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“The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong.” Big book p66
Unfortunately this includes me too! I have to digest the unpalatable truth that often I have been quite wrong – I have clung onto my false beliefs, irrespective of the amount of pain they cause me, because I mistakenly think they define who I am and that they can’t be changed. To avoid stagnation, however, my false beliefs need to be challenged, dismantled and reversed. I need to abandon my “old ideas” /lifelong (mis)conceptions, recognize my software malfunction and express my new beliefs in everything I do. This for me is still very much a work in progress and requires much practice ( prayer, meditation) and guidance (from my sponsor and Higher Power).

Some examples of my false beliefs:

Someone is a bad person based on one wrong doing – they can be condemned / discredited entirely on this basis, myself included. I erroneously assign worth based on external behaviour/ thoughts / actions / defects, and one ‘error’ = worthlessness. What ‘logically’ follows from this is that I am unlovable if I do something wrong, and you are unlovable if you do something wrong. This is a resistance and rejection of the truth that as human beings we are flawed and mistakes are inevitable. Corrective belief: We are all of the same inherent worth and value.

Other people’s opinions define my value. I need people to like me/ love me/ look up to me, otherwise I am worthless. What I need to realise is that pride – the ‘need’ of approval of others – is a vile and worthless drug. Even if I get this approval, what do I do with it? It is effectively useless in itself. It serves only to gratify my ego, a temporary and unstable antidote to the ‘hole’ inside of me.  Corrective belief: What I am and what I am worth are unaffected by good or bad opinion.

My beliefs, thinking and attitudes cannot change. This is a somewhat absurd assertion, considering that I now have concrete evidence of the contrary. I believed with every fibre of my being that alcohol and drugs were the solution to my problems. I believed in the absence of God. I believed self-harming was a valid coping mechanism, a highly effective way to manage my feelings of disappointment, frustration and rage. I believed I was always right and you were always wrong. I believed my problems were of your making. I believed I would always feel empty… Five and a half years on I no longer hold these beliefs. My thinking has been transformed, implying more transformations are possible. Corrective belief: My beliefs, thinking and attitudes CAN be changed.

I am not responsible for my thoughts, feelings, actions and internal life. This has been a big one for me as it has essentially meant I have been slow – or avoidant – in making amends. I have always blamed my harmful behaviour on my depressive episodes, my feelings of rage, that swirling vortex of pain, all of which I claimed were out of my control. The truth I am learning now is that I am in fact responsible for my insides, as well as my behaviour. Corrective belief: I can choose what to think.

If you think differently to me, you are attacking me. Embarrassingly, this is essentially arrogance: insisting that others conform to our wishes, recognize our leadership, accept our own estimate of our worth. Being overbearing, argumentative, opinionated, obstinate (definition from St. Augustine’s Prayer Book). I can’t play God and rely on God at the same time, whereby “playing God” is scripting the universe and monitoring it for compliance. Corrective measure: Humility – recognise my thoughts are essentially worthless and differences in opinion are inevitable.

The darkness and misery are real. This really relates again to believing my thoughts/ allowing my thoughts to have power over me, and being convinced that all intrusive negative thoughts represent reality whilst happiness, joy and love are illusions. The truth is that when I am deeply neurotic and unhappy I am living in fiction. Corrective belief: Love. Life. Truth. Intelligence = Reality. Be an observer, not a participant, in my thoughts.