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Awareness and Accountability

Chapter VI




The Twelve Steps used by the recovering alcoholics appeared originally in 1939 and were amended in 1953. They are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

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

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

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

     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.

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 (

What may not be known very well is that Alcoholics Anonymous founder, Bill Wilson, had them classified in the following subcategories: establish relationship with God (steps 1-3); clean house (steps 4-9); spread the word (steps 10-12). Seven of the twelve steps deal with issues of accountability.

Accountability, or more correctly stated, self-accountability is an aspect of therapy, which could be considered the foundation of healing and which allows us to look at life with a sense of joy.

In a 2011 documentary called Happy (Wady Rum Films, San Francisco, 2011), the components of one’s happiness are listed as: 50% genetic; 10% external events; and 40% perception. Out of these three, it is the perception aspect on which we have 100% control and therefore for which we are accountable 100%.

When we talk about accountability, we want to establish to which part of our brain do we hold ourselves accountable: the selfish, primitive, reptilian, ego and pride fueled one; or the selfless, evolved, mammalian, idealist and compassionate one?

This is particularly important to address after a one time traumatic event or after intermittent traumatic events, which demolish our normal homeostasis (balance) and demand healing, before our resumption of a harmonious life.

       Expanding on the Kubler - Ross 5 stages of Grief  Model (https//en wikipedia. org/ wiki/ K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model),

I propose the following 8 Stages of Healing Model: Shock-Denial-Pain-Fear-Sadness – Anger - Bargaining - Closure Acceptance//Forgiveness.

An individual may go through this cycle of healing sequentially or by jumping between stages, in no particular order. She may linger briefly or for years in one stage or another, until full closure is achieved. While each stage has its own difficulties and impact on people, it seems that the facing and moving away from anger is perhaps the hardest stage to pass. 

Rich Pfeiffer, in his Anger Management Curriculum (Pfeiffer, R. Growth Publishing, Tucson, 2012, pp. 4-5), lists some characteristics of people with anger problems: low frustration tolerance; judgmental and critical reactions; perfectionism; all or nothing thinking; possessiveness; poor communication; punitive behavior; addictive personality; and use anger to demonstrate power.

He distinguishes between healthy anger (as a motivation for change) and unhealthy anger (as a pretext for [self] abuse).

We have to establish the fact that anger is a secondary emotion to fear and therefore, if we want to comprehensively resolve our anger, we have to first address and resolve the fears which are triggering the anger.

One way of doing this lies in knowing our brain’s functions better. We already addressed the front/back functions of the brain. How about the lateral functions of the brain?

Rich Pfeiffer describes them as follows: the left hemisphere is in charge of verbal communication; logical and organizing abilities; ability to focus on reality; details and micromanagement. The right hemisphere is in charge of: visual communication; imagination; spatial abilities; creative abilities; feelings exploration; and macro-management (Pfeiffer, R. The Anger Management Curriculum Growth Publishing, Tucson, 2012, pg. 21).

Also, in learning to use our consciousness for the betterment of our ideas and lives, we may focus on our interactions with ourselves and/or the world, at the conscious, subconscious, unconscious and supra-conscious levels.

The capacity to make conscious decisions is one of the things that are human. We make choices and decisions all the time. Some are logical, some are emotional. Some decisions we make instantly, some take us extensive planning.

    1. Conscious decisions are fully aware decisions. We use the information which is available to us, evaluate the pros and the cons calmly, look at them from the short-term, medium-term and long-term perspective and we use consequential thinking in order to come to a decision. We take full responsibility for each decision, knowing and feeling that it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. We are aware we take decisions and why we take them.

2. Subconscious decisions are based on our past experiences, and on our personal beliefs, as to what it is acceptable in our eyes and in the eyes of the society we live in. Our subconscious plays a major role in our decision making process. Often we think that we have a choice but the way our conditioning is, determines the outcome of the decisions. We are aware we take decisions but not why we take them.

3.  Unconscious decisions are the decisions we make while we are not really aware of making them and therefore, we cannot explain why we make them. These can be decisions made out of habit or generally, doing something without thinking about the consequences for ourselves and of others. Crimes of passion are often committed at this level of thinking. This is the autopilot mode where we give control of our lives and often blame others for the consequences. We are neither aware we take decisions nor why we take them.

     4.  Supra-conscious decisions are “made” for us in the form of inspiration. Inspiration or being in the Spirit, implies that we are in contact with a higher power (or the Creator power) whose counsel we have opened up to and who is communicating with us. There are many reported ways to achieve that connection with the universal wisdom which may range from prayer, meditation, psychedelic drugs, music, dance, poetry, writing, to painting. We can focus and attract creative energy as much as we can focus and attract destructive energy. For the other side of the sun is the black sun just as the other side of creation and love, is destruction and hatred. We are not aware we take decisions but we are aware why we take them.

We can think of meditation as focused awareness of our minds’ and our bodies’ interactions with ourselves and with the world. An adage states that if prayer is us speaking with God, meditation is God speaking with us. Meditation is helped by the time, space, duration, posture (position) and the kind of breathing we chose.

