alternative 12 steps
The Proactive 12 Steps alternative 12 steps

"I" vs "we"

Why are the Proactive Twelve Steps written from the perspective of “I”, as opposed to “we” like the traditional Twelve Steps?
It was a deliberate choice to write the Proactive Twelve Steps from and “I" perspective. The “I” perspective corresponds more closely to the experience of being proactive and mindful.  I will talk more about this after acknowledging the very real pros of the “we” perspective.

The “we” perspective in the traditional Twelve Steps conveys a very strong message: You, as an individual, are not alone. You are part of a group that has been successful in overcoming what is too daunting for any individual to successfully confront on their own.

From the very first time that you recite the Steps with the group, you can feel that you are part of this successful group. The “we” also reinforces the notion that success is not something that one achieves through sheer willpower,  i.e. one individual fighting against the way the world works, but in surrendering to something larger - - at the very least, in being part of the group.

So, if there is so much positive in taking a “we” approach, why not maintain that “we” for the Proactive Twelve Steps? Well, the concept of being proactive involves intentionality, a sense of “this is important to me”.

Mindfulness also involves a sense of self: It takes paying attention to what  is happening, to the process of transformation. It is not a process that comes from the old-fashioned idea of will power. Mindfulness involves observing the forces at play, between yourself and the world, yourself and other people, but also internally between different sides of yourself.

The Proactive Twelve Steps describe this process of transformation. When we talk about transformation, it’s not just externals that are transformed. In order to achieve a different behavior, a different way of living, you yourself are changing. Change is not happening in an authoritarian, brutal way, because it simply does not work. There is a gentleness and a softness in observing what is happening in the process: the interplay between your intentions and the many factors that thwart your intentions. There is a trial and error, and an observing of what happens as you try and learn. It’s a process that involves serenity courage and wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience that has been truly integrated. So it is definitely not a process of trying to force change to happen.

One of the major contributions of the Twelve Steps to our understanding of the process of change is that, while some willpower is necessary, meaningful and lasting change cannot be achieved just through willpower. The traditional Twelve Steps convey this through the notion of “surrender”, and the idea that all change comes from God, as opposed to willpower.  In the Proactive Twelve Steps, we don’t take a position of whether or not it is God who accomplishes the change, or whether it is entirely human. We simply describe the process through which meaningful, lasting change happens.

In this process, like the one envisioned by the traditional Twelve Steps, some degree of willpower is, of course useful.... but it takes something else than will power to achieve lasting change.  Because, when you want to change something that’s deeply ingrained, willpower alone doesn’t work because it amounts to trying very hard to depriving yourself of a coping mechanism that is an important part of your life. So it takes changing your life in order  to make it possible for the old behaviors to not be constantly reinforced, and for new behaviors to be  encouraged and supported .

So the “I” of the Proactive Twelve Steps is not the lonely “I” trying to force change through self deprivation. It is an observing “I” that is deeply attuned to inner processes and to interactions with other people. In this sense, it is an “I” that has learned to surrender to the realities of the world,. But the surrender is not the death of “I”. It is just the death of that lonely, desperate, powerless “I”, and the birth of a much larger, more flexible, more effective, and much happier “I”.

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