like that,
but we also happen to have that and
the physical problem where our bodies don’t metabolize alcohol normally, and the introduction of alcohol into our
systems sets up a craving for more that does not happen to a normal
drinker. So we are right brain
dominant, which makes the next question ‘what
are the domains of the right brain?’
Visual appreciation, immediate
problem solving and creative thinking, among other things. And the right brain is also not necessarily rational,
(and whether or not it behaves rationally is dependent on the nature of my
desire), unlike the left side of the
brain which is linear and rational.

So how does that affect ego? What is egos main function or desire, or to put it another way, what is ego or prides ‘immediate problem’ to solve? To make me think I am better than
other people, and hopefully to make
other people think that too. And it very
creatively does that by blocking out reality and showing us only what we want
to see. You can test that for
yourself. The next time you get angry
with someone, try to find the ability, even if it’s after the fact, to be aware of what is happening or has
happened in your mind. The first
thing we do is to compare that person to
ourselves. And we honestly believe we
are doing that fairly, and that other
person is not fairing well in that comparison at all. We usually just can’t understand how that
person can be so stupid, or so
selfish, or so self-centered, or so arrogant, or so unkind,
or so whatever, as that list can
go on ad-infinitum. We can’t understand
because we can clearly see that we have never been that way. I often told myself I couldn’t be that way
even if I tried, because I’m just such
an awesome fellow and I just try so hard to help people, or to be a good friend, or to educate myself (if their problem I
think is stupidity), and again the list
of wonderful things about me can go on forever.
How did I get to be so wonderful?
By not ever allowing myself to see reality. (ie;)
Sure I know it looks like I might have screwed up, or might have said or done something
stupid, or been selfish and self
centered and so on. But if it looks that
way to others, it’s just because they don’t fully understand the
extenuating circumstances that caused that mis-interpretation. It was really someone else’s fault that I
screwed up, or the fault lie in the
situation, or anything else that would
make it not really my fault.
And
that excuse making would happen just as fast as I would screw up. I would conjure up an excuse to suit myself
and my ego, and allow me to go on seeing
myself as nearly perfect as I needed to see me.
And if there was any fear that someone else would find out that I
screwed up (or that it would appear to them that I did, I should say) then I would set to work
conjuring up whatever excuses I would need to tell them, and pinpointing people or situations where I needed to cast
blame, so that those others I needed to impress could also go on seeing me in
the way that I hoped so badly they saw me, or rather that I needed them so badly to see me. And then to complicate my understanding of
that other person (or persons) further,
I would not allow the other person the use of the very same excuses and
blame I have used for myself. If they
tried to I would say to myself, “they’re so transparent, anyone should be able to see through those
lame excuses. Why can’t they just be
honest with themselves and admit to their mistake?” I wasn’t really comparing them to me, I was only comparing them to my ego created delusion
of me and believing it was the real me.
(mind you there is nothing wrong
with self esteem, but when that self
esteem starts to tell me I’m a better than or ‘less than’ another human being,
then I’ve entered into the realm of lying to me about me. My behavior might be better or worse than
someone else’s, but it doesn’t make me
or someone else a better or worse human being,
and hopefully I can make that distinction clear as this letter goes on.)

The reality is that no one need focus on trying to rid themselves of ego, and it
won’t go away like that anyway, for reasons I have already mentioned. The only real and effective way to rid
ourselves of ego is through self honesty,
that is the only work that
must be done, nothing else need be done
and nothing else will do the job. The
opposite of ego isn’t humility, it’s
self honesty. Humility is the power
that comes into our lives to replace the ego which has just vacated, and it is an awesome power indeed, far greater than ego. Ego brings with it self-righteousness, anger,
resentment, anxiety, frustration, jealousy,
envy, fear, depression, intolerance, impatience, self-pity, selfishness,
blame, excuses, and the list goes on from there. These
are the realities we fight for when we fight to hang onto pride. Our ego though tries to convince us that it
is bringing happiness with it, but real
happiness never shows its face in
the presence of ego. Ego brings only
illusions of happiness (in the form of immediate gratifications) that disappear
nearly as quickly as they came, and leave all those other negative emotions in their
wake. And then to get back that
momentary illusion of happiness we felt,
we have to exert ego again in one of it’s many forms. And again the feeling it brings is only there
for a moment and leaves in it’s wake a compounding of the problems it left
behind the first time, and probably some
new ones as well. And then we do it all
over again, and again, and again, never fully understanding why that
happiness we thought we could see so clearly always turned into a mirage. But just like with our drinking or
drugging, we keep doing the same things
over and over expecting different results.
That is why I tell people today that everything I knew about real
happiness left me suicidal, and that is
very, very true.

