Friday, September 4, 2009

Bill Wilson's Depression

"In the 1958 Grapevine article, "The New Frontier: Emotional Sobriety," Bill writes:
I asked myself, "Why can't the Twelve Steps work to release me from this unbearable depression?" By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis prayer: "It is better to comfort than to be comforted."
Suddenly, I realized what the answer might be. My basic flaw had always been dependence on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and confidence. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionistic dreams and specifications, I fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.
Reinforced by what grace I could find in prayer, I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people and upon circumstances. Then only could I be free to love as Francis had loved."

In April he wrote:

'when I became willing to let go of demands and substitute for them an outgoing love as best I could show it, just as one would in a 12th step case, to that extent I became liberated and to that extent did I receive the gifts of proper instinctual statisfaction. This is what I have been pondering most of late. And when I realized it and felt the truth of it, and became more willing to practice love in this manner, my brief depression came to an abrupt end. The skies cleared for me as never before."

I was interested in reading how Bill Wilson equated his depression as self centeredness and how finally he overcame his depression by realizing that 'outgoing love' and caring for others was the key. Further he had to learn 'detachment with love' in his dealing with other alcoholics as Al Anon taught realizing that "Things which are primary to me (even for the good of AA) are unfulfilled. I'm constantly diverted to secondary or even useless activities by AA's whose demands seem to them primary, but are not really so."

This discussion of depression is very different from what I often hear from AA's. His mentor Father Dowling had arthritis which caused him pain and depression but he embraced this calling it his 'Glad Gethsemane".

Bill wrote "the pains of failure are converted into assets. Out of them we receive the stimulation we need to go forward. Someone who knew what he was talking about once remarked that pain was the touchstone of all spiritual progress."

There's a decided lack of "self pity" in these discussions which I confess I often am annoyed at hearing in the tone of some AA's discussion of their "depression'. Further there's this lack of 'entitlement' regarding 'pleasure' that is so reminiscent of the untreated alcoholics desire for pain free existence.

Bill Wilson worked through his depression. He saw his depression as 'neurosis' and thought one day there'd be a "neurotics anonymous' for those like him who had to go deeper into understanding how their own 'expectation's' were pre-formed resentments. He eventually found relief from his depression as he became closer to God.


Anonymous said...


and of course with couselling with

dr. Hay and a cycle ride in the sunshine

Rebecca Rounds, Systems Planner said...

I swear I saw a passage written by Aeschylus that was very similar to Bill Wilson's reference to "pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress." Are you familiar with it or do you know who Bill was quoting?

Carol Edwards said...

Bill W was quick to say that there is nothing new in Alcoholics Anonymous. Everything came from elsewhere. AA writings only made basic truths palatable to the defiant alcoholic.

Anonymous said...

Spiritual truths are timeless and have been revealed in evidence to all mankind, regardless of the age or era, since the beginning of time, as long as the person seeking said truth earnestly & with faith, belief and humility.