At a recent meeting, it was mentioned in passing that ACA literature needs to use gentle, suggestive language. Of course, we want the language in ACA materials to be respectful. Surely, we all want an atmosphere of gentle safety to prevail, but in ACA service, getting things done can be sacrificed to the primary goal of being safe unless we have group guidelines, suggested procedures for allaying our own triggered reactions, or for clearing misunderstandings that crop up.
The need to be affirmatively safe is a survival instinct we are born with. Survival fears are contagious in the way they impact and manipulate a group. Control addicts can and do make use of crisis-generating to keep control in a group. Control addiction is like other addictions: addicts feel threatened that something they need won’t be available or that something they already have will be lost.
A “don’t talk!” (“I don’t like the way this sounds!”) triggers “don’t trust!” (“someone is scaring a child”), prompting a “don’t feel!” (“must shut down this threat”). Crises can happen, but when we have clear guidelines for how our group agrees to practice active listening, real openness to learning, and willingness to let a group conscience have time to take form, we are reparenting ourselves in advance, which is a source of comfort. Simple guidelines that speak to how “crosstalk” is modified to make it safe to talk and listen when we are in a service meeting, where cooperating together is the goal, really helps. Talking directly to each other in ACA is a new skill for us.
Diversity is one of the first casualties of an atmosphere of distrust. People who want to be heard may be afraid to risk doing so when they are not sure if their input will be instantly criticized. If they feel their motives will be questioned, they may leave, or they may be prompted to stick with whoever seems to have control. Feeling unwelcome or frustrated, disillusioned, or unworthy of care are ACA traits that get triggered. The flip side of the traits—grabbing control—gets stimulated, too.
If we welcome alternative views and language suggestions without rushing a vote, we demonstrate trust in a loving HP to guide an informed group conscience to develop. This approach models recovery in action that is gentle, respectful, and welcoming. Thought and reflection take time. Willingness to listen, to be a peer, to trust a loving HP are needed practices in ACA service to identify and replace practices that exclude people or that make group conscience into a rush to judgment fueled by crisis and fear. Gradual progress is courage to change things we are a part of, and “practice these principles in all our affairs” is at the heart of doing service.