Self honesty, on the other hand, brings with it understanding. Just the concept that real honesty would bring
greater understanding should be easy enough to see. When I understand myself well enough, I begin to understand others and life
itself. I begin to see where real
happiness comes from, and where all my
unhappiness had come from. With that
understanding I get for myself comes an understanding for others that brings
with it forgiveness. Not just
forgiveness from my lips to your ears (that isn’t even necessary and isn’t real
forgiveness anyway), but real
forgiveness in my heart, which is where
it has to happen if it’s going to bring peace of mind. And that, all by itself, is a freedom that is
worth its weight in gold. The first time
I felt that, it felt as though I’d just
been let out of prison for the first time in 30yrs. or more. It
brings with it too, along with that
freedom, a freedom from anger, from
resentment, from expectations, from self-pity, from depression, from anxiety,
from jealousy, from envy, from hatred,
from intolerance, from impatience
and from all those other happiness destroying emotions. Not coincidentally, it brings those freedoms to the exact degree
that we have found self honesty. The only limit in fact, between us and
perfect peace of mind through anything life can throw at us, is the degree of self honesty we can achieve.
That may sound crazy, but it is something that we are all capable
of proving to ourselves. The question
is, are we willing to experiment with it
and find out for ourselves, or will we
continue to let pride tell us “that doesn’t sound like anything that makes
sense to me, and I’m not going to even
try it.” .

But it doesn’t just bring freedom from those things, it also brings with it real
compassion, real forgiveness, real unconditional love, real acceptance, real patience, real spirituality, real trust in God’s plan, and more.
With it we will begin not just to
believe in God, but to genuinely know
God, and
know that he is and always has been right inside of us and inside of
every other human being. This last thing will happen, even if we never believed in God before. It won’t necessarily, and probably won’t be the same kind of belief
in a God that we learned about as kids, or know others to have, or even that we might have given up believing
in long ago for whatever reasons. But
we will find ourselves blessed with the absolute knowledge that there is a
power in this universe that is far greater than us, and an absolute knowing that this power is
connecting every living thing on this planet.
Self honesty and humility will
brings all these blessings in a very surprising way, surprising in that we don’t have to work for
them at all, they just happen. In
fact the only way I can stop them from happening is to start lying to myself
about myself again. They will happen at
the very instant that I genuinely see myself in another person. Anger and resentment will instantly be
transformed into compassion and forgiveness,
without my trying to find those things at all. And this power that comes from an understanding
through self honesty is what we call humility.

These things and these freedoms that humility brings are things that cannot be
attained through any other means, though
most people, unfortunately many even in AA, are so hooked on hanging onto pride and
defending their old ideas and beliefs to one degree or another, that they just
keep trying and failing to get those
real freedoms and other benefits this program promises in other ways, in ways which seek to accommodate and
perpetuate that pride and those old ideas.
And unfortunately, many of us have been very vocal about our old
ideas and opinions on just about everything,
and because we have we feel an even stronger urge to defend our old
ideas, even after we begin to glimpse
the reality of those old ideas not being
as rock solid as we had imagined.
We’ve all heard the old saying,
“do you want to be right, or do
you want to be happy?.” Our ego in the
form of sheer disdain at the thought of crushing our delusional “image” of
always being right, (which is usually
only in our own minds as the majority of people never really did see us as
perfect as we hoped they did)
can
and often will, cause people to accept a
lifetime of misery rather than just a mere moment of crushing of our fragile
egos, even if there is a possibility of
finding real happiness on the other side of that defeat..

We cannot find real forgiveness by working on forgiveness, nor real acceptance by
working on acceptance. And we can’t find
any of those other things by working on those things. The best we can ever do trying it that way is
to work on how we handle those things,
those defects and shortcomings, once they have shown their presence in our
life. It’s that thinking that
spawned the concept of anger management, because of a belief that we can’t do anything
about it . And too often we convince
ourselves, because those feelings won’t go away by those other
means, that they are inevitable, that we can’t get rid of them because it is
impossible to get rid of them. We grow
to believe that they are God given emotions, and that to think that we can be
rid of them is delusional thinking. But
through self honesty and the elimination of ego it can bring, if we can attain real
honesty, we gain a genuine understanding
that they are not God given emotions at all,
they are just ego created emotions.
And they leave our life to the exact degree that we have rid our life of
ego.

