AA’s Strange Paradox

One night I was sitting in my living room watching TV, whilst being tormented by uncomfortable emotions. Trying fruitlessly to focus on the show I was watching, my thoughts kept turning to a subject matter sufficiently dark for me to be disinclined to share it with an audience as large as this newsletter’s readership. The pain and anguish I was experiencing reached such a level that it finally managed to propel me to lift that ‘hundred pound phone’. I called a friend of mine and shared with him what was going on in my head. The root cause of my troubles it was determined, was anger borne out of resentments that I was harbouring that had not been expressed. This anger having not been released had nowhere else to go but inward, manifesting itself as depression.

My friend’s prescription was to pray for those that I have resentments for every night for two weeks. More specifically, he told me to pray for those people to get the things that I want for myself. So I’d sit on the edge of my bed before going to sleep and I’d ask myself, what do I want for myself in this moment? The answer might be something like, to feel comfortable in my own skin, to have piece of mind, or to find beauty in everyday moments. I would then proceed to wish for the person I had a resentment towards to get whatever it was that I wanted for myself. The remarkable thing was that not only did the resentment begin to fade, but I found myself being granted whatever it was that I was praying for in the other person!

So paradoxically it was only when I thought of others that I could help myself. A strange paradox of the AA program is that it is often referred to as being a ‘selfish program,’ yet helping others is one of its central tenets. We help others for selfish reasons, because it indirectly helps ourselves. Praying for those that I have resentments towards turned out to be among the most magnificent gifts that I have received from this program.