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Post Info TOPIC: Awareness / Acceptance / Action

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Awareness / Acceptance / Action

This is from the Courage to Change Daily Reader from Al-Anon.  The three A's have been on my mind for the last couple of weeks so I thought I would start a discussion here.  I will start with the reading from April 1st.

Courage to Change

I’ve heard acceptance mentioned at meetings as one part of the “Three A’s” – Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. However, I am inclined to try to jump from awareness to action without even pausing for acceptance. My thinking goes like this: “Something’s wrong! Quick, let me fix it before I have to feel any discomfort.”

The problem is that until I accept the situation, defect, or memory that has come to my awareness, I can rarely take effective action or live serenely with the consequences. The action doesn’t work or it makes things worse, and I feel helpless and hopeless. Even if it does work, I am usually too full of self-doubt to realize it. Most of the time, I still have to go back, sit still, feel the feelings, and come to some acceptance. It helps to be reminded that my Higher Power already accepts me and my situation – and loves me on the bad days as well as the good.

Today’s Reminder

Moving from awareness to acceptance to action takes time, but the benefits are worth the wait. As I learn to accept my defects, circumstances, and feelings, I learn that I am a worthwhile human being just as I am. With that kind of self-acceptance, I begin to see my options, and slowly I can begin to take action, to change.

“…someone suggested I stop concentrating on changing myself and think first about accepting myself. That gave me the boost I needed.”

For me I think awareness is the hardest part, not difficult per-se, but slow to come.  I find that sometimes I just don't see it - whatever "it" is.  Past events, behaviors, feelings, perceptions - as well as present ones.  Changing what I don't even know exists is tough.

Acceptance - I "think" I may do better here, it doesn't feel like I dig my heels in too much and say "I don't do that . . . I would never do that . . . that isn't me!"  I think once I see it, which may take some serious turning things over and examining from all directions and truly seeing if this matches my truth or is someone else's perception of events . . . well, perhaps that is acceptance.  True examination then accepting it as truth.

Action - This I don't believe I have any issues with.  Once the light bulb goes on - then once I chew on it and accept it as fact - I can then easily work on the solution and change.  This brings me relief.  It gives me a project, something to work on and with.  Getting to the action portion can take some time and hopefully not too much banging my head against the wall.

So - how do you do with the 3 AAA's?  Were you even aware of the Awareness, Acceptance, Action model?

Thanks for letting me share.  Can't wait to hear some feedback.


-- Edited by Linistea on Thursday 21st of April 2011 02:11:22 PM


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This is a good topic I have also spent more then just a little time looking at

I wish I had the same amazing acuity for spotting my own "stuff" as I have for seeing it in others, as the result of sponsoring countless men I can take someone else's inventory from 100 yards without meeting them, it's like my "job" for 10 years was taking inventories (including my own) but I got incredibly good at it, but there are aspects of my own inventory I miss again and again, huge gaps of ignorance I can't seem to learn about myself, although according to my own observations in working with others and my own therapists, I have the information, I just don't see perceptions of myself are skewed and frequently don't see things until they are pointed out to me, and one of the only ways I truly see things is if I write them out in the steps, they are sitting there in my own handwriting, and then I STILL have to have it spelled out for me

For me to even begin I had to work the steps thoroughly to even BEGIN to see how self centered and delusional I was, to even BEGIN to start getting "awareness" much less acceptance, so awareness is frequently the result of work, for example I wrote the following bit for our AA forum for someone asking about fourth steps:

When I got sober my sponsor told me I had to do the steps and be fearless and thorough

I said I don't want to do the steps, why should I do the steps?

To stay sober he said, we went round and round, finally I did steps 4 and moved into 5 just to prove him wrong

My sponsor and I had seemed to have differing ideas about what was wrong with me, I thought my problems were caused by other people and the fact I drank too much, he seemed to think my problems were I had a pathological inability to tell the truth to myself therefore others and I couldn't find my ass with 2 hands and a map and I was so monumentally self centered it bordered on delusional insanity

So to prove him wrong and to make the idiot happy I wrote down my entire life history, listing my resentments, my entire relationship history, all my fears, and we were going over them....he would use homilies, and cliches...."you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs....hell hath no fury....the road to hell is paved with good intentions...."

I was like why do I have tell this guy my whole life story just to listen to him spout cliche's?

so after we had gone over it he says,

" you never got your parents approval, if you got an A they asked it wasn't an A+?""

your parents belittled your achievements, so now even as an adult you are still trying to win their approval

uh huh

"so you also seem to have trouble saying No to people, you say no 2-3 times and then you say yes" what?