Ego, we discover, is just a lie we tell
ourselves that we want to believe, and
that we hope like hell we can make others believe. A large part of our desire to believe that
can very easily be traced back to the influences of a very confused culture
which is trying desperately to wring real happiness out of selfish immediate
gratifications and all manner of manifestations of ego. And it continues to do this no matter how
long that real happiness fails to materialize.
What is the definition of insanity?
Doing the same things over and over expecting different results! Our whole society and most societies of world
today are practicing more than a modicum of insanity under that definition. We just go on defending our perception of
where real happiness comes from, because
the ego driven mind can’t perceive that there could be any other kind of
happiness than what it sees. A recent
government statistic showed, according
to the index of happiness (a survey I never knew existed until I read the
article) that even though the average person (US citizen) has 5 times as much in material things today (today was the year 2000 in the article)
as the average person had in 1957, they
have reported a steady decline in their level of the feeling of real happiness
since then. Yet we all seem to continue
on the same path in our attempt to find that happiness, long after we should have seen that it isn’t
working.

All of those wonderful gifts of humility can’t be found by working on them, but we find,
if we work the steps with a truly open mind, they are the absolute certain, quite unexpected, and incredibly welcome by-products of self
honesty. They are like accidental gifts. Those
emotions of love, compassion, forgiveness,
understanding, acceptance, patience,
tolerance, etc, are the true God given emotions, and they come out of us without any effort at
all when we reach that level of self honesty.
I was not at all expecting any of
those things, but when I finally was
able to take my own inventory honestly and see that in reality I was just like
all the people I hated or was angry with,
they just showed up. I didn’t
expect them, but they certainly were a
welcome surprise. And of course they
left again the moment I started lying to myself about me again, and continue to do so to this day whenever I
do, which is why the 10th
step is so incredibly important to my happiness and peace of mind.

But we have had such a distorted perception all our lives about what humility is, that we think it is just a willingness to
be kicked around by life without fighting back,
and we do everything we can not to have any of it. So often we confuse humiliation with
humility, and it is only through working
these steps that we will discover that the power of humility could not even
feel humiliation, it would simply
understand too much for humiliation to exist.
Humility knows that we are all just human beings who make mistakes, and it has no need to try to pretend to be
different than that for the sake of
others who haven’t figured that out yet and who continue to bring misery into
their own lives with their need for the approval of others and their need to
feel superior. Humility doesn’t need to
protect an image or the lies that created that image.

Our greatest hurdle to getting that self honesty and the great power of humility in
our lives is always the same, the belief
that we are already honest with ourselves.
As well as our egos need to defend that which it already believes, especially if we have vocalized those beliefs to others. But
back to the problem of believing we are already honest with ourselves. We can all see that we might be a little
dishonest with others once in awhile to protect our “image” that we convince
ourselves is real, and to “protect them” from the disillusionment of seeing
us as less than we ‘really are’, which
they might fall into believing if they don’t understand all the extenuating
circumstances of our apparent failure.
But we are pretty damn certain that we are honest with ourselves. In fact we are usually pretty damn certain
that if others could just be as honest with themselves as we are with ourselves, the world would be a much better place.

The reality, if we become willing to look at
it, is far different however. Unfortunately though, the almost certain predecessor to finding
that willingness is sheer misery. But I
can honestly thank God today that I became miserable enough to become willing
to see the things my ego did not want to see. Minutes prior to finding that willingness, I felt I only had twp choices. One
was to put a bullet in my head (and this after being sober for 18months!) It came down to two choices after I realized
that for me taking a drink (my former
third choice) would lead to a worse fate
for me than taking a bullet in the head.
The second choice was to become willing to let go of everything I
thought I already knew for certain about life,
about happiness, about emotions, about
myself and others, about what the causes
of my problems were, and so on. And then
to become willing to try some things that made absolutely no sense to me and my
ego, which was working those 12 steps. I figured I could always kill myself later
if nothing happened. I really had
absolutely no faith that anything good was going to happen from it. The difference this time came because I let
go of my old ideas and just stopped having faith that it couldn’t work! What the hell did I have to lose? As it
turned out, that was all I needed for the spiritual awakenings to begin, and they began almost instantly. They will for anyone who finds that
willingness, and those awakenings will change his or her
life forever. And so very much for the
better.

