Discerning Our Emotional Dependency – 12 Insights for Emotional Sobriety

Sentence Completion Exercise

Let’s return to sentence completion work. Write each sentence stem at the top of a blank page, say it out loud or to yourself, and write down the first thought that comes to mind. Repeat six to ten times for each sentence stem. Have some fun with this, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

You can see the ‘fill in’ the sentences below and access/print a worksheet setup to facilitate the process.

I don’t dare own that I am emotionally dependent because it would mean ____.”

“The part of me that doesn’t want to face my emotional dependency tells me ____.

Being emotionally dependent means ____.

I hate myself for being emotionally dependent because ____.

I justify my unenforceable rules by telling myself ____.

The way my emotional dependency shows up in my life is ____.

If I were free of my emotional dependency, I would ____.

After you do this exercise, share your responses with your sponsor, therapist, or a trusted friend. Try to become aware of any pattern to your answers. If you are painstaking about this exercise, you will become aware of a part of you that is going to struggle with facing your emotional dependency.

You need to name this part of yourself to tame it. I call it the false self. Others call it pride or shame. Use what fits you best. Be aware of this part in you. In fact, put it across from you in an empty chair and disagree with it. It is probably telling you that you will be embarrassed or humiliated or something similar if you face your emotional dependency. You can respond to it by adding some reasonable doubt, as in, “Well, I might lose face, but I might gain some freedom and humility.”

The reality is that you will gain something when you face your emotional dependency. You will gain emotional freedom, the ability to choose your response. (This is the opposite of being reactive.) You will gain humility, and you will begin the ongoing journey of achieving emotional sobriety.

Another great insight Bill Wilson had about our emotional reactions was this: “It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us” (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services 1981, 90).

We can use Bill W.’s insight to motivate our practice of emotional sobriety. It’s a call to take radical responsibility for what we are feeling. “No matter the cause” is the key phrase here. Emotional sobriety requires that we relinquish the concept of blame. There is no one to blame for what we are experiencing. Our feelings are our feelings. Period.

Emotional sobriety asks us to understand what the matter is, what is disturbed within us. Being aware of what is causing us to get upset is critical if we are going to be able to resolve our grievance. Bill W. offered the following suggestion to help us identify what is wrong with us: “If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand” (Wilson 1988, 238). In the language I’ve been using in this book, the source of our disturbance is not some circumstance around us or the way someone else is behaving. It is our demand that circumstances or people conform to our expectations.

Emotional sobriety requires that we relinquish the concept of blame.

Just a note—this does not mean you shouldn’t react to bullies, inappropriate behavior, an abusive mate, terrifying circumstances, and so forth as though nothing were wrong. Emotional autonomy is not about being a martyr and ignoring our feelings. Though I have stated that trouble means something is right, there are times when trouble means something is wrong. If you are experiencing physical abuse, act to ensure your safety as well as anyone who depends on you for their safety. Get away from the perpetrator and seek help.

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