So you are afraid people won't like you and that's why you say yes? Even though you have more friends then you can count


You tell how incredible hard you work, you work 2 jobs and long hours, you work longer and harder then those around you, you then end up angry at because they aren't "pulling their weight"

it shows here, after we did your relationship history, that you checked off the same behaviors in every relationship, how you were frightened, selfish, dishonest, manipulative, how if we talk about each relationship one at a time you have this great "story" about how it was the other person who was to blame, but when you write them all down in a column it's the same relationship over and over and are the common denominator reliving the same relationships over and over.....

oooh, ouch...OK, yeah?

So what kind of person are we describing here?

what? my mind went blank...

what kind of person seeks approval from those around him, feels the need to lie to his girlfriends to protect himself, and no matter how much he does feels it's "never enough, what kind of person is a perfectionist at work and works harder then everyone else around him"

....umm...drawing a blank here.....

finally he said aren't you describing an insecure, fear based, self centered person with low self esteem who is destructive to everyone he comes into contact with? That can't seem to fit in anywhere he goes, he either has to struggle to the top of the heap or hide underneath it, who relives the same relationships he had with his parents over and over, trying to win approval by working harder then those around him because he has low self esteeem......Lets look at your list....

There it was, in black and white, staring back at me in my own handwriting, lifelong patterns that had started in my childhood, the picture of a train wreck so wrapped up in himself that he couldn't see how his actions impacted those around him, a fear based man that was the author of every one of his own miseries, caused every one of his problems, and all my resentments were the direct result of some action on my part, some decision based on self that placed me in a position to be hurt

Someone who didn't think the rules applied to him because he was terminally unique

Me? Mr sleep with all the ladies and popular with all the guys? Mr Popular? scared? a liar? insecure? the author of ALL my own miseries?

THAT'S why he used all those cliches, to show me I WASN'T different, that I was just like everyone else, that the rules DID apply to me, that I was no beautiful and unique snowflake, my sponsor was trying to show me that there was a lot of rules that had been around for a long time and that they probably wouldn't make an exception for me, I kept thinking life was going to turn out the way I wanted it to turn out, and I was wrong

Me doing the steps ripped away my denial and showed me how to take responsibility for my life and my decisions, I didn't have to be the helpless victim any more, the terminally unique snowflake that no one understood...

I had to do the steps and I had to do my own, I can't get self fulfillment taking YOUR inventory and applying them to me, I had to do my OWN inventory, so I could see ME looking back from every page in my own handwriting, selfish, self centered to such a delusional degree I didn't even see it, I had a complete and utter inability to see myself as I saw others so clearly

I was wrong about being a beautiful and unique snowflake that no one could understand


One of the results of working the steps was it allowed me to start seeing patterns in my relationships with people, since it was laid out in a column form, I began to see how I would choose, and recreate the same dynamics again and again

One of the most important Awarenesses I have learned over the years is we pick people with "Matching mental illnesses" and we can either heal together or trigger each other, we pick models from our childhood and we are models from theirs, and we either grow together and heal or hurt each other and get sicker

Once I worked the steps a number of times and worked through the steps with a number of sponsees I began to see patterns emerging, what I mean by picking people with "matching mental illnesses" are dynamics like alcoholics picking caretaking codependents and vice versa, I learned we did this to hide stuff from ourselves, and because it's comfortable, it's what we know, and it re-enforces our world view, for example if I pick a series of emotionally unavailable people, I do so because I am the one that is emotionally unavailable, I can wear the pants and be the victim at the same time blame the other person for being the emotionally unavailable one and it also re-enforces my world view, when they prove to be emotionally unavailable, I can say "See? it's that person's fault, THEY are the one at fault"

Some of the patterns that emerged for me were

Father: When I approached my father for approval or from a position of emotional weakness he would get abusive, not directly abusive but it triggered a response in him to put me down, and give all sorts of unsolicited advice that was....hurtful, unrealistic, and harmful at best, I have recreated this dynamic in a number of relationships, one with someone I have been friends with for 35 years. Now when I am NOT coming from a position of weakness these 2 men are the best friends anyone can have, supportive...wonderful, but if triggered by me or some other event in their life can be quite harmful. The solution was NEVER put myself in their power and NEVER seek their approval, and NEVER go to them for emotional support, they becomes monsters, when I follow these rules we have a wonderful relationship