I recently read a quote by one of the great philosophers, I think Socrates, though I’m not sure without
looking it up, who wrote; “If any man wishes to be a real seeker of
truth, he must first and foremost, above all else, be willing at least once in his life, to doubt
everything he knows.” I
discovered, long before I read those
lines, that there is tremendous wisdom
in those words. Or as Albert Einstein
wrote, “…the only thing that gets in the
way of my learning is my education.” In
other words, it is those things that we
think we already know for certain which can keep us from learning that which
can free us from ourselves and our own misery.
Because it is what I think I already know that closes my mind and bars
me from real open-mindedness. Hence the
adage, “humility is teach-ability”.

The reason that sheer misery is almost always required is that those who don’t reach that level of misery, and keep getting teased by those illusions of happiness brought on by gratifications
of their ego, just keep thinking that
their old way of thinking and doing things will eventually, if they can just manipulate their
circumstances and people in their life enough,
produce the desired happiness they seek.
The problem in finding it though, is that the source of that happiness is always
selfishness (though it is unlikely we will see it that way until finding the enlightenment
of self honesty). And the truth I’ve
discovered here is that there is never enough selfish reward to bring any kind
of real or lasting happiness. We always
think their will be, but it just doesn’t
ever materialize that way. Whenever we
get what we think we wanted, we just end
up wanting more, whether that is
money, things, control of others, respect, or any of the others things that the need for
respect drives us to covet with a never satisfied greed. And the need for respect is pretty much always the
driving force behind our quest for money and things and all those other
“respect bringing” items. We go through
our lives under the delusion (even if we’re not consciously aware of it) that if we just get enough respect we’ll be
happy. The reason there is never
enough, is that it was never respect
that we really wanted in the first place.
It was something else that can only come from inside of us and that
nothing outside of us can ever even come close to satisfying, no matter how much of those things we
acquire. But that doesn’t mean we
can’t have those things too, along with
that thing that has to come from inside of us.
We can have them in great measure,
and have that real and lasting happiness too, provided we know where that real and lasting
happiness comes from, and as long as we
make the pursuit of it, and not the
pursuit of those outside things, our
primary goal. But I won’t tell you
what that thing is on the inside of us that we seek, I will let you discover that for yourself. And you will if you pursue this path of self
honesty and self discovery. Those other
things that we formerly thought we needed to be happy, will come when we are already happy, and they are no longer of any real importance
to that happiness.

I will tell you though that it is not a void inside of us that needs to be filled, though
that is what it feels like. Everything
you need to find real happiness in this life is already inside of you, chomping at the bit trying to get out. And when you reach a certain level of self
honesty it will come flooding out of you without any other work on your part. And that
is true for every human being alive, regardless
of any outside circumstances. In fact,
it is those with the worst or most
unfortunate outside circumstances in their life who are most apt to discover it, because they are the most apt to become
willing to get open minded and to look
somewhere else for it. The question
is, are you miserable enough to
become willing to look at things you don’t want to see, and that your ego tells you are not there to
find? It is in seeing and acknowledging
those things we most want ‘not’ to see about ourselves, or to let other people see, that ironically will bring us the very
happiness and peace of mind which we sought to find by hiding them from
ourselves and others.

I have to mention something else Mark,
about ego, and how it has this power to blind us to reality while
convincing us it is showing us reality.
And being a doctor, or very
nearly one, you will certainly be able
to grasp this.

There was a good amount of research done on LSD many years ago, before Timothy Leary promoted it to the point
where it was made illegal and researchers could no longer use it themselves
(even if anyone else could get their hands on it). There is an attribute to LSD which made it
ideally suited for working with alcoholics in these very controlled studies. That
attribute was that it causes all of the brains neurons and receptors to fire at
once. How is that different from a
normal brain? Because in a normal brain not under the influence of LSD, only one neuron and one receptor are normally
firing at one time. There might be 40,000 of them firing per second,
but it’s still just one at a time.
When all of them fire at once the result is that it becomes impossible
for the person to lie to themselves as they see everything in both sides
of their brain. The fact is that this
research was genuinely working to cure alcoholism. Those alcoholics involved in the study could
finally see themselves for who and what they really were, and see their disease for what it really was
and what it was doing to their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. They saw how incredibly selfish it made
them, and how much it caused them to
hurt those they loved. The result was
that they quit drinking. They in fact
saw, just a few hours into the study, what it took me 18 months to see on my own. (That
happened in a flash for me, but it took
18 months of sobriety and a hard earned willingness to see things my ego didn’t
want to see, for that flash to occur).
But the result was the same, neither
they nor I ever wanted to drink again because they and I saw, without
question, the reality that was going to come with that
first drink, and in seeing that it
suddenly became the last thing in the world we would want!

