Note From Dr B.
Spring is in full bloom at Two Dreams, even at our Chicago office, and my favorite flowers have been emerging for weeks. Before Dr. David and I downsized our home, I would watch a parade of flowers emerge from the snow along our front walkway. While I do miss the floral ceremony, I appreciate that the freedom of our smaller home allows me more opportunities to travel between the various Two Dreams locations. The crocus, daffodil, and highly fragrant hyacinth remind me that there is beauty and peace in the earth. They also remind me that, when nurtured with light and warmth, the flora will emerge. Each individual in treatment and recovery needs similar light and warmth to stimulate their own exciting growth path and develop their own integrity, which is incidentally the theme of this month’s Dream Journal.
You may have noticed that our Dream Journal themes this year follow the principles underlying the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Last month our theme was courage; this month our theme is integrity; and next month we are going to work with the concept of willingness. These three concepts are reflected in the cluster of AA steps that are sometimes referred to as the "cleaning it up" steps (in contrast with the “giving it up” steps [1-3], “making it up” steps [7-9] and “keeping it up” steps [10-12]). The searching, fearless moral inventory of the fourth step requires courage to complete, as it promotes honesty and sharing in relationships. The fifth step, admitting we were wrong, promotes honesty and integrity in intimate relationships. Finally, the sixth step, a readiness to remove our shortcomings, requires self-awareness and willingness, which we will discuss next month.
Integrity is needed to work this fifth step, but what is integrity? Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; it is moral uprightness and the state of being whole and undivided. It is more than just simple honesty, though. As clinical psychologist Henry Cloud proposes, people with integrity: 1) are able to connect with others and build trust, 2) are oriented toward reality, 3) finish well, 4) embrace the negative, 5) are oriented toward increase, and 6) have an understanding of the transcendent.
Individuals who succeed in recovery display resilience buttressed with flexibility. In contrast, one area in which steadfastness is required over flexibility is personal integrity, as it is neither conditional nor mercurial. I am reminded of the old adage, "to thine own self be true," or as Frederick Douglass put it, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false and to incur my own abhorrence." When you find that inner strength, the growth path to recovery becomes clear; the little voice from an internal GPS guides every decision.
Integrity guides us in our work of making amends to people we have harmed, except when doing so would harm them or others. There are no guarantees when making amends and "coming clean;” in fact, there is often a fear that, in dealing with material related to our transgressions, we will be judged and rejected. If we are trying to create a certain outcome, such as winning someone back, gaining forgiveness, etc., we are certain to be disappointed…we might even lose the love, if not the respect, of someone important to us. But, in the process we gain the respect of the most important person on the planet to each of us: ourselves. The truest concept in the world, which has been shown to be true over and over again, is that the unexposed fact is more powerful than the exposed one. We have a saying here at Two Dreams: “mold does not grow where the sun shines.” Shine a light on that which you fear most and start your growth journey. Part of the treatment process is the identification of your personal holdbacks, asking yourself “what have I not been able to explore, admit, discuss, embrace, stare down in prior treatment episodes?” These holdbacks sap our energy and diminish our self-esteem. When we live with integrity, we live life knowing who we are and what we want, and we are able to ask for these things. The growth journey is one of harmony and we feel discordant when we are in the presence of people who don't have our best interests at heart…and speaking of the heart, it beats free.
I hope you enjoy the following thoughts about a character from Juan Mascaro. Please be careful about what you allow your mind to dwell on; negative thoughts are called "stinking thinking" for a reason. Even though our thoughts seem unavailable to others, remember that they are not just in your head; they are in your character.
“The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.”