Mother: NEVER EVER EVER criticise or question her or retribution was swift and merciless, first she would go on "I'm a bad mom" crying jag but within a week or two some horrific thing would befall me "accidentally" at her hands and she would smile and deny being the author or that it had anything to do with anything, she was absolutely merciless and the lesson she gave was designed to hurt badly and give a clear demonstration about who wore the pants in the relationship, she was swift, merciless, and her mothers daughter, and her "lessons" left NO doubt what the consequences were of testing her worldview or actions...don't criticise? wonderful relationship...i mean really nice...criticise and prepare for the emotional equivelent of Stonewall Jacksons "Total WAR" that destroys everything in it's path

Grandmother: Hated my father so hated me and my sister, it took 35 years for this to come out, 35 years I desperately tried to win her approval and get her to like me and 35 years she treated me like absolute crap,  all the while telling me she loved me, she hated me and pretended she loved me. This was the prototype of the relationships I sought out romantically in adulthood, someone who pretended to love me but deep down hated me, and punished me for my very existance, the prototype of this was:

 "TheGasper" (fake name), she was my "relationship prototype"  beautiful, successful, elegant woman who puts on a great show to others about how "together" she is, great on the outside but a mess on the inside,  living with her was torture, she could cut me more with a look then others could with a raging tantrum, she could hurt me more with how she clanged dishes around, a sniff, sigh, look, or body language could be more hurtful then others could do with a set of instruments from the inquisition. Every time I did something good, or got a compliment, or felt good about myself she would say some innocent sounding remark that would kill me, just kick me right square in the nads, take the air out of my sails, and make me feel bad about myself, she could do this in front of a roomful of people and no one would have the slightest idea what just happened, just a sniff and a pointed look, then of course if I got upset she would point the finger at me and say "look how messed up you are" because part of our dynamic was having me be the designated patient.

a few examples:

I just finished paramedic school, hadn't started doing my "ride-alongs" yet so had never really been on any serious ambulance calls when my sister drove by and told me there was an accident up the street, that it had JUST happened, so I walked up to look. 2 girls had been run over by a runaway car whose brakes had failed, I walked over and this girl was laying in the street, moaning and crying and when I looked closer she was broken in half, she was bent in two, her back was snapped clean in half, she looked like a giant "L", I went over and a nurse was talking to her, this was an oncology nurse with no emergency "in the field" training so she didn't know rule #1 is we ALWAYS tell the patient the truth in order to inspire patient confidence, we tell the truth so the patient trusts us, so the nurse is saying "you are OK, everything is OK" and I looked in the girls eyes and started talking to her, "HEY!!!!, can you hear me??????" she kind of slobbered and moaned but it was in response, I looked her in the eyes and said "you are NOT OK, but if you hold still, hang on, and do what I say and stay with me, you MIGHT be OK, can you do that for me? Can you stay with me?"

she slobbered, drooled and moaned some more, the ambulance came and while the paramedics on the ambulance were going through their 5 minute meltdown (this was a SERIOUS multi patient incident) I got her on O2, scooped her, collared her, and packaged her utilizing bystanders and gear from the ambulance, the paramedic came over and said...ummm...O2 (already got it I whispered)....ummm.....collar (got that too I whispered) ummm...ok...broken back, obvious deformity, package in place...ok need the scoop (she's on the scoop I whispered.....) ...ummm....OK......(load and go I whispered) OK...Let's load and go

I walked away devestated, this was a beautiful 15 or 16 year old girl cut down in the prime of her life, I was a wreck for weeks...about a month later I got a call from a friend that knew someone that knew her and visited her in the hospital, she was in a back brace was expected to recover completely, was already in PT walking...she told him "I knew I was dead until the guy showed up in the 49ers hat (me), then I knew everything was going to be OK, I knew I was going to be OK, I knew I was going to live" I sat and cried as I listened to that, I am tearing up as I type it was one of the most profound things that ever happened in my life...TheGasper was listening and as I hung up the phone I told her what the girl said..."She probably just thought you were cute and wanted to sleep with you" she said and turned away totally taking away every good feeling I had about it as I just sat and stared at Gasper washing the dishes with my mouth hanging totally devalued everything that had taken place...and all she could be was jealous, hurtful and spiteful in a passive aggressive way