But that wasn’t all they saw, while they were unable to lie to themselves
during that study, they also saw the
absolute insanity of ego, the insanity
of war, of anger and resentment. They saw the insanity of racism, the insanity of sexism, the insanity of materialism, of selfishness, and many other ‘insanities’ that we often take
for normal thinking in this and in many other societies. They not only never drank again, they were changed human beings in many other
ways that inclined them toward real happiness and peace of mind. This came not from other people telling them
how they should think, but simply from
the inability to lie to themselves. It
came out of self honesty, the same
thing the 12 steps attempt to give us,
and which they will, but only if
we are willing to look. It is my belief
that “white light” experiences such as Bill Wilson had, I had,
and some few others have had, are
the result of the same thing happening as far as all their neurons and
receptors firing at once, or at least a
great deal of them. It doesn’t last as
long, but during it one will reach the very same
level of self honesty and see the exact
same insanities, at least depending on
just what absolute spiritual truth we had fully accepted at the instant it
happened!

What happens in a normal brain with one neuron and one receptor firing at a
time? It doesn’t matter even if it’s
40,000 per second, it’s still only
showing me what I asked it to show me.
Instead of a flood light in my brain showing me everything there is to
see, it is a laser beam showing me only
what I desire to see over and over again.
The problem is that if I don’t know this is happening, then I believe that I am using my entire
brain, looking at everything valid to
the situation, and making reasonable and
rational decisions accordingly.

The reality is more like this; (ie) I have a desire for an immediate
gratification, lets say it’s a
drink. Which side of the brain is
responsible for immediate problem solving?
The right side, the creative
thinking and irrational side. I only
have to romance that drink for a short time before my brain, without my conscious effort to do so, has
blocked out all the reasons I should not have that drink (or at least all the
reasons I can’t creatively think my way around,
such as “I could get a drunk driving,
so I just won’t drive, or “I’ll
be more careful,” or “I won’t drink too much to drive,” etc.) and shown me all the ways it would be a most
rational decision to pick up that drink.
I’ll see things in my mind like;
“It will calm my nerves and I’ll be able think clearer”, or “it will
give me the courage to get through this ordeal, so it’s really a good thing if I have a
drink right now”, and so on, having completely blocked out the perpetual
reality of what happens after that first drink or two is consumed. It doesn’t show me what I don’t want to see
because I asked it only to show me what I did want to see. There
is no such thing as a “harmless” fantasy about drinking for me. I might say to myself before hand, “ I know I’m not going to drink, but I want to fantasize about it for awhile, after all, it’s just a harmless enjoyable fantasy.” The reality that will take place in my brain
is far different than what I thought it would be though, and
the so called ‘knowledge’ that I would
not take a drink because of a harmless fantasy, slowly or even quickly, begins to be replaced with the genuine desire
to do exactly that, along with the
certainty that I can do it without causing myself problems. And I can do that despite absolute volumes
of personal history which should be available for me to look at, and which
would be telling me, if I could see it, that is not the reality of my
drinking.
And I also won’t see many
times of exactly the same line of thinking leading to that first drink in the
past, and of that first drink leading to
disaster down the road. That isn’t
denial at work, it’s “desire
blindness”, and every human being on
this earth suffers from it to one degree or another, depending on a number of factors in their
life, only one of which is whether or
not they are right brain dominant to start with. In fact,
this is the only true thinking problem there is, and all other thinking problems arise out of
it. The problem is just more exaggerated in those who
are right brain dominant, as I believe
we true alcoholics and addicts are. If
we can get honest enough with ourselves to see that phenomenon happening where
drinking or drugging has been a scourge in our lives, or over-eating, or gambling, or whatever our other problems are, then hopefully, with a little willingness to see, we begin to realize that the thinking problem
is not the result of our drinking problem.
Our drinking problem is the result of that thinking problem.

