By Rev. Jim Innes
I am 62 years old, going on 63. And I find myself emotionally and spiritually challenged in at least one similar way that I was in my early 30s. I share this with the intent of provoking you to wander out and beyond my process reflectively.
This challenge is an issue familiar to many. When I am receiving affirmation, I feel creatively joyful, connected, optimistic, and powerful. It's the same experience when I am feeling confidently productive. But, when I am not receiving affirmation, and with very little or no provocation (like the slightest criticism), I begin to wonder what more I ought to be doing.
I believe this self-questioning arises from more than just a bruised ego. I think it has to do with connecting to our inherent gifts and feeling, or not feeling, as one within the order of things.
What makes this issue unique for me, for all of us actually, is how it bubbles inside. Some easily let it go and move on. I, on the other hand, become quickly anxious. This anxiousness turns to doubt. This doubt provokes a barrage of obsessive negative thoughts, primarily about myself and my choices. My reactions can create a problem that never existed or make a minor issue a humongous one.
Through all the counselling I've undergone and all the counselling I have offered, I'd like to think such debilitating reactivity goes away. And though I may have outgrown some of the intensity, it persists like a wound that never heals.
What is this compulsive behaviour say about the redemptive process? And, why are some issues so very lifelong?
We could perhaps find some answers in depth psychology, a process that explores our motivations. However, knowing about the problem, even where it might have begun and why we chose specific behaviour, does not make it disappear.
Perhaps there is a need to follow suit with AA members who start sharing by declaring they are an alcoholic or drug addict. Because, no matter how long they've stayed away from their substance of choice, they realize the potential of falling prey to its grip.
This courageous realization disables hiding problems behind denial (where they grow more extensive). It enables a self-possession that can befriend (or at least fend off) the monster at the door. Because of this, I believe AA is an effectively pragmatic process of redemption that can offer us all a means to manage those persistent issues.
I use the word "redemption" purposefully there. I would use the word healing, but healing to me feels like it's disappeared. Unfortunately, some issues don't disappear, never (or rarely). They can almost be called an obsession. That is because when a specific stimulus is nearby, our complicatedly wired brains go in a particular direction.
Conceivably, all we can do regarding persistent behaviors is heighten our self-awareness to lessen the damage. Now, this may sound a little pessimistic or hopeless. So, let me say this, "we are perfect in our imperfection." If we deny our imperfections, we reject the parts of ourselves that, when redeemed, contain great value.
In another article, I will need to explore this concept of 'being redeemed.' Yet, for my intent in this article, let me only suggest that our redeemed woundedness is the cornerstone of compassion. And, it is our scars that define our unique calling.
As I see it, and as I experience it, one of the most challenging concepts to appreciate and then live into is how our wounds have the potential for good.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.