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Thread: Overeaters' Anonymous

  1. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    Hi Oddhat,

    Thank you for the reply. This is the part that confuses me because I don't know what it means:

    "I think it's mainly a matter of separating out the symbolism and translating it to what's being symbolized."


    Could you elaborate? Maybe give an example to help me understand?
    Geila, I'll give it a shot, though I think the books I mentioned above do it better.

    As humans, we have two "selves" -- the essential self and the ego self. As far as we know, other creatures don't have egos.

    The essential self is mostly how we were when we were born, before the world shaped us.

    As Carl Sagan said, we are all "star stuff," meaning we and everything else on Earth are made of the same stuff found throughout the universe (carbon, hydrogen, etc.). This "star stuff" is just energy, which means that we, at our essential level, are also just energy.

    Everything about us -- our bodies, brains, thoughts, ideas, efforts, traditions -- is also therefore just energy.

    The thing about energy is that it never dies. It only gets transformed or redirected. This is basic science, not religion. But this is what the scriptures mean by "eternal life." It's not about souls and spirits, it's about science.

    So that's the essential self.

    The ego self is all the noise we add to our self-image because we are human and think we are not enough as we are at the essential level. The following things are part of the ego self:

    Our opinions, beliefs, prejudices, political leanings, careers, talents, hobbies, knowledge, passions, family identity, cultural identity, ethnic and racial identity, memories, traumas, education, and the list goes on.

    These things form the basis of who we think we are. None of them are part of the essential self. Most of them are changeable, and the ones that aren't, such as race or memories of traumatic events that have affected us, we can still change how we think about.

    So the ego self is just who we think we are, not who we actually are at the essential level.

    To make an ego error is to confuse how we are with who we are. It's not a moral failing, just an honest mistake. Scriptures call this "sin," which translates as "missing the mark." There was never any intended moral judgment in the word "sin." That's just how the word was twisted and used by religions to gain power over followers.

    So what is God? Or the Higher Power? God and Higher Power are just symbols representing the essential self, the being that you are at your most core level, the being that you were before the tribulations of life happened to you and before society told you that you needed a bunch of other stuff to lug around with you, such as beliefs, opinions, expertise, social stature, a good career (whatever that means), a religion (or something else to believe in), a solid education, a certain car, a house, and so forth.

    If you strip away all the noise of civilized life, you eventually return to your essential self. In Western religion, this is called "salvation" or being "born again." In Eastern philosophies, it's called enlightenment.

    Whatever you call it, it's just a new awareness that how you are -- or, rather, who you think you are -- is not the same as who you really are at the core level.

    With this new awareness, you could read through the 12 steps and interpret them differently, without the symbolism:

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

    Or: We admitted that we confused our ego self and our essential self and that the ego self lost control, leading us into reliance on a coping mechanism (drinking) that became a habit.

    2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

    Or: We came to realize that the ego self had taken over where our essential self should have been in control.

    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

    Or: Once we realized that our ego self had taken over for the essential self, we gave control back to the essential self, where it belongs.

    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

    Or: We realized all the noise of the ego and called it what it is: just noise.

    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

    Or: Here you can just make a list of all things you "think" you are that are not part of you essential self: Your career, your social status, your expert knowledge, all the awards you've won, all the money you've earned or spent or saved or wasted. See list above.

    6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

    Or: Became ready to see ourselves as we truly are, not as who we thought we were.

    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

    OR: Agreed to focus from now on on who we truly are at our core and forget about (or at least try to minimize) all the ego noise.

    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

    This will vary by person, but if you need to apologize to or forgive someone, just do it. You don't have to do it face to face. Just let it go and chalk it up to lessons learned. Grudges, anger, grief, and victim identity are all part of the ego self. You can let them go now. Just take them off like an old ragged coat and toss them.

    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

    Do this if you must or feel you need to.

    10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

    Or: Just do something simple every day like make a mental list off all the things that, at any given moment, are not part of your essential self. Whatever those things are, they are just noise and can be cast off.

    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    Just keep reminding yourself that how you are -- or how you used to be -- is not the same as who you are at your core.

