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Below is the substance of a revealing letter which Bill Wilson wrote
several years ago to a close friend who also had troubles with depression. The
letter appeared in the "Grapevine" January, 1953.
"I think that many
oldsters who have put our AA "booze cure" to severe but successful tests still
find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for
the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and
balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our
fellows, and with God.
Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect
security, and perfect romance, urges quite appropriate to age seventeen, prove
to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven and fifty-seven.
Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my
failure to grow up emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to
keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover, finally, that
all along we have had the cart before the horse. Then comes the final agony of
seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get
off the emotional merry-go-round.
How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so
into easy, happy and good living. Well, that's not only the neurotic's problem,
it's the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real
willingness to hew to right principles in all of our affairs.
Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That's the place so
many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it's a hell of a spot, literally. How
shall our unconscious, from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony
aspirations still stream, be brought into line with what we actually believe,
know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden ‘Mr. Hyde' becomes
our main task.
I've recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I
begin to see many benighted ones, folks like you and me, commencing to get
results. Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost
took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long
chronic spell. Considering the grief I've had with depressions, it wasn't a
I kept asking myself "Why can't the twelve steps work to release depression?" By
the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer ... "it's better to comfort than to
be comforted". Here was the formula, all right, but why didn't it work?
Suddenly, I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been
dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply me
with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to
my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when
defeat came, so did my depression.
There wasn't a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and
joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut
Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the
absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so
starkly revealed. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I
had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional
dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any act of circumstance
Then only could I be free to love as Francis did. Emotional and instinctual
satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering
love, and expressing love appropriate to each relation of life.
Plainly, I could not avail myself to God's love until I was able to offer it
back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn't possibly do
that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.
For my dependence meant demand, a demand for the possession and control of the
people and the conditions surrounding me.
While those words "absolute dependence" may look like a gimmick, they were the
ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and
quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering
love to others regardless of the return to me.
This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God's creation
and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is
most clear that the real current can't flow until our paralyzing dependencies
are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of
what adult love really is.
If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the
root of it some unhealthy dependence and its consequent demand. Let us, with
God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set
free to live and love: we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety.
Of course, I haven't offered you a really new idea --- only a gimmick that has
started to unhook several of my own hexes' at depth. Nowadays, my brain no
longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have
been given a quiet place in bright sunshine"
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