The 12 Steps and Mindful Parenting: Steps 10 and 11
Present-moment accountability and spiritual connection have profound impacts.
Posted January 25, 2020 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of recognizing and celebrating beauty in broken things. Broken ceramics (bowls, cups, vases) are put back together with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. Rather than trying to hide it, practitioners visibly incorporate the repair into the object’s restoration, honoring and revering the damage instead of using it as an excuse to discard and replace the object. The process frequently results in something more extraordinary and precious than the original.
The process of 12-step recovery has much in common with Kintsugi in both intent and effect. Twelve-step recovery helps people who dedicate themselves to the process become strong in the places where they have been damaged.
The 12 steps create a framework for: practicing new ways of relating to thoughts and emotions; generating healthier behaviors; supporting the application of spiritual principles, such as acceptance, tolerance, open-mindedness, perseverance, humility, and gratitude; and prompting additional opportunities for conscious contact with that which is beyond oneself—of belonging to a greater whole, of connection to others, as well as to the world. All of these benefits have spillover benefits for the quality of one’s parenting.
We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Step 10 begins with a daily review and self-assessment of our actions. Through this process, as soon as we become aware that we’ve acted in ways that are harmful or unhelpful, we acknowledge them and take responsibility for them. Step 10 brings together the various components of awareness and action you have practiced in other steps.
The step 10 inventory means examining your actions and reactions over the course of the day and identifying which were healthy and recovery-supportive, and which were unhealthy and caused—or have the potential to cause—harm to you or those around you. This self-assessment functions as an early warning system, providing important information regarding when and how you may be getting off track.
It gives you the chance to take corrective action before your behavior does any serious damage and creates significant suffering for you or others. Such continuous course-correction can help you maintain mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual balance, as well as minimize problems in relationships with your kids, partners, friends, and co-workers.
Step 10 creates an ongoing present-centering opportunity to look carefully at your attitudes and behaviors in terms of whether or not they are helpful. And if you determine that any are not, you can make a conscious decision to change them—starting here and now.
The ultimate goal in this step is to maintain self-awareness throughout the day and to moderate your thinking, attitude, and behaviors in the moment. Applying step 10 is, in general—and in specific reference to your relationship with your kids—a lot like cleaning up after yourself as you cook a large meal: if you clean up as you go along by wiping the counter and washing dishes and pans, the kitchen won’t be trashed, and you won’t have a huge, overwhelming mess to clean up in the end.
This kind of ongoing cleanup will help you maintain an open channel of communication with your kids and provide powerful role modeling for them.
We sought through prayer and meditation to increase our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.
Step 11 focuses on utilizing meditation and prayer as vehicles to further your awareness of and deepen your conscious connection with that beyond yourself, including your relationships with other people and the world. Step 11 is designed to help you establish daily practices that strengthen your capacity to sustain recovery—and an attuned relationship with your kids—through times both smooth and rough.
Prayer and meditation are vehicles for communicating with one’s “higher power,” whatever form that may take. They’re different, though complementary, aspects of engaging in a dialogue of sorts. You may have some familiarity with the distinction that prayer is a form of talking to one’s higher power, while meditation is a way of listening for the response.
Meditation has been discussed at length in a number of my previous blog posts. Spiritual traditions around the world include forms of prayer, and practitioners maintain a belief in its healing power. Regardless of whether you use prayer based on established religion, the literature of 12-step programs, or a belief system of your own making, the act of communication with that beyond yourself is the intention.
Your process of prayer may include a formal structure or consist of straightforward communication in a conversational manner with your higher power. It can take place in solitude or in communion with others. Praying for specific outcomes is usually a setup for disappointment.
Many people with time in recovery use prayer to ask for assistance in the practice of spiritual principles (for example, praying for greater open-mindedness, compassion, or humility). Others pray for the strength to get through a particular challenge or the patience to wait for the outcome of a situation and accept that outcome—whatever it may be. Still others ask for guidance in finding their best and highest purpose for the day ahead.
One way to understand your higher power’s will is as actions that are consistent with the spiritual principles of acceptance, honesty, love, empathy, compassion, and humility. In contrast, “self-will” is a function of attachment to something you want or aversion to something you wish to avoid and acting under the influence of character defects (such as impatience, intolerance, a judgmental attitude, arrogance, or self-centeredness) in ways that create suffering for yourself or others, including your kids.
The practice of step 10 facilitates closer-to-the-moment accountability and repairs tears in the fabric of parent-child relationships, while practicing Step 11 deepens the capacity for conscious connection with ourselves and others—most importantly, our children.
The next and final post in this series on the 12 steps and mindful parenting will be on step 12.
Copyright 2020 Dan Mager, MSW