By Charles E. Smith | Bio
This is the third post in a three-part series. Read the previous post.
Membership in Explainers Anonymous™
is free. We only have meetings if someone asks. There is no email
address, no fax and no phone. All you need to do is admit you are
hopelessly attached to your own and others’ explanations and that you
want to get free. People all over the world are joining up.
Still, people ask me, “What’s the price of my addiction to explaining?” Why worry about it?
what if my explanations stop me from having to think? Cognitive
Autonomy is an illusion anyway, isn’t it? Constant explaining drains my
own and other peoples’ energy…but so what? Mark Twain said there is
nothing so boring as a well-reasoned presentation. So what if my
explanations have a life of their own. Who cares if my future will be
like my past because my explanations insist on it? So what if broken
relationships usually come from explanations. So what that children
grow up in contradiction with their own experience because their
teachers are sure their method is based on right explanations. So what
that poverty persists and the environment is in danger from competing
Is there anything outside of explanation—or is this our fate?
I say, “I love you” to my wife and children, I’m not explaining. If I
say I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either of the leading
presidential candidates, I’m not explaining. If I say I’m late and
don’t tell you why, what am I explaining?
Think of how quiet
it would get if we simply stopped explaining. Think of all those people
with cell phones in public places struggling for what to say.
Here are my proposed Twelve Steps for Ex Anons:
- Admit to someone significant in your life that you are hopelessly addicted to explanations and have no power over it.
Surrender. Explanations have got you, you don’t have them. The act of
admitting this, hard as it may be, is the first step to a life of
freedom and choice.
- Never characterize yourself. Never
tell others or explain to them the kind of person you are. Make
promises. Make requests. Tell stories. Share your experience. Create
possibilities and declare yourself, but never tell them what kind of a
person you are. Only someone who is avoiding or hiding something will
do that. Everyone can sense it. Self-characterization keeps you from
getting the support you want.
- Listen generously. Listen
with deep appreciation for the feelings and concerns of others.
Otherwise your pre-existing explanations will color everything you
hear. You will be listening mainly to yourself and won’t not learn
- Go beyond self-limiting explanations. If you
don’t know what your self-limiting explanations are, you will never go
beyond them. What are they? Do you want to go beyond them?
- Make declarative statements.
Proclaim what you are for or against with all of your conviction, on
your own authority, without the necessity for explanation. Examples
are, “These states are and of a right ought to be free. I am for my
children. I am for my country. I am for equal opportunity. I am for
equal justice. I am for universal healthcare. I am for quality
education before corporate profit.” In all honesty, you don’t have to
explain yourself to say what you are for.
- Speak from the heart. Explanations
come from your head, not your heart. Your head is too often concerned
with looking good, justifying itself, avoiding domination and being
right. Your heart will usually take you to the experienced truth of the
matter and build a constructive bridge across which good works and
profitable enterprise can march.
- Pay attention to your confusion, not your explanation. When
I pay attention to my confusion, I always get new ideas, new
possibilities and new relationships. When I pay attention to my
explanations, not much new ever happens. The explanations become the
limits of my horizon.
- Make a courageous inventory of everyone you have hurt with your explanations. Such
a long list it will be—and getting longer every day. And all the while
everyone else is busy with their own lists. But the truth about this
will help set you free.
- Be conscious of your own and others’ explanations. You
will soon begin to see that explanations are almost all you can find.
Start noticing where there is not an explanation but something else.
Does it have more power? Why did John Kennedy’s asking the nation ,“Ask
not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
country,” have such power and resonance? Maybe the answer is that he
just meant what he said and left out or minimized the explanation.
Explaining something is not the same as standing for something.
- Make direct amends to such people you have hurt wherever possible, except where it would injure them or others. Apologize. Forgive yourself and others. Tell them the truth about what you have seen.
- Tell the truth about your experience. When
in doubt, simply share your feelings and experience of a situation.
This will protect you and others from your opinions and judgments.
- Carry this message to others and practice these principles. Having
experienced the benefit of a life with less explanation, carry the
message to others. Remember that the addiction is universal and a lot
of people like it. It’s like chocolate. Some of the most financially
successful people and companies in the world make their money by
explaining to others. You will not be received graciously all the time.
This is missionary work.
And, as I said, there are no meetings.