It was one of the single most hurtful moments in my life, demeaning to everything about me, and that was the norm living with her...but since she said "I love you" a was confusing, I lived in the double bind, with someone that said they loved me and hurt me every chance they got using passive aggressive punishment tactics

She could never let a compliment go by without taking a dig at me, she could never let me be happy without trying to "bring me down off my high horse" and if confronted about it she would deny it, I literally don't think she knew she was doing it, it was automatic, like weakness triggered contempt in my father, and criticism triggered deep seated guilt in my mother, me being happy with anything to do with other then her or getting complimented from others triggered a passive aggressive punishment from her

Another time I was bartending and I was assaulted by 3 pretty big men, they knocked me down out on the patio and were kicking and punching me and I thought to myself "What would Conan Do?" and he'd attack, so I hopped up and beat the tar out of the 3 of them, I'm no big on fighting, I hate it and never did much of it, but that was one of the proudest moments of life when they ran away, I was covered in blood, and none of it was mine but I had a HUGE shiner so I put a bag of ice on it....I took it off for a second and she said "PUT THAT ICE BACK ON!!" but it hurts I said...she looked at me and said, "God, I can't believe what a wimp you are, you are such a p***y"

Wow....really? right now you say that to me? mouth was just hanging open...

We lived together for ten years or so, maybe 8, i don't remember, but she tortured me the entire time we were together and then denied it with a smile, gaslighting me to the extreme, when I would confront her about it, ask her about it, open up and be vulnerable about it, she denied it....and then would attack me furiously...a-la my mother dynamic, punish me soundly or even leave me, so I ended up terrified of her...terrified of confronting her about anything, and since no one ever saw this I felt like I was going crazy...until we got to couples counseling, the therapists (who we kept changing becasue Gasper didn't like them) kept spotting it, and they made me begin to see it more clearly too, but she taught me VERY clearly do not EVER, under any circumstances EVER "pull her covers" or retribution would be swift and terrible, that the focus was to remain on me, I was the broken one, I was "the problem, I was.....the designated patient

until the final time we broke up...we were sitting on the bed just talking, calm, crying a bit, sad, she had met and fallen in love with another man, not the first time she had left me for another man, but the fighting was over, everything was done so we were speaking truth nothing to lose...and she finally admitted it, she admitted she'd be driving home in a great mood turn into the driveway and hate and anger and bile and venom for me would boil over, and it was time to torture me...sitting there she said she felt bad about it, but she was powerless over it, she was sorry, but the truth was she had never really forgiven me and so that resentment seeped out in strange and unexpected ways, in passive aggressive punishing behaviors that were so secret, she didn't even realize she was doing it herself....she'd watch herself do it and wonder why but be unable to stop while she was doing it and for SURE would NEVER EVER EVER admit it to me, I was the "designated patient" not her, she was INCREDIBLE at putting on a show for people, for making her outsides look good, while hiding what was really going on...

To her credit when we broke up she went around and told everyone we knew that she was at fault, that although she was always the one who looked "together" from the outside, I was the emotional "adult" in the relationship and behind closed doors she was the vindictive one, but it backfired, all that did was make people say "Wow, look at how great she is" and even a family member said "you know, you are a F-up, you've always been a F-up, and you are the one who F'd this up" wasn't until she got caught having an affair with a married man and lost the slander suit to the wife that told everyone she was sleeping with her husband people went "oops" and started coming around to apologize to me, I ran into her about a year later when she finally had her dream come true, she had the house, the kids, the man (another woman's true, but oh well, all is fair) and she came completely clean with me and finished making her empty victory, it was....vindication but no one saw it...but at least I knew I wasn't crazy....

Ultimately at the end of the day I forgave the Gasper, I truly believe she is ultimately a good person who did the best she could with what she had, and if I was to write out all the ways I had harmed her it would double the length of the post, I cheated on her, lied to her and harmed her repeatedly, I was a total arsehole, I got sober while I was with her and started cleaning up my behaviors but she never forgave me, and I don't blame her, "Did I do and say these things? Yes, I did. Are there any mitigating circumstances? Not really, unless any circumstances {in other words, context) can be regarded as mitigating. And before you judge, although you have probably already done so, go away and write down the four worst things you have done to a partner, even if - especially if - your partner doesn't know about them. Don't dress things up, or try to explain them; just write them down, in a list, in the plainest language possible. Finished? Ok, so who's the arsehole now?"

we have ALL done some pretty awful things, all we can do now is move forward, try to never do them again and become that which we are seeking