Think of it this way. Part of my problem is that I couldn’t stop drinking once I started, which is the
result of a physical difference between my body and the body of a normal
drinker, where my body does something
different with the sugars and it causes an actual craving for more alcohol once
that first drink is taken. And the more
I put in my body the more it craves it.
That is something that doesn’t happen to a normal drinker. But if that was my only problem, I wouldn’t have a real problem, because all I would have to do is not pick up
that first drink. That isn’t what
happens with an alcoholic however, we
just keep picking it up anyway, and will
do so even after the alcohol that causes the craving might have been out of our
system for a long time, hence negating
the purely physical aspect of our desire to drink. We keep picking up the very thing that is
destroying our own life, and often
causing at least emotional destruction in the lives of those we love and who
love us. That doesn’t happen to a normal thinker. I’ve known a number of people in my life who
found they “get stupid”, as they put it, when they drink, so they just don’t drink. They discovered early on in their short
drinking careers that once they start to drink they can’t stop, which causes them to do stupid, embarrassing,
or dangerous things, and they
never forget that. Unlike the alcoholic
who remembers things just they way he or she wants to remember them, or has to remember them in order to justify that first drink. We will likely see some of that reality occasionally, as I would sometimes when I would wake up in
jail, with my car wrecked or all my
money gone. Sometimes on those
occasions I would see that my prior thinking that I could drink socially the
night before was absolutely insane, and then curse myself for not realizing
what I knew I should have realized before starting. And sometimes think I must be going insane
for making that decision.. But unlike a
normal thinker who would remember that forever,
just a day or even just a few hours later, after romancing that drink for a little
while, that drink would once again begin
to make perfect sense to me. And often
the very same arguments which led to my last drinking disaster would be the
ones that led me to picking up a drink again!

If we can really learn to see ourselves for who and what we really are, we can begin to
see that very same thinking problem traversing the landscape of our lives in
myriad other ways, and in the process
causing us all the problems we have. We
begin to see that the selfishness which we keep thinking will bring us to happiness
is actually the only sure block there is to it.
And we will see, if we get honest
enough, that all of our unhappiness is
the result of selfishness, our own
selfishness that is (despite our insistence on believing that it is other
people’s selfishness which is causing it),
and that all of our selfishness is the result of the things we thought
would make us happy, those immediate ego
gratifications. And we will see that it
has always been when we were genuinely unselfish, not just in our actions but in our
hearts, that we were the happiest we’ve
ever been. There may be too few of those
genuinely heartfelt unselfish moments in our life to remember any pattern of real
happiness. But if we become willing to
follow the suggestions in the program of trying to be of service to others, and we are working the steps in our lives to
the best of our ability, we will
eventually find ourselves doing things for others, not because it was suggested but because we
find ourselves genuinely wanting to help them,
and discovering that it genuinely brings us happiness to be of
service. At the end of this letter I
will add something that I wrote quite some time back about that real happiness.

Now let’s take a look at what ego is and where it comes from. There is no place in the brain, as you know,
that is called “the ego”. The
idea of a healthy or unhealthy ego is just a fantasy we created ourselves to
justify whatever would boost our ego,
and give us those momentary immediate gratifications of feeling better
than another human being. It is just a life encompassing perversion of our
ancient animal desire to stand out from
the crowd so that we can get picked to get mated with. And we have twisted it into a source of all
happiness, which in reality brings us
all the misery there is to find in life.

So it is a desire, an always immediate
desire, an immediate problem to be
solved over and over again in our lives, in our quest for happiness. And that instinct for happiness is the strongest instinct in life, stronger than the instinct to survive
even. That is why so many people commit
suicide when they feel that happiness for them is hopeless. It is why a suicide bomber or a kamikaze
pilot does what he does, because he
believes that there is a greater happiness waiting for him on the other
side. So as you can see, a misguided belief about where happiness
comes from can certainly lead to terrible unhappiness, and even disaster.

