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Old 07-03-2010, 06:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
To thine own self be true.
 

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Self-Righteousness and Addiction

I have had the good fortune this weekend to witness self-righteousness at its worse: Two separate people who violated my personal boundaries in extreme and insulting ways and feel JUSTIFIED in verbally abusing me because they honestly feel they are "right." To me, they are being delusional and in both cases I just shook my head and walked away.

I sometimes find myself going back to define self-righteousness, just to make sure I am not being that way anymore. I KNOW that I have been VERY self-righteous in my life, especially in dealing with the many alcoholics and addicts I have chosen to be close with. Sometimes, I even wonder if I have associated with so many alcoholics and addicts IN ORDER TO lift myself up by feeling self-righteous. At this stage in my life and my Recovery, I try to ground myself in my relationships with others by accepting and reminding myself that I am not "right," there are at least TWO people in each relationship.

Here are some web definitions of "self-righteous":
•holier-than-thou: excessively or hypocritically pious; "a sickening sanctimonious smile"
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

•Self-righteousness (also called sententiousness, holier-than-thou) is a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one's beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_righteous

•piously self-assured and smugly moralistic
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/self-righteous

Also, I found this today and thought I would share parts of it, as it discusses self-righteousness specifically in the context of addiction. It's very interesting the author postulates that self-righteousness in itself is an addiction. I loved the cookie story too!

From: Rev. Barbara McKusick Liscord, Milford, New Hampshire

My Halo: A Reflection on Self-righteousness

I suspect sometimes conceit and self-righteousness arises from an underlying insecurity. We present ourselves as more righteous [than others] to convince ourselves as well as the world of our value. Perhaps the conviction of our own righteousness has the same emotional charge of other addictive behaviors or substances- as suggested by Roget Lockard’s article. A sense of righteousness can become an addiction with damaging consequences to our relationships and the world. He says, addiction is a “likely outcome of the intersection of human nature and human cleverness. We are filled with longings and ingenious at devising shortcuts.” In the case of self-righteousness, we long to be valued and skip to the righteousness fix as a shortcut to feeling good about ourselves…rather than doing both the difficult inner work of being honest about our own thoughts or the difficult outer work of humbly setting our egos aside.

***

Self-righteousness-the conviction of one's own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others...we are blinded by our narrow-minded assumptions. When we wake to our blindness, we may experience misery… even shame- This of course doesn’t feel very good…so as Lockard suggests we may prefer to stay locked in the addiction of our own righteousness.

Recently a friend offered me this story: There was a woman who had traveled from New York to Los Angeles on business. After an intense day of meetings and difficult negotiations, she arrived at the Los Angeles airport to catch her flight back to New York. She was exhausted. She bought a paper, package of cookies and coffee and, along with her luggage, juggled it all over to an unoccupied table. She opened her paper and began reading. Soon she became aware of someone rustling on the other side of her table. From behind her paper, she was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed young man helping himself to her cookies. She did not want to make a scene and was just too tired to deal directly with the situation, so she reached her hand under her paper and took a cookie herself. A minute or two later. More rustling. She glimpsed below her paper and saw that he was helping himself to another cookie. She grew angrier, but reached out and took another cookie. By the time they were down to the last cookie in the package, she was very angry but could not bring herself to say anything. Then she saw the young man’s hands break the cookie in two. He handed half across to her and ate the other half and then left the table. She was really annoyed that she didn’t get to eat her whole package of cookies. Sometime later, the public address system called for her to get ready to board her flight. She was still fuming over the cookies. When she opened her handbag to get her ticket, she found her package of cookies. She had been eating his cookies.

Of course, this feeling of being superior or right or self-righteous over and above others is not true for everyone. In the last few decades, with the growing recognition of the benefits of psychological reflection there has been an understanding that negative feelings about one’s self can lead to self-destructive behaviors that have their ripple effects into the lives of others.

***

But I am also realistic enough to believe that saving the world also takes each of us stretching beyond ourselves and our limited perspectives, if we are to live whole lives and save this precious planet. In our reading this morning, Lockard illustrates damages caused by the righteousness fix. He also points out that “sober addicts have shown us the recipe for sobriety. He says, “Our addictions are resolved as we seek, in fellowship with others, to abandon our control-based mentality, and to develop our capacities for personal humility, indiscriminate compassion, and responsible participation in the many layers of community in which we are nested.
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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hi,

i didn't read your definitions, but here are my thoughts on what happened.

My dad is verbally abusive to me and feels justified since he is my father and I am a relection (in his mind) on him. It is about him, not me.

Your people being nasty and feeling justified because they are "right" are really telling you soemthing about them. Their thought, feelings and insecurities.

Rather than engage people doing this to me, I stand back. Don't play into it. Let them think what thye want. If it is too much then I walk away for a moment or longer depending on the situation.
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Old 07-03-2010, 09:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sometimes, I even wonder if I have associated with so many alcoholics and addicts IN ORDER TO lift myself up by feeling self-righteous.

I suspect sometimes conceit and self-righteousness arises from an underlying insecurity. We present ourselves as more righteous [than others] to convince ourselves as well as the world of our value.



guilty.
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Old 07-04-2010, 04:23 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coffeedrinker View Post


I suspect sometimes conceit and self-righteousness arises from an underlying insecurity.


I can't imagine an instance where this is NOT the case. A self-righteous attitude is by definition used to elevate the "status" of one person above the other via moral "superiority." People who do this do it because they feel the need to puff themselves up - because they feel too small or insignificant, or poorly heard, or without the control they wish they had over a situation, or because to change their perspective from their entrenched dogma is too frightening to them.

Now, when I run across these types, I can respect them as fellow humans, respect that they have their own opinion, but allow myself to distance or remove myself from them, and allow myself not to engage with them, as usually it's futile.

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Old 07-04-2010, 05:32 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It is so painful to have to be the standard-bearer for the world! I, too, am SO guilty of self-righteousness. I was writing self-help poems when I was 7, so I lived my entire life very comfortable in my righteousness, and very eager to "compassionately condemn" people who didn't live up to my values.

That's why Buddhism has helped tremendously--that story you wrote, L2L, about the woman in the airport is the perfect example of faulty perceptions, and how we get so misdirected by them!! May as well let them go.

Byron Katie has also helped turn around any self-righteousness with her 4 questions. Life is a lot more pleasant when you're not keeping score.
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:13 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, thanks everybody for your shares. I am so glad to know I am not alone.

In dealing with people with addictions in my personal life, I allowed myself to continue my bad behavior toward them, because look how WRONG they all are!!! I mean, ANYONE can see how wrong nearly EVERYthing they do is!

I think, too, that when I and my life have been so entrenched in a relationship with an alcoholic or addict (or other very unhealthy person such as a sociopath), my self-esteem has been WAY low. And without the proper tools, I still used unhealthy ways of dealing with the situation, including being self-righteous. What a horrible way I used to live my life. I am so glad I got sober. I am so glad I found Al-Anon. I am so glad I had enough foresight and courage to work on my financial health.

Thanks for listening.
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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finding out in AL ANON about ISMs...

I
S-SELF
M-ME

that is why i go to AL ANON to keep my ISMs in line and in check....

love the cookie story....
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