Last week, we talked about the fourth step: Made a searching and fearless moral (truth) inventory of ourselves. Resentment is the #1 killer of alcoholics, and fear, remorse, guilt, and shame are all connected to it. Professor Chesnut defines resentment: re-feeling the pain over and over, and feeding its flames higher and higher. Like a lot of words in English, the word resentment came from a Latin word, the verb sentio, which means, “I feel” or “I experience emotionally.” In the English word resentment, we take the basic Latin root and put the re-prefix in front of it, which means to experience something emotionally over, and over again. So somebody does or says something to me that makes me feel hurt, or makes me angry, or makes me feel in some way I don’t like to feel. Instead of just acknowledging to myself that “that didn’t feel good,” and moving on, I start to rehearse the painful emotion over and over in my mind. “How could anybody have dared to do something like that to me?” “But I was trying so hard to help them and rescue her, or him, by my love.” “But I was right, and he or she was wrong-anybody can see that-I can prove it!” “I ought to tell her off” or “boy, I’d like to punch him in the nose.” “I just want to cry all the time, I hurt so much.” And every time I re-hearse and re-feel that painful emotion in my mind, it grows even more painful. Practice makes perfect, and I finally work myself into a state of perfect rage, or perfect frustration, or whatever.
Two old-timer AA’s named Joe and Charlie said, “Alcoholics are born with an automatic resentment re-play machine inside their heads, and every time it re-plays the resentment, they get more innocent while the other person gets more guilty.
Most of us didn’t understand the harm they cause and we furthermore; didn’t have a clue about possible solutions. Emit Fox suggested; “Prayer as a solution because if we intently pray for somebody we cannot hate them at that same instant”.
There’s a classic tale about St. Francis de Sales who rode around doing missionary preaching, and the only thing he owned was his horse and saddle. One day another priest bragged that he could pray for hours without any distracting or wandering thoughts. “Oh,” said St Francis, “I’ll bet you my horse that you can’t pray for even five minutes without having a distracting thought pass through your mind.” The bragging priest got down on his knees and started praying, but after a few moments he looked up at St. Francis and asked, “Does the saddle and bridal come with it?”
In the original Twelve-Step Program the solution for resentment is the fourth and fifth steps, in step four we listed our character defects and in step five we admitted to God, ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Sgt. Bill S., an AA old-timer who started the first military alcoholism treatment in 1948 said, “Step five is a confession and great pain is experienced in admitting that a controversy or conflict exists, and it is particularly painful to have to admit to being at fault ourselves. However, this action is part of a mental cleansing of our personality defects, and it is a positive step toward a more productive life”.
It is an arduous task indeed to establish positive communications with another person when I have been feeling guilty about the harm I caused them. But defective communications cause continual frustrations, and are the source of continuing conflicts, particularly in the immediate family. It is traumatic for alcoholics to talk over some of the events which involved their families.