William Glasser, the renegade behaviorism-is-for-chumps psychiatrist, had some radical concepts that I believe can aid us in uncovering precisely the purpose of AA’s Step Eight and why it’s a necessary ingredient to our “emotionally contented” sobriety.
Below are the following kick-ass concepts and a brief explanation to make my point.
- The five basic needs
- The quality world
- The perceived world
- The comparing place
- Total behaviour
Basically, we have this perceptual system (how we see the world) that does not come out of the womb fully functional. Rather, it’s contingent on very ideal conditions (if not completely impossible conditions) for all five basic needs to be consistently met and in healthy ways.
Granted things don’t run smoothly – they never freaking run smoothly – you’re going to have to do some calibrating to get all systems back online.
The Quality World
The quality world is the concept of the world that you think you need in order to live happily i.e. have all basic needs met. Think of it as a photo album of happy memories and fictions on how the world should be. All behavior, says Glasser, moves towards making life conform to this ideal world.
The Comparing World
The comparing world finds all the discrepancies between the perceived world and the quality world and seeks to restore order and balance.
Total behavior is, more or less, the goal in which all behavior (acting, thinking, feeling, physiology) is aimed. Of course, this end game is the so-called quality world.
Now this article isn’t a critical analysis of Choice Theory, instead I believe the ideas can be constructive.
Here’s the skinny: if the basic needs do not adequately inform the quality world, the comparing place will seize the day, in short ruining your life and the life of those around you. Additionally, the perceived world will run amok in disorder and disarray, and seemingly all control of choice and behavior feels lost.
Where Am I Going With This? How Does It Relate To Step 8 AA?
“To achieve and maintain the relationships we need, we must stop choosing to coerce, force, compel, punish, reward, manipulate, boss, motivate, criticize, blame, complain, nag, badger, rank, rate, and withdraw. We must replace these destructive behaviors with choosing to care, listen, support, negotiate, encourage, love, befriend, trust, accept, welcome, and esteem.”
One author commented on the theory,
“I am sure you have come across the concept of ‘co-dependency’ or ‘enabling’ behaviours. These behaviours seem to come about when we are overly involved in someone else’s internal process, or are not too aware of our own. Choice Theory is the exact opposite of this. It is taking complete responsibility of our own processes, and giving total freedom to others for theirs. With this theory, all problems relate to a relationship problem in some way, and all problems are in the present, even if you think something in the past caused them.
Conflict arises when a person tries to make another person do what is in their Quality World. We can go along with someone else’s Quality World but we are then being incongruent and may ‘depress’. This is what Glasser calls ‘external control’, as opposed to ‘internal control’. Glasser’s ‘seven deadly habits’ of external control are nagging, bribing, blaming, complaining, punishing, threatening and criticising. If we go along with someone else’s Quality world we are not granting them or us freedom, and we are behaving co-dependently.
As you can see, most of us falsely assume and operate as if others must conform to our quality world or as if we must conform to theirs. Usually one or the other.
If only our quality world was well-informed by the five basic needs we wouldn’t be snared in this chaotic conundrum. Yet, universally this appears to be the case.
Therefore, all harms done are the result of a misinformed quality world. Don’t feel guilt and shame for starting off with a malfunctioning system, that would be the equivalent of your boss firing you because he gave you a paint brush with no bristles but expected you to paint.
Instead, the only shame that should be experienced is if you’re unwilling to calibrate your quality world and make it right today.
Bill Wilson likened the malfunctioning quality world as a “collision of instincts.”
“We might next ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we have “harmed” other people. What kinds of “harm” do people do one another, anyway? To define the word “harm” in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people. If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods,
but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind.”
This is a reality across the board, it’s certainly not limited to alcoholics and I’ll be damned if I find an individual who has their instincts consummately balanced.
We are all in process. And, we all start off with a shody map that does not adequately enable us to handle the territory.
The Steps can be seen as a school of cartography, and as sure as I’m alive God will make a map maker out of you yet!
Such gross misbehavior is not by any means a full catalogue of the harms we do. Let us think of some of the subtler ones which can sometimes be quite as damaging. Suppose that in our family lives we happen to be miserly, irresponsible, callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical, impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon one member of the family and neglect the others. What happens when we try to dominate the whole
family, either by a rule of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour? What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? Such a roster of harms done others—the kind that make daily living with us as practicing alcoholics difficult and often unbearable—could be extended almost indefinitely. When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the society of our fellows, they can do damage almost as extensive as that we have caused at home.
Having carefully surveyed this whole area of human relations, and having decided exactly what personality traits in us injured and disturbed others, we can now commence to ransack memory for the people to whom we have given offense. To put a finger on the nearby and most deeply damaged ones shouldn’t be hard to do. Then, as year by year we walk back through our lives as far as memory will reach, we shall be bound to construct a long list of people who have, to some extent or other, been affected. We should, of course, ponder and weigh each instance carefully.
We shall want to hold ourselves to the course of admitting the things we have done, meanwhile forgiving the wrongs done us, real or fancied. We should avoid extreme judgments, both of ourselves and of others involved. We must not exaggerate our defects or theirs. A quiet, objective view will be our steadfast aim.”
Yes, it sounds like a monsterous venture. It may even sound impossible. However, think of it this way: if you’re about to go high intensity white water rafting you’re going to want an impeccable map or one hell of a guide. Think of your sponsor has your guide as you discover the contours of this beomuth river, exposing every dark and hidden cranny so your map is fit to handle the rough terrain’s of life ahead.
Are you ready? Still hesitant or unwilling? The Big Book has a suggestion.
The Big Book’s Two Cents
“Now we need more action, without which we find that “Faith without works is dead.’’ Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run
the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.”
Faith Without Works (The Cornerstone)
This little quip caused quite the stir within the Church. Fortunately, since our purpose is survival rather than doctrinal soteriology, our path will be far less tumultuous. Ironic, right?
Anyway, this verse really just means it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.
You say you believe a Higher Power can restore you to sanity? Do you envision a well-informed quality world can bring you contented sobriety and a far superior quality of life? Do you reckon that properly directed instinct can bring you peace and rest?
Now is your opportunity.
The List From The Fourth Step
You have the list, or at least the majority of it if you’ve completed a thorough fourth step. At this point, we put the pedal to the metal and, as Bill W said, “commence to ransack memory for the people to whom we have given offense.”
No stone must be left unturned.
I know, I know. You’re not ready to make amends. But guess what? You’re not there yet! This is just your list and a dose of readiness.
Prayer Is The Key To Willingness
If you’re unwilling to ingest the dose of readiness you “ask until it comes.”
This is referring to prayer.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere,
…the substance of prayer is a petition: pleading for thinking-patterns which are laden with honesty, requesting the humility required for consummate self-evaluation, and appealing for motivation to live per our essence, even with a primitive brain telling us otherwise.
In truth, as we pray for these qualities we ultimately step into a wardrobe and select specific fabric to wear for the day, an attitude and lifestyle if you will AKA a set of habits.
Indeed, take addiction for instance. Addiction isn’t one bad habit as it is often misunderstood, instead, it’s an entire lifestyle composed of many maladaptive and poor habits.
Donning a new robe is no easy feat, it takes persistence, determination, diligence, and an entire army of support and accountability – you’re “prayer team” if you will.
Mother Theresa was aware of this reality. She had the ministers in her organization subscribe to daily divine hours, which were specific times of the day to pray to ensure they could stay the course. Additionally, they would hold mass together and break bread together. Thus, employing all the necessary ingredients: persistence, determination, diligence, and the prayer army.
Are you ready to receive your new attire? Click here to advance to Step Nine.