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Our Big Book tells us that "...resentment is the number one offender", and "If we were to live, we had to be free of anger". It assures us that unless anger and resentment are removed from our minds, that we shall surely drink again. Hopefully we get the point and take action as directed.
This little paper talks about synonyms of resentment, discusses their relationships, and quotes some 34 instances in which they appear in the Big Book or the 12 &12. Our dictionary has this to say:
All of these words, to put it mildly, describe negative feelings the alcoholic might have toward other people, ideas, or institutions. They range from high intensity (hate) to low intensity (displeasure). Some of them are outwardly observable (rage) and others smolder inside (resentment). These distinctions make no difference in the long run. This negativity will corrode our very beingsspiritual(shutting out the sunlight of the Spirit), mental and physical (The medical profession knows well the impact of negative thinking upon common diseases such as stress, arthritis and ulcers.)
But, when we discuss with fellow AA's the need to get rid of anger, we hear a number of contradictory remarks, such as:
Anger is a natural human emotion. Everybody gets angry sometimes.
You tell us to get rid of anger, but we know that stuffing it inside of ourselves is not healthy.
What is important is the manner in which we deal with our anger.
Anger can stimulate a person to great deeds that they would not otherwise perform.
If we are to be true to the directions of AA, then:
The first task is to set the right goal, whichis not accommodation with anger. The necessary objective is its removal.
Next, we must learn to recognize our anger when it arises. An unmistakable flag needs to pop up at the onset of resentment or anger, which says, "Whoa. I am getting angry. This must be stopped right now."
The first damage control task is to prevent acting out of anger. Our good judgment, even if painful, needs to take charge to assure that none of our words or actions will injure others or ourselves. We avoid adding to our 8th step list at any emotional cost. In addition, some folks believe a non-destructive releasesuch as counting to 10 or punching a bagcan be helpful.
Now, we go to work trying to understand why we began to get angry or resentful. The format of the 4th step matrix on page 65 can be helpful here. Who or what triggered my anger? What did another person do (or not do) which made me angry? Which of my buttons, or triggers, got pushed? In what way was I frustrated? Which of my character defects again got in the way of my useful living?
Finally, we take further action in cleaning up our act. Do I need to make an amend? Am I ready for my character defect to be removed? Meditation might help in answering these question. I then go to the source of all power, asking again that I be made free of resentment and anger and become whole to be of service to my Creator and my fellow man.
They sound like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the head with a hammer so that he can't feel the ache. If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irritated and refuse to talk. [Big Book, page 23, line 16]
In some circumstances we have gone out deliberately to get drunk, feeling ourselves justified by nervousness, anger, worry, depression, jealousy or the like. But even in this type of beginning we are obliged to admit that our justification for a spree was insanely insufficient in the light of what always happened. [Big Book, page 37, line 20]
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic , whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison. [Big Book, page 66, line 20]
The question of how to approach the man we hated will arise. It may be he had done us more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults. Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret. [Big Book, page 77, line 19]
As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day "Thy will be done." We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves. It worksit really does. [Big Book, page 88, line 4]
Try not to condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill. [Big Book, page 108, line 14]
Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were "burned up." [Big Book, page 64, line 31]
When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done." [Big Book, page 67, line 7]
The first principle of success [for the wife] is that you should never be angry ." [Big Book, page 111, line 2]
We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment . I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability." [Big Book, page 13, line 16]
I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. [Big Book, page 15, line 12]
It [alcoholism] brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parentsanyone can increase the list. [Big Book, page 18, line 7]
Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? Selfishnessself-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt. So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. [Big Book, page 62, line 7]
We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol. This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. [Big Book, page 66, line 30]
If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. [Big Book, page 70, line 23]
We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. And we have ceased fighting anything or anyoneeven alcohol. [Big Book, page 84, line 24]
When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? [Big Book, page 84, line 24]
Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. [Big Book, page 117, line 29]
As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion. These family talks will be constructive if they can be carried on without heated argument, self-pity, self-justification or resentful criticism. [Big Book, page 127, line 26]
The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. [Big Book, page 145, line 18]
Common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. [12&12, page 6, line 12]
Anger, resentments, jealousy, envy, self-pity, hurt prideall led to the bottle. [12&12, page 8, line 11]
In A.A. we slowly learned that something had to be done about our vengeful resentments, self-pity, and unwarranted pride. We had to see that every time we played the big shot, we turned people against us. We had to see that when we harbored grudges and planned revenge for such defeats, we were really beating ourselves with the club of anger we had intended to use on others. We learned that if we were seriously disturbed, our first need was to quiet that disturbance, regardless of who or what we thought caused it. [12&12, page 47, line 13]
To avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called, let's take a universally recognized list of major human failingsthe Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. [12&12, page 48, line 24]
When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses. All these failings generate fear, a soul-sickness in its own right. Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects. Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angrywhen our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not. We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough. And with genuine alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam. These fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build. [12&12, page 49, line 5]
The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. These stem from causes which sometimes seem to be within us, and at other times to come from without. To take inventory in this respect we ought to consider carefully all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble. It should be remembered that this kind of insecurity may arise in any area where instincts are threatened.[12&12, page 52, line 4]
Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. No one wants to be so proud that he is scorned as a braggart, nor so greedy that he is labeled a thief. No one wants to be angry enough to murder, lustful enough to rape, gluttonous enough to ruin his health. No one wants to be agonized by the chronic pain of envy or to be paralyzed by sloth. [12&12, page 66, line 9]
Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness. [12&12, page 67, line 7]
It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about "justifiable" anger? If somebody cheats us, aren't we entitled to be mad? Can't we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our resentments were justified or not. A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional "dry benders" often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbancesjealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pridedid the same thing. [12&12, page 90, line 6]
Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up. Such a radical change in our outlook will take time, maybe a lot of time. [12&12, page 92, line 13]
As we glance down the debit side of the day's ledger, we should carefully examine our motives in each thought or act that appears to be wrong. In most cases our motives won't be hard to see and understand. When prideful, angry, jealous, anxious, or fearful, we acted accordingly, and that was that. Here we need only recognize that we did act or think badly, try to visualize how we might have done better, and resolve with God's help to carry these lessons over into tomorrow, making, of course, any amends still neglected. [12&12, page 94, line 4]
As the day goes on, we can pause where situations must be met and decisions made, and renew the simple request: "Thy will, not mine, be done." If at these points our emotional disturbance happens to be great, we will more surely keep our balance, provided we remember, and repeat to ourselves, a particular prayer or phrase that has appealed to us in our reading or meditation. Just saying it over and over will often enable us to clear a channel choked up with anger, fear, frustration, or misunderstanding, and permit us to return to the surest help of allour search for God's will, not our own, in the moment of stress. At these critical moments, if we remind ourselves that "it is better to comfort than to be comforted, to understand than to be understood, to love than to be loved," we will be following the intent of Step Eleven. [12&12, page 102, line 19