But the main point is that ego is just the result of a desire, an immediate problem that is automatically
handled by the right side brain, the
irrational and creative side of our brain.
And that desire to see ourselves as better than we really are, and better than other people, results in a laser beam of neurons and
receptors showing us exactly what we asked our brain to show us, (no matter how
irrational) and show us nothing that
would run contrary to what we wanted to see.
And if we can manage to get past that and get genuinely honest with
ourselves, (with a desire for only the
truth)
we begin to see a reality that is far different than what we
previously desired to see. And in an
ironic twist of fate, we find that seeing what we wanted to see, what our irrational desire has caused us to
see in the hope that it will bring us happiness, costs us the very understanding that would
bring the happiness we sought in the first place. And yet we remain certain for so long
(forever for most people unfortunately) that we are in fact seeing reality, because we are seeing everything our brain is
showing us simply because that was our
desire. All the committees in our heads
are also the result of the battle between our ego and what we deep down, at a subconscious level, know to be true about ourselves. We
are constantly trying to convince ourselves that we are telling ourselves and
others the truth. So when we can’t get
the committees out of our heads, the
culprit behind that is only our own self deceptions, and those committee’s will leave as soon as
we get honest with ourselves.

I was not at all surprised when scientists recently discovered something that
these 12 steps proved to me long ago,
and that is that we all have two types of memory. One is called ‘verbatim trace’ memory. That is the memory each of us has of
reality, the actual memory of how things
have really happened in our lives. Our
real motives, our real mistakes, our real dishonesties with ourselves and
others, what was really behind our
victories and our failures and so on. The other type of memory is called “gish
trace” memory, or the memory we have
which is just our personal interpretation of events. In other words, it is the memory we choose to remember, as opposed to what actually has
happened. In this article they said
that it was now being considered a fact that children are better witnesses in
court than adults, because children are
much more likely to recall things as they actually happened, and that adults were much more likely to
remember their own interpretations of what happened. Adults tend to see what they want to
see, hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe, and then remember things that way. The key to the real understanding that will bring real peace of mind and real
happiness into our lives, through an
understanding we never thought ourselves or anyone else capable of, is for us
to ignore the dictates or our irrational ego’s, and start getting in touch with that
‘verbatim trace’ memory of reality! The
twelve steps can do that for us, if we
can become willing! Meditation is
another way (if we know how to do it properly)
which can bring us that self honesty,
because meditation, if properly
done, turns into self examination. Which
is the reason that the 11 step promotes the use of both prayer and
meditation. When we meditate we
will, if we just cease fighting it, see ourselves and our lives for exactly what
they really are. It doesn’t matter how we get that real self honesty
as long as we get it. If we think we
have it but we haven’t gotten all the benefits I’ve talked about, then we don’t really have it yet, no matter how we went about trying to get it. Here is a simple test I use; If I think I can’t understand you, (you is
anyone) it’s because I don’t really
understand me yet. If I think I
understand you but I’m still angry with you,
it’s because I don’t really understand me. The Big Book states that anytime we are
bothered by another human being there is something wrong with us, but it doesn’t ever come right out and say
what that is that is wrong with us. It
leaves it up to us to discover it, and
many never will. The answer I found by
working these steps was not anything I thought it would be. What I discovered is that if I am bothered
by you in any way, the problem is that I
am still lying to me about me. That
doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing something wrong, it just means that when I stop lying to me
about me I will understand you, and with
that understanding will come forgiveness and a desire to help you see a better
way to live. I will know that you are a
victim of your prior influences, your
defects of character, and your
misunderstandings of where happiness comes from, just like me. Other peoples wrong words and actions are
not what anger or bother us, or even
hurt our feelings. It’s our own defects
of character, sired by our ego and
nursed by our irrational fears that cause us anger.

One more thing I want to bring up in finding the fallacies of ego. You and I both know that we all go through life
loving to give ourselves credit for this or for that supposed attribute which
we see in ourselves, or for things we have done, or even for ways that we think and believe. And if we do manage to see a liability, we
usually find someone else to blame it on,
that is if we even see that liability
as
a liability. Many times I took
the same liabilities I saw as liabilities in other people, and made them into assets in myself, because I felt that I had them in the right proportion, unlike others who obviously had them in
excess. And then told myself that I
was responsible for all those assets,
which were nearly always better or more real than other peoples
assets or phony assets as I was
likely to see them. What actually
happened in life though was that I would just periodically take stock of things
about me that I thought were good, make
them out to be even better than they really were, and block out the reality that they were just
the result of various accidents of genetics, instincts, fears, and prior influences going back may years in
my life..