 One pivotal role of meditation is breathing. In regard to this, from professional dancers, actors, singers, orators, to professional athletes, they are trained very early in their curriculum about the importance of the diaphragmatic breathing. This kind of ‘gut breathing’ much like laughter, manages to send copious amounts of oxygen up and down the body without relegating it to the upper body area only, which is the case with regard to the breathing from the lungs. While the lungs do the mechanics of breathing, the diaphragm does the intensity of breathing.

Laughter also known as “the best medicine,” is a form of the deep inhalation used from yogis to babies which is related to the diaphragmatic breathing’s benefits to oxygenate the whole body, with its integrative and complete breathing system. 

Meditation in itself, from its deep breathing to its dual focusing on intentions and/or to solutions, has helped its practitioners to reduce pain in their bodies, to reverse non-curable diseases (through a process called Imagineering), to find clarity in their thinking, to become humble (in the selfless meaning of the word), to become grateful, to invent various schools of thoughts and material creations, as well as, to connect themselves with the entity we call God. 

There is functional thinking (thinking that helps us progress in life) and dysfunctional thinking (thinking the makes us stagnate, or regress in life). Some of the dysfunctional thinking types are all or nothing thinking, should, catastrophizing, over generalizing, minimizing/maximizing, personalizing, jumping to conclusions, labeling, defeatism (also called learned helplessness) and denial. In terms of denial we have denial of facts, intentions, damage and responsibility. 

All these dysfunctional thinking types are set aside from our thinking, by using the method of suspended judgment. When one suspends her judgment, she opens the door to know and understand her interlocutor from the interlocutor’s perspective. One’s personal judgment can resume at any point in time, yet suspending it, even for brief amounts of time, allows for an impartial look as how the person to whom one speaks, sees herself. Suspended judgment allows us to use empathy and compassion as a means to reframe our world views by understanding the plight of others. It also is conducive to try and find a mutually accepted compromise, from the win-win perspective, regarding my interests and others’.

There are six basic steps to resolve conflicts:

1.  Evaluate your understanding of the situation, your feelings regarding the situation, your needs regarding the situation and what realistic incentives can you have, to encourage others to cooperate. Understand that forcing, or coercing compliance from the other stake-holders, may only give short-term results, whereas seduction/inspiration of others, may lead to more long-term changes, fitting our goals, in regards to them.

2. Find peace within yourself regardless of external pressure. If one has integrity, she is fine with her decisions, regardless of the external feed-back. In fact, the very definition of integrity is “doing the right thing even when nobody is watching.” We have the innate ability to mentally overcome everything except death. This should give us the certainty of peace, even under the most drastic circumstances. Whether we choose to use this ability (resilience) or not, is up to us.

     3. Listening carefully. This is the first step to dialogue and involves open ended questions (what, where, when, why, who and how), instead of close-ended questions (requiring the more limiting yes/no answers). These 6 w questions are important because they allow for our interlocutors to describe their feelings, thoughts, positions and needs without them having to use reductionist and simplistic monosyllabic answers.

4. Recognize conflict issues. Very often we confuse position issues with needs issues. Because of that we try to solve conflicts between positions, which would be like treating the symptoms of a disease instead of its causes. For example, if I go on a low-salt diet, instead of taking a medication to numb the head-ache generating from the high-salt related high blood pressure, I solve the need to fix the cause of the problem instead of just addressing the effect of it.

5. Select an appropriate time and place to discuss issues. The rule of thumb is if all parties (or just one) are emotional, they are not open or capable to use logic. Therefore, calmness is needed to be achieved, in order to be able to think and act logically rather than reacting based on anger. In addition to a calm attitude, making sure that the stake-holders are well-fed, well rested and hydrated before engaging in conflict solving discussions is essential, in order to avoid distractions from logical dialogue due to physiological needs.

6. Treat each other with respect. Respect involves a certain team-work paradigm as opposed to the selfish, individualistic mind-set. Selfishness is instant gratification based and dictatorial, as opposed to selflessness which is more prone to compromising and defers to long-term solutions its needs for the sake of win-win goals. 

Rich Pfeiffer, in his Anger Management Curriculum (Pfeiffer, R. Growth Publishing, Tucson, 2012, p. 4) gives a list of five repercussions, which are triggered by an angry person:

1. Cognitive: memory problems; inability to concentrate, poor judgments; seeing and seeking the negative of a situation; constant worrying.

2. Emotional: moodiness; irritability; and short-temper; agitation; inability to relax; feeling overwhelmed; a sense of loneliness and isolation; depression, or general unhappiness.

3. Physical: breathing problems; aches and pains; diarrhea, or constipation; nausea; dizziness; chest pain and rapid heartbeat; loss of sex drive; ulcers; frequent colds.

    4.Behavioral: eating insufficiently, or in excess; sleeping too much, or too little; isolating yourself from others; procrastinating, or neglecting responsibilities; using alcohol, cigarettes and/or illicit drugs to relax; nervous habits (nail biting, pinching of the lips, pacing).

5. Social: bring resentment into a loving relationship; bring suspicion into a trusting relationship; bring destruction into a creative relationship; being involved in the legal system, due to criminal actions.

With mindful attention, and correction of our beliefs, perceptions, intentions, words and actions, we may redress our focus from negativity to positivity, from reacting to responding and from focusing at what we cannot do anymore, to concentrating at what we can still do, that is, from a spirit of love, joy, laughter and gratitude.


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