This improved perception of humility starts another revolutionary change in our outlook. Our eyes begin to open to the immense values which have come straight out of painful ego-puncturing. Until now, our lives have been largely devoted to running from pain and problems. We fled from them as from a plague. We never wanted to deal with the fact of suffering. Escape via the bottle was always our solution. Character-building through suffering might be all right for saints, but it certainly didn’t appeal to us.
Still doesn’t (appeal to me). I believe the effort to make it appeal is expressed in sayings like “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.” And it’s an interesting concept that as I get older, as I age, I think that sometimes, hard things that don’t kill me may actually make me weaker. I get hurt in ways that won’t heal completely. As my body does not go back to the way it was before the injury, neither do my heart, my soul, my feelings.
However, I do see the point about ego-puncturing. I would very much welcome this at this point, knowing that it can bring relief and better days. Again, I am driven by the pleasure principle. This brings to mind those who stubbornly refuse to try AA because they do not believe in God. They won’t give it a try and give themselves a chance to see that the necessary ingredient there is that there is a power greater than they are. That ego-puncturing will save your life.
There’s also the pragmatic idea and belief that suffering will happen, just because we live.
I remember a lesson about drugs and alcohol that I had in high school. The psychology teacher (who also told me I might one day become an alcoholic and so partly, but not wholly, missing the point) gave the example of a young man calling a young woman for the first time. He said the young man would naturally be very nervous before making the call. His anxiety would peak at the point in which he called her. Next time, assuming things didn’t go horribly wrong, he would again become anxious, but a little less so. And so on, with the young man becoming more and more at ease calling young women.
Now if the same scenario unfolded the same way, but this time, as anxiety climbed, the young man took a drink, his anxiety level would go down. Next time, however, it would rise to the same height, and would continue to do so when he tried it without the alcohol. In other words, drinking away anxiety, fear, sadness and other unpleasant feelings does nothing to teach us how to deal with those emotions.
I found out, though, that my way of coping by using alcohol wouldn’t work over the long run. No matter which way I tried. I had to, like the book says, admit defeat and try something different.
Now, today, I have no doubt that I learn through pain and I welcome such learning. The problem these days is that I want it now. I struggle with things, and I’ll use my favorite recent example of my place and purpose at my work. I know these times that I suffer because there’s something wrong with me. I get it. But what that particular wrong thing is exactly eludes me, and I want to grab it now, and build character now, and stop the pain.