What really causes us to try to excel at one thing or another in our lives? We like
to tell ourselves that it is because we are just super duper people who have
wonderful desires that we create in ourselves,
because we are just naturally superior people. The reality is that we don’t create our own
desires any more than we give ourselves our own DNA. We would first need a desire to create a
desire. If we really get honest with ourselves we
begin to see that our desires are in actuality almost always just the result of
one fear or insecurity or another caused by any number of influences in our
lives, including but in no way limited
to our instincts. We might strive to be
the best at any number of things in our life,
and tell ourselves that it’s because we are the ‘best’ kind of
people, the kind of person that everyone
should strive to be like, and that our
desire simply comes out of the fact that we are fundamentally better than
someone else who doesn’t have that desire.
That’s what our ego is not only very capable of, but most likely is going to tell us, because it’s what our ego, our irrational desire, wants to believe. The reality is that we just had a fear of not
being the best at something because of our insecurities about what people would
think of us if we didn’t excel, and that
fear drove us to try and excel. (and sometimes we only excel in our
imaginations yet are able to convince ourselves that it is all real) We just had a fear that someone else didn’t
have, or a greater fear than they had. In reality we are convincing ourselves that
we are obviously better human beings based on nothing more than we had a fear
they didn’t have. If we do in fact
excel, the reality is that we had
either a greater fear which drove us, or
a greater God given (not self given) talent than they
had, or very possibly a combination of
both.

There are also times in our life when we excel at something for whatever
reasons, whether it is just luck or
natural God given talents, and people
make a big deal out of how good we were at that thing. Suddenly we discover in ourselves a great
desire to excel at that thing in our attempt to keep being patted on the back
and get back the feeling we had when we succeeded. I was watching a fishing show just a little
while ago and the one of the guys on the show told the story of how when he was
a little boy he got into a local fishing tournament. He ended up catching the biggest rainbow
trout and winning $400 in the process.
Everyone made a big deal out of his accomplishment, which at his age could only be seen as the
result of luck. But from that moment on
he wrapped his whole life around fishing,
and became very successful at it.
Now suppose he had been the only one at the tournament who did not catch
a fish. Fishing from then on could have
easily given him an inferiority complex and become something he never wanted to
do. He might have developed a dislike
for and desire not to fish anymore. His whole life may have been entirely
different, just because of that one
prior influence. If we really take a
deep and honest look, we can all see a
number of prior influences in our
lives, both good and bad, that literally shaped the outcome of our
lives by shaping our desires..

The important thing for us to take note of though is the fact that we personally
were not responsible for the result as neither the desire nor the talent came
from anything we were personally responsible for. There is nothing to be personally “proud”
of. The fears and insecurities are just
the result of prior influences in our lives,
which are different for everyone.
If I was born someone else and lived their life with exactly the same
influences they had, in exactly the same order they had them, I would be them. There are no “fundamental” differences among
people, only superficial ones. And when we look closely enough, we will
discover that neither you or I or anyone else is responsible for even those
differences, those were the result of
outside influences or genetics. There is
no credit to be given, and where there
is no credit, there is no blame. Everyone is the best they can be at any given
moment. Not the best they can ever be, nor even the best they can be 5 minutes from
now or even two days in the past, but
the best they can be at this given moment.

Everyone wants the same thing, to be happy, joyous and free. But almost everyone on this planet is extremely confused about how to find those things, and in fact most never will. And amazingly enough, seeing the absolute reality of that is what
brings the understanding that ends ego and pride and brings all those
aforementioned gifts that come out of the power of humility. It is just the power of self honesty!

I hope this can help you come to some kind of better understanding of humility
and help you to understand that it is not synonymous with humiliation, nor is it anything we should not
want in our lives. It is actually the
source of all wisdom for living and a much better and happier life.

Wishing you the best in your recovery and an early out date!

Love ya,

Mike

Ps. The phenomenon that causes this ‘thinking problem’ is not a flaw in our brains, it just acts as a flaw in certain areas of
our lives, such as with alcohol and ego
or any other purely selfish desire. However, it is also this same phenomenon which is responsible for those irrational
thinking problems , that is responsible
for many good things about us. It is
also the reason the Big Book says that we alcoholics, as a whole, are of higher
than normal earning capacity. We can’t however
take any personal pride in that, as we
didn’t give that to ourselves either. That is not something I’m going to go into
right now though, and is not important
for this writing.

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