So for the most part I have learned to cope with these things, I learn who to tell what, who to trust with what, who is a hardware store and who is a bakery, and truthfully they are both important, but the one thing is if I am knocked off my loop, off my kilter my filter goes awry and I become hypervigilant, I sill have mini-moms, mini-dads, mini Gaspers and mini grandma's in my life, and if I am centered, whole and watch my emotional state and self care, I am fine, but when I get knocked off kilter I trigger them which triggers me and off we go...engaging in old patterns....I become hyper vigilant and then can't tell if what I am seeing is the double bind, I can't tell if something is passive aggressive...but if I remain centered and practice self care and focus on myself it seems to happen a lot less, I'm not sure why this is...when I am solid at work, bosses don't try to take advantage of me nearly as often, when I am solid emotionally my dad and his proto-types are supportive and good friends.....

I feel like Mad Eye Moody yelling "ETERNAL VIGILANCE!!!!!" because when I don't watch me, I trigger those around me, which triggers me, then off we go to the races, and there is no going back...better to just...sit

So awareness for me begins with self care, because when I get "off center" my awareness gets colored by my perceptions, I also need help sometimes with my awareness, because if my thinking is what is causing the problem, my awareness is skewed

So anyway, to make a long story longer, awareness, acceptance, action for me have to start with me putting my own oxygen mask on first, because if I don't, my awareness is wrong, my acceptance is of a skewed perception, so the action I take is incorrect

-- Edited by LinBaba on Thursday 21st of April 2011 07:17:52 PM


it's not the change that's painful, it's the resistance to change that is painful


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I have been reading posts on acceptance, and this one is so appropriate for my situation.  I have a son who has been taking advantage of me for years, in fact, since he was about 12 when he got diabetes.  He has been playing the sympathy card, then I'll stick it to you and blame you for it game for years. 


He will be 24 this year, and he went balistic 2 days ago.  He asked to download something that he got paid for and put a virus on my husband's computer.  This virus is so bad that I will have to reformat the hard drive and we will lose everything on the computer. 

He hasn't apologized and has even found a way to make it my fault.  If I had let him get what he wanted he could have taken off the virus later.  He apparently took off all the safeguards such as antivirus and firewall to get this program.  He didn't think I would see the big VIRUS notice (he cut off the sound also so I would not hear the warning). 

I literally had to wrestle with him to get the computer out of his hands to see what he did.  In the process I dropped his portable hard drive, which I found out was already broke.  He said I broke it and I deliberately did this.  When I started asking him about how long has that sign been up there and why did he not attempt to fix the computer instead of downloading more stuff on top of this virus, he told me I was raising my voice, which I wasn't.  I was mumbling under my breath at how he always finds a way to mess up my things, and he got mad and walked out the house talking loud. 

I had enough.  I said it's time for him to go home.  He got upset and during the whole ride home he tried to start an argument.  Thank goodness enough of this program is sticking with me that I know not to engage in that kind of behavior with him.  I only stuck to the issue of the virus on the computer.  He attacked me personally, saying all sorts of vile things.  He attacked my husband, the one who let him use the computer against his will. He kept egging me on to argue with him, but I kept calm.  By the time he got out of the car he was fuming so badly it looked like smoke was coming out of his head.  He slammed the car door and said he was never coming back to visit me, then stormed off as if I did something to him (he kept saying I disrespected him, which I didn't).  I just said that's fine with me.  What else is there to say?

Therefore, I am aware and accept that the only reason my son stays in touch with me is to use me, my money, possessions or time. It hurts but that is the truth.

The action is that I will take is to not deal with my son unless there is some type of important business to take care of or if he is sick and in the hospital.  He is not allowed in my house again. I shall not give him any money or possessions, as he has a job and will have to figure it out for himself.  I will not allow him to use or borrow any of my possessions again. 

He has called here but I have only permitted emails (those are just as verbally abusive), as they dont sting as much.  I just dont respond to them unless they are appropriate.  My phone is off so I dont hear it.  When he needs a ride to get to work by 4 a.m. he will have to get a cab and I can get my rest.  I told him I wasn't his Plan B and that I dont want to get up at 3 a.m. to take him to work.  He gets the job anyway and then tells me that I have to pick him up or he will lose his job.  That's the price he pays for doing what he knows he can't do and relying on me when I already said I did not want to do it.  Cabs run at that hour.  He will survive.  

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