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The Elimination of the Ego-Self

Just recently I had been studying again and these are thoughts that I have put together from my learnings to share with you. The thought train started as I was thinking about one of the happenings that occurred when I was new in the program and clawing my way back from the depths of the Hell I had been living.

My sponsor was trying to explain to me about the steps, especially the 6th and 7th, and how I was going to have to learn to give up all my old ideas of how things should or should not be. Ideas that I had been holding onto in a desperate attempt to maintain an identity. I remarked at one point in our conversation, "Hell, you are trying to eliminate me!!" He very quietly replied, "If we could eliminate YOU, you would have it all!!" Of course, I didn't understand that at the time, but today I do. He was referring to "ego deflation in depth." The continued practice of the Steps has substantially accomplished this and eliminated the old clawing, clinging, scrapping, unloving and unloveable ME, and given me a loving I AM that is so much more than I could ever have imagined at the time.

From the beginning of life we have all been programmed to, as we say, "Look out for Number One." That is still the watch phrase even today in AA. "To Thine Ownself Be True." But what does this mean? It means that I must be diligently attuned to acquiring the teachings of AA, to incorporating the principles and ideals into my way of life, so that I can give away what I have learned, in order that I may keep it. In this respect, we selfishly seek out the lessons we need to learn, and as time progresses we find we learn them best by teaching. This is the basis of the truism that "When the student is ready, the teacher appears, when the teacher is ready, the student appears." We are all learners and we are all teachers.

I know that for years as a drunk, I was constantly defending my ego-image of SELF...a very false image and I knew it, but I was scared shitless to let anyone else know. I had convinced myself that if they ever found out the truth about me, it was all over. It wasn't until I had been in AA for some time, practicing the steps to the best of my ability, that I began to realize that as my ego defense walls came down, life got a lot better, there were less and less war-parties and emotional upsets. From this it came to me that the best defense in all situations was defenselessness...total elimination of the false ego-image of SELF, or as Bill wrote, ego deflation in depth.

Gradually, as I was moving past this old, selfish Number One, in the process of trying to apply the Steps, I found my self going back through a neutral equanimity, that is, my ego defense walls were coming down a brick, a block, a section at a time. And, finally, moving on in the direction toward zero selfish ego-defended image of SELF.

As each brick would work its way loose, the thought would occur "But isn't this a dangerous thing to do? What will happen to me?" We can almost hear our own protests welling up: "Give up myself to a mindless oblivion? Become a zero? No way! Not going to be a hole in a donut!" Reasonable objections. In theory, someone who just "lets go" might fall into a careless, unfeeling, zombie-like state, become an aimless dropout, drifting with the prevailing winds and currents. And we do see that in AA on occasion. They are the moochers, there only to take, never to give, never to share, in abject fear of giving of themselves, afraid that they might lose something, they know not what.

But remember, no one engaged in diligent practice of the Steps of AA relinquishes either moral compass, anchor, or rudder. The early members of AA already have put in place the proven right-minded ethical code, the twelve-fold path of the Steps, proven by their own experiences in the path to recovery. Our Big Book has further grounded us in both the strong, family-based social ethic in the Chapters to Wives and The Family Afterwards and in the deep respect for the natural order of things. Moreover, another foundation for meditative training is the Eleventh Step, where we ask ourselves questions in meditation of how we have missed the mark with our character defects during the day and how we could do better. In the beginning it is hard work, but the fellowship of other members in meetings, live face-to-face, or on the phone or internet, provides a cohesive support group to help us continue on in life a day at a time.

So where I have spoken of the direction toward "zero" it has been as a very temporary and imperfect metaphor. In this context, it always stands for losing only the unfruitful part of the self, our defects of character, not for a totally vacuous personality. The diligent practice of the Steps does not wipe out all personality structure, to leave only a nobody. It spares the pragmatic ego in the original God given sense. It leaves intact all those vital functions that help us manage situations in real life. Indeed, this maturing ego grows increasingly flexible and practical, finding new ways to navigate both life's vicissitudes and the rigors of the Step by Step training process.