    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Or: Having realized that Carl Sagan and our basic eighth-grade science classes were right about humans being "star stuff," we now realize that the things we thought defined us were just bogus notions of the ego that we adopted in order to impress or satisfy other people or society. Now that we are free of all that nonsense, we can go about life with a greater awareness of who we really are, that we are perfectly whole and OK just as we are at the essential level. All the rest is noise.

  2. #72
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Wow. This is fantastic. Thank you so much. I'm going to read it a few times and let it soak in before I reply.

  3. #73
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    Just want to add that "ego noise" is my own term.

    There is nothing wrong with, or bad about, the ego or any of the things that are part of the ego identity. It's all part of being human and getting by in the world. But it needs to be kept in balance.

    This is the challenge of being human. Learning to keep the ego in check is one reason we are here. The goal is not to eliminate the ego, just to keep it in perspective.

    The essential self is the adult. The ego self is the child. Don't let the kid drive the car. Keep the adult in the driver's seat. That's what mindfulness and meditation are all about -- staying in the driver's seat.

    When the ego takes over -- when the kid drives the car -- all kinds of things can go wrong: depression, addiction, violence, low self-esteem, jealousy, resentment, eventually illness.

    Kids (egos) take things personally and either lash out or withdraw. They have a distorted view of reality. Keep the adult in the driver's seat. That's how you stay on the road.

    These are just more symbols now. Ignore them if they're confusing.

  4. #74
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Hi Oddball - I just realized that I've been calling you Oddhat instead of Oddball! I'm so sorry!

    The alternate responses you gave for the 12 Steps are very helpful. Totally different than what I would have ever come up with. It makes it really easy to dismiss the negative response to the steps because this different view is so much more appealing and useful to me. I was getting really caught up in the wording of the steps because it created a conflict between my beliefs and values and what the steps language says to me. I experience that same conflict with organized religion. This is helpful for that as well. I think the challenge now will be for me to allow others to have their own beliefs and not feel the need to impose my own view on them. I need to respect the right of others to hold beliefs that feel harmful to me. And to keep my mouth shut about it.

    Interestingly, your example of the child as ego and adult as essential self stirred up some uncomfortable feelings for me. I was abused as a child and I feel such tremendous respect for the child that I was and the fact that she survived the abuse without losing her humanity and kindness. I feel a reluctance to see her as the ego. I know that it's just a symbol that you used, but it was interesting to see how that brought up feelings for me.

    Speaking of symbols, I took a class once that dealt a lot with symbolism and it was such a hard class for me! I couldn't get a handle on how symbols work. My brain couldn't wrap itself around it. I've been pretty busy these last few days so I haven't had a chance to see if my brain can use the examples you gave for the 12 steps to try to crack the symbolism key. I've been working a bit on just accepting things without trying to over-analyze, which I tend to do quite a bit. I remember when I took my math classes and struggled so much because I didn't understand math. I was told that with enough repetition, the brain would learn, even without my understanding it. I didn't believe it, but sure enough, given enough practice that's exactly what happened. I'm going to spend some time with this material over the weekend just soaking it in without trying to analyze it.

    Thanks so much for this.

  5. #75
    Senior Member Ultralight's Avatar
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  6. #76
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    Geila, no worries on the screen name. It's just a symbol.

    Remember that beliefs, values, principles, and other alliances are all part of the ego self. The more you can let go of them, the closer you will get to your essential self. You did not come into the world with these biases. You acquired them. One book I read explains the concept of "false maturity," meaning all the ego stuff we acquire in order to protect ourselves. Your're on the right track with letting people have their own values and beliefs. We all feel the need to protect ourselves with these ego add-ons. Compassion, in part, is the ability to understand this and to allow other people to have their security blankets. Meanwhile, we grow and mature by learning to let go of our own security blankets.

    Regarding the child vs. the adult. Don't take this too literally. What I mean is maturity level. The essential self is far more mature than the ego self. When you were a child, you actually might have been much closer to your essential self than you are now as an adult. In some ways, all of us might have been wiser as kids. Time and experience can pull us in either direction on the continuum of wisdom and maturity. Bottom line is that the more mature version of ourselves is the one who should be in control.

    Maturity is measured by your ability to recognize the delusions of your ego self and replace them with the clear vision of your essential self. This is the goal of 12 Steps and other methods of personal growth.

  7. #77
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