Where were we? Oh yes, we were in the midst of Step 4. The Day of Reckoning. The Day of Reckoning is going to be one of your hardest, but also one of your most important. It is the hardest, because when we tell ourselves stories about what has happened to us, we tend to do two things at once. The first, is that if anything has gone right, we self-congratulate. It was, after all, our own doing. The second is that if anything has gone wrong, we deny any and all responsibility. It was someone else, it was bad luck, it was fate, we were the victim of circumstance. On the Day of Reckoning, you are going to have to lay all of that to rest. Because the real deal is this...
If things have gone right, yes, in all likelihood you played a part. A large part. No one is ever responsible for the outcome of our lives except us. But. And here is the big BUT. You didn't do it alone. We are all hopelessly and hopefully intertwined with a large number of other people. We are an interdependent species. We don't accomplish much of anything, if anything at all, completely alone. Go ahead, try to show me where you have done it alone. Set up the scenario. I'll show you how you didn't. So on the Day of Reckoning, if you are ready and willing to be humbled, you will look at the fact that although your life is a wreck, you are still alive, and truth be told, no matter how bad it is, it could be worse, and all of those parts that are right? You have some people to thank. If not out loud, at least do it in your head. Be grateful. It matters.
Now that that is out of the way, let's zero in on that overwhelming heap of shit that is going wrong. It's huge, isn't it? Daunting. You are never going to dig your way out from under all of that rubble, and it is in ruins because of some magical, mysterious, outside force. Um. Wrong. No. Not really. Not at all. Remember when you were congratulating yourself a few minutes ago? Now you need to turn it on its head and apologize to yourself. Sure, you can tell me all about the things that were beyond your control, and they will probably all be true. I know that all of the things I told everyone were beyond my control in my own spiral towards rock bottom were absolutely, without question, 100% true. I had not lied, exaggerated, or embellished. That doesn't change the fact that how I responded to them was entirely up to me, and had I responded to them differently, while the sucktastic thing still would have happened, and I still would have experienced heartache surrounding it, the big picture outcome would have been altered drastically.
I suggest that on your Day of Reckoning you take a good long look at the stuff you classify as out of your control and reclassify it. It will all fall into one of two categories. There will be things that were absolutely beyond your control. A house fire. Being robbed at gunpoint. A death. You had no say. In those cases, you still get to control one aspect, and that is how you react to it, and whether you decide to let it destroy you and become a crutch for everything else forever and ever amen, or whether you grieve it and incorporate it, and still move through your life with a degree of love and grace, making the best of whatever is left. The second category is the more tricky one, and that is because our first instinct is to throw everything bad that has ever happened to us into the completely out of our control pile. And a lot of those things will look like they belong in that category at first glance. The failed business. The bad relationship. Someone who treats you like shit. The bad news is, you played more of a role in those things than you would like to believe. The good news is, you played more of a role in those things than you would like to believe. It's good news, because if you played a role, you get a say. You can change things up. You are not helpless. I am going to say something that is terribly politically incorrect, but nonetheless true. Barring natural disaster and disease, or things that occur when you are helpless child, when we have patterns of bad things that play out again and again in our lives, it is because we invite and encourage them, whether consciously or subconsciously. The first time something bad happens to you, you are a victim. The second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth time it happens? Sorry to break it to you, baby. You're a volunteer.
Don't do this as a means of beating yourself up and falling into a trap of self-blame. That will only drag you down deeper. There is no room for self-reproach in this analysis. Do it from a place of self-love so that in the future you will take better care of yourself. I actually got out a pen and paper and made visuals. I brainstormed every single bad thing that had occurred along the road to my own personal hell, and then I drew a line down the middle and divided them into the two categories above. For both categories, I wrote down how I responded in reality, and then made a list of as many different ways I could have responded if I had a do-over, and the likely outcomes of each.
You may wonder what the point was for me to go through all of the what-ifs when what is done is done, and I can't go back in time and change any of it. I did it for a couple of reasons. The first is that if such things occur in the future, I will be more likely to remember that there are other ways of handling it. The second, and more important, is that it snapped me out of the poor little helpless victim role.
Here's the deal, my loves. When we are little, we fall into the "wasn't me" mindset, because we fear punishment or shame. In short, we fear that if we are bad, we won't be loved. For a good many of us, this carries over in one form or another into adulthood. It is much safer to abdicate responsibility, to pawn the blame off on someone or something else. This feels safer. But here's the rub... It's not safer. Victims have very little, if any, say in how their lives go. When you hand over responsibility to someone else, you also hand over control. Control of your mindset, control of your circumstances, control of your life. Do you really want to be at the mercy of the whims of the Universe? Or people who don't have your best interests at heart? I doubt it. I know that I don't.
Once you settle into your own role in this mess of a life, you'll be ready for Step 5.