Letting Go Of (Self) Contempt Prior To Investigation

12 steppers and zenI’ve always loved the quote from Herbert Spencer that’s at the end of  Appendix II,  Sp ritual Experience. It says:

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a person in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation. (p. 568 Big Book 4th ed.)

If you follow this blog you may have noticed that I had an experience of letting go of what really amounted to contempt (gee that sounds harsh) prior to investigation when I started to work the steps with a Zen teacher. I talked about it in When A 12 Stepper Gets Stuck In Her Story.

I suppose no matter how we work the steps is a good way – at least that continues to be my experience.

I’m right up against another 4th Step. I don’t know about you, but when I’m doing an inventory or getting ready to do one I tend to be ultra sensitive until I get it written and delivered in a 5th Step.

Anger is barely skin deep at the moment

For example, my business partner emailed me a series of suggestions about how we might make our business work better. I’m so grateful it was an email! I immediately took it all as criticism of me and what I’d done. Then I got angry and started an email back that would have accused her of who knows what.

Fortunately, partly because of meditation, I recognized I was so far out of bounds I just stopped for a bit. I know this woman. She’s always had my back and I knew to my core that she had no intention of criticizing me. Putting forth suggestions, yes, but making me wrong? Never happen.

So after I calmed down a bit it came to me to call her, which I did and I was right… she’s got my back. I got to express just enough of how I felt to let it go and we went on to a great conversation and the beginning of a joint plan.

Contempt of myself doesn’t work

In those first moments I was doing anything but investigating before taking action… my out-of-bounds emotions were a bar to any progress. Because I’m particularly vulnerable at the moment – something she had no way of knowing – I immediately moved back into my old pattern of taking everything personally.


Taking care of myself does work

Calling my friend and partner was really taking care of myself. I didn’t call to confront her, but to simply tell her I was hurting and ask for her help. I knew I was out of line and admitted that I was having trouble re-balancing myself. Just saying that out loud to her helped me immensely. It was actually Step 10 in action.

So did the nap I took this afternoon. I start a class tonight and I knew I was going to get sleepy; the nap will make it possible for me to get through the evening with some grace. Since it’s both a class and some business I want to be reasonably sharp.

Because I know I’m a little off base I’ll take surface streets and go gently rather than rush on the freeways.

I’ll eat a light dinner and take water with me as well as a notebook and pens.

When I take care of myself I’m able to notice when I’m out of balance and likely to fly off the handle. I can take some action that supports both me and others. I can ask for help when that’s appropriate, which is more often than I tend to think it is.

We’re never meant, I think, to become perfect, whatever that might mean. Instead if we stay present to what we’re experiencing in the moment we can respond with some grace and pull back when we’re about to act out.

Sounds a lot like serenity to me.

Your turn: Does my experience match yours? What do you do when you realize your anger or other emotion is running wild? Have you learned to take care of  yourself? How do you do it. Let’s talk about it in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered



Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Nightngle


Karen Negrete January 22, 2013 at 3:23 am

Hi Anne,

Your experience match mine? Oh hell yes. :o) I’m so happy that now I can FINALLY look at my moments of insanity as another learning opportunity provided by my higher power. I knew that I was the source of my suffering but couldn’t or didn’t want takes steps to free myself from that cycle. Hello low self esteem??

I’m grateful that I’m living with enough awareness now so that anything that disrupts my peace is a red flag alerting me that something is off within me and it’s time to do some digging. That isn’t a guaranty that I will be able to release it but at least I know what the issue is and can revisit it when my higher power frees me up to be open to investigation.

I’ve learned that unless I’m willing to be honest with myself and those around me, my self esteem takes a hit and I take a step backwards in my recovery. This is the best way I can practice self care. I did my 4th step for the first time last year and it’s taken awhile for its full effect to take hold in my consciousness….which is just another way of saying I couldn’t fully surrender until now.

That’s my two cents. :o)


annew January 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Karen, I can’t improve on what you said – probably worth about a million more than two cents 😉 Thanks!

Mellissa R January 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I have a Q-Tip taped to my monitor (where I am likely to read those emails that sound like criticism or others trying to take control of me).

It’s a reminder to Quit Taking It Personally !

(ps Anne, thanks for your insights… they are lovely)

annew January 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Love my mental pix of Q-tips taped to monitors… great idea Mellissa, thanks,

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