The Proactive Twelve Steps are a down-to-earth approach to the 12 steps. They are based on the healing process outlined in the original Twelve Steps, but they are written without reference to God or to any sort of Higher Power. Instead, they outline a process of personal growth that is both proactive and mindful. The following video provides an overview of the 12 steps as a transformative process. It also addresses the similarities and differences between the Proactive 12 Steps and the traditional 12 Steps.
See the written transcript immediately below the video player.
Transcript of Higher Power as Inner Power
So, at some point, you might want to make sense of the process as a whole. Maybe you’ve gone through it, you feel good about it, and you’re curious about conceptualizing what happened. Or maybe, while doing the process, you kind of get curious about the bigger picture. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who needs to have a sense of how it fits into a whole in order to be motivated to continue. So, whatever the moment you’re listening to this, here are a few words about what this process of transformation is all about.
So, one: Just like the original 12 steps, it’s really about stepping out of what you’re stuck about, in order to find a different platform from which you rebuild yourself. Time and again, people have commented that the original 12 steps had very little… other than at the beginning mentioning something about being powerless over alcohol… but then they don’t talk about alcoholism. Basically, this is the same thing. This is about rebuilding yourself in such a way that you rebuild a basis for a strong self that is able to have a different relationship with what you’re currently stuck about. And that, as the old cliché goes, you can’t solve a problem for the mindset that created it. It’s about changing the mindset. Then, the problem suddenly looks different. From that different mindset, it is actually something that’s much easier to either solve. Or, actually, maybe not even solve, but it unfolds, as of it unfolds by itself.
The second thing that the 12 steps have as a very powerful mechanism is a leap of faith. So, in the traditional, original 12 steps, that leap of faith is about a belief in God, that sometimes called a higher power. Essentially, that’s something about letting go of your old ways of trying to solve the problem, understanding that they’re not effective. Letting go of that, and letting God, or that higher power, put you on the right track. And that’s that leap of faith.
Now, in the proactive 12 steps, whatever stage you’re in, you will have noticed that there is no mention of God. In step 2, where that leap of faith was mentioned in the original steps, we are actually saying: “Look. It’s kind of a normal, logical process. It’s like positive thinking: You reinforce what it good.” So, what is not said there is that the leap of faith is about the capacity of human nature to actually change. Scientists, neuroscientists talk about neuroplasticity, which is how malleable the neural networks are. We have an amazing capacity to learn. It’s an amazing capacity in a bad way (we can create bad conditioning) as well as good — we can create good conditioning.
So, this process is about retraining ourselves in order to create the good conditioning, to refashion ourselves. How we’re re-training ourselves is, re-training ourselves through our interactions. We’re social animals. An enormous part of our brain is devoted to understanding, perceiving, interpreting, dealing with connections and relationships. We think, and we see the world in terms of relationships. As we change the way we relate to others, we progressively form a different sense of who we are. Time and again, if we behave in a certain way, the same result happens. It reinforces our sense of that’s how the world functions. So, this process of re-training is about building a database of information that shows us that there is more to us than we used to think we were.
In the traditional 12 steps, this is ascribed to believing in God. But you’ll notice that actually the other steps are not really much related to God, other than the following one, step 3. Basically, the other steps are instructions for how to deal with relationships. As we deal with relationships, we change ourselves. So, this feels like a miracle. This feels amazing.
And it might actually being more difficult for people to believe that it is so simple… That, actually, if you behave differently, if you use a mindful and proactive approach to life… if you have the intention of behaving differently, and you mindfully pay attention to what you do moment by moment… then little by little, you change your database of information. You change the way your nervous system is wired, and you change your sense of who you are. As you change your sense of who you are, then you deal with the intractable problems in a different way. The result feels nothing short of miraculous. So, it makes a lot of sense that it would be a little difficult to believe, especially if you feel you’ve been stuck for so long, you’ve tried a lot of things. And if it’s substance abuse, which you feel is so powerful that there’s nothing you can do… then it might be easier for you to grasp if you think of it as a miracle, or a benevolent God doing this for you.
By all means, if that’s your belief system, please, I’m in no way trying to argue with you. What you might find of use in this approach is that, by paying attention to the mechanism by which things happen and looking at it in a more down-to-earth way, it might give you more of a grip on what you do. In other words, you might conceptualize it as helping God help you. Or you might see this as an understanding of the way God’s will manifests on Earth. So, this is not in any way trying to impose some kind of humanistic, materialistic, nonreligious view of the world on people who are very comfortable and steeped in a religious belief system.
It’s giving a common language, and a common reality, and a common set of values to people who are religious as well as people who are atheistic or agnostic. So that we can talk about our respective experiences in a way that we can relate to each other and help each other deal with things, as opposed to being prevented from doing it by fighting over the context of the religious or philosophical framework that surround these ideas.
So, very similar to that comes the idea of, what is this Higher Power? Is this Higher Power something that’s outside of ourselves? Of course, from the place of powerlessness that you experience from being stuck, from trying so hard and never managing to change… it feels like change can only happen if it happens from above. But really, the experience of it is that something happens that you gives you a sense of power, and that power is what enables you to stand up in life to be yourself.. to stand up for yourself… to act from a sense of inner power. So, here again, you can it something that is given to you by God. Or you can think of it as something that we evolved into through millions of years, that this is our heritage that’s been taught to us from evolution. Regardless of that, the experience of it is the experience of that power, that we can talk to each other about, regardless of the framework. So, the common language is the experience of a state of inner power. Whether it’s caused by something that’s out there, or from something that we’ve developed through millions of years of evolution, that result that we can have in common is talking about that experience of inner power.
Again, another point that you might be curious about is that the original 12 steps have a lot of connotation of the language of sin and redemption. It might not be something that fits with your belief system. You will notice that, in the proactive 12 steps, we’re not talking in a language of sin and redemption. We’re talking in a language of… a state that is unstuck, that feels right (video shows body language of fluid movement), vs a state that’s stuck (video shows body language of tightness), or that way (video shows body language of fear), or that way (video shows body language of collapse). Unstuck vs stuck. Now, what this has in common is… Think that what is, in a way, a sin against our nature is what prevents us to be all that we are, all that we have the potential to be. So, in the same way that, say, if you misuse a machine in a way that you only get out of it a fraction of the power that it can have… or if you use it in a way that it wears out quickly… you are in a way committing a sin against the optimal way this machine is being used.
So, you can think of it in terms of sin, in terms of sin against the intention of God in creating people. But you can also very well think of it as something that is simply not the optimal way in which you use the equipment that you come with as a human being. What we are using as a tool in this process is that felt sense way of connecting to: “This is not quite the optimal way of functioning” (video shows body language of tightness) compared to this (video shows body language of opening up). We’re using this tool to fine-tune in moment by moment how you can function more in the way that you function best. That’s the connection where we have a mindful and proactive path to connecting more with our inner power. The inner power that is not the kind of power that we might have thought of as before, power to do things this way, or feeling overpowered, overpowered from fear, but it’s more of a quiet kind of power. A quiet strength that comes from the fluidity of being in harmony.
So, you might think of this stuck vs unstuck as: The stuck part is something that’s out of harmony, is straining because it’s not in harmony. Unstuck is being more in a state of flow, in a state of harmony, in which the relationship with others and with the world and with yourself is flowing, as opposed to stuck.