Who, then, are the best candidates for this Step by Step training process? Not zeros, as we may perceive ourselves to be when we come to AA, but in reality, persons already tough-minded to begin with. Survivors in the face of total catastrophe and defeat, rebels who will not accept the status quo. In view of what it is that we are setting out to attain by the ego deflation in depth that the process of applying the Steps requires, the psychologist Engler aptly notes: "You have to be somebody before you can be nobody."

Consistent application of the Steps, and in particular the daily review of the 10th Step and the meditation of the 11th Step, is a marvelous agency of personal change. It contributes a distinctive, fourfold, creative encounter that shapes the process of change.

First, it provides a setting of rigorous honesty that soon exposes how much we have been distorted by the I-Me-Mine complex.

Second, in our quiet place, open and free of distractions, as we review each day in meditation, our own insights then disclose how insubstantial and lacking in continuity these distortions really are.

Third, as we interact with our sponsor and other members it provides ways to work off these dysfunctions in daily life practice.

And fourth, it provides a setting amongst our fellows that is intrinsically so much more appealing than the life we had been leading, that the seeker of sobriety tends to stay the course, no matter what happens.

In such dynamic ways do persistent practice and rare insights help shrink the once almighty I, the vulnerable Me, and the intrusive Mine. Not gone entirely. Just reduced to manageable proportions. Just i-me-mine. Something more considerate of the you, the we, the ours, and the rest of the biosphere. Being diminutive, this new i-me-mine carries a very low profile. Smaller and streamlined, it no longer sticks up high to trip the positive functions of the maturing ego. Neither is it windblown by every shifting, hot or cold breeze from the old instinctual, reactive, ego-driven self. Nor will it be overloaded by any attempted distortions imposed by others' guilt-ridden consciences.

In fact, some of its shrinking is only apparent. Look beneath the i-me-mine. There, at its base, we find that its many positive attributes have substantially expanded. Especially does its living taproot, that part of our Higher Power we find deep within ourselves, which is always spared, now probe deeper, grounded in ways that perceive life's deeper rhythms. Now we recall, from the A-B-C's on page 60, that its lower-case letters stand for the a-b-c's of someone revitalized, whose Spirit has been awakened, more actualized, buoyant, and compassionate. Where did the hitherto partisan self of the Me generation go? Into a simpler generic member who belongs to the We generation. To this person, it will seem only natural to celebrate Earth Day every day. Delusional? It hardly feels that way. It seems like a return toward one's original state in the eternal scheme of things.

Still, any member's progress is uneven at best. Backsliding into old reactive habit patterns occurs. Let strong passions arise, and the old italics and capital letters rear back up. We relearn during every such sobering reencounter why so few persons have ever become perfectly evolved, selfless beings. Yet, endured year by patient year, the unfruitful parts of the complex grow smaller, their wasted energies subside sooner, to be put to better use. Each working of the Steps deepens our understanding, leaving less protruding. We are peeling the onion, so to speak.

From these perspectives, the AA approach would seem a glacially slow process of unlearning and personal restructuring. It operates on what seems at times almost a geological time scale. Any novice expecting a permanent quick fix is soon disappointed. The beginning member, it turns out, is first simply learning how to unlearn. Then the receptive process of relearning opens up. As it unfolds on its own, it seems to reconnect the person with what are now new and vital relationships. Yet, they are the ones that have always been there. We are life's ageless, immanent, everyday miracles. We are "The Beloved!!" We are the One we have been waiting for!!

Love and Peace, Barefoot

We are Somebody,
Even with all our hesitancy, backing up and starting over again.

"When you are awake the dream is gone...
When you are Enlightened the 'world of illusion' is gone...
...and the TRUTH will make you FREE."


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Created Feb 8, 2000 in the Spirit of Love and Cooperation

Three mighty important things, Pardn'r, LOVE And PEACE and SOBER-MINDEDNESS