Humanist Twelve Steps: The Proactive 12 Steps

The Proactive 12 steps are a humanist alternative to the traditional 12 steps.

The Proactive Twelve Steps are written without any reference to God or a Higher Power. In contrast, the original wording of Step Two refers to a power greater than ourselves. And the original wording of Step Three refers to God or a Higher Power. Why remove any mention of God or a Higher Power in these Proactive Steps?

One reason is that a secular humanist approach is more likely to be understood by people who are not accustomed to turning to God or a Higher Power. If this were the only reason, it would be a very weak one. These Proactive Twelve Steps would only be some kind of a “lite” version of the “real” steps, and they would only be relevant to those people who “can’t stomach the real thing”.

What I have found in rewriting the steps is that eliminating the faith element (faith in God or a Higher Power) forced me to pay more attention to describing what actually happens in the process of personal growth (or, at least, my view of it). I alluded to this in the introduction. As we are further along in the process, this is a good time to go further.

The essence of the Twelve Steps approach is to take our focus away from a specific problem that seems unmanageable, and to bring it to another dimension. This powerful shift is like the “jump into hyperspace” in science-fiction movies.

In traditional Twelve Steps wording, this “other dimension” is described as “letting God” (or a Higher Power) guide you. In the Proactive Twelve Steps, the “other dimension” consists in connecting with a larger sense of who you are. This is not meant to alienate people who see God or Higher Power as a key part of the process, as will also be explained below.

The process I describe is one of letting go of dysfunctional habits and ways of thinking, and progressively focusing on the more positive forces within ourselves.

In this process, there is still a leap of faith. It is faith in the basic resiliency of human nature (an assumption that is supported by contemporary neuroscience). All you have to do is think of our basic goodness as a working hypothesis, and be willing to test this hypothesis. Try it, and see if it works for you.

While this approach requires no religious belief, you are of course free to think of this “basic goodness” in divine or religious terms.

If you are religious, I believe you will find these down-to-earth steps a very useful perspective, just the way as a down-to-earth description of the world need not negate, and will often enrich, a religious outlook.

In fact, there can be a convergence of views. The process I describe is one in which you progressively experience a sense of feeling that you are more than your little ego.

This experience is what gives you the strength to overcome the dysfunctional habits and be pulled toward fulfilling your life-affirming needs. This experience can be described as feeling one’s Inner Power… but it could also be described as feeling one’s Higher Power. All it takes is thinking of Higher Power as a state that we experience, as opposed to a being that is outside of ourselves.

See also: Inner Power vs Higher Power