Alcoholics Anonymous and similar fellowships broadcast certain expressions and slogans as if they were verbal tics. One Day at a Time is the most famous, but there are dozens of others. At their worst, these slogans make AA seem cultish or brainless to an outsider. At their best, they appear in the mind of a struggling addict or alcoholic — whether in recovery or relapse — administering a miraculous dose of serenity.
Like many of the other slogans, You’re Right Where You’re Supposed to Be is deeply ambiguous. When invoked in the rooms of AA, it can seem to simply mean, “you are supposed to be here — in this room.” But usually it is called upon when someone has shared that they are ashamed or dissatisfied with their status or financial situation in comparison to “where they should be.”
Recovering Addict 1: I am going to be 37 and I don’t even have anything. No savings. No job. No brain cells left because I’ve been doing drugs for over 20 years.
Recovering Addict 2: You are right where you are supposed to be.
It seems like a joke sometimes. But then it leads to an interesting place. Supposed to. Supposed to. Supposed: this word is problematic. It has both the weight of fate and the unreliability of a guess.
- You are here because you are fated to be here
- You are here, exactly where it was guessed (or supposed) that you would be.
This second interpretation probably only occurs to etymologists and other word nerds like me. Most people think “supposed to” means either “fated to” or “required to.”
Whether or not you believe in fate, you can’t reverse time, so there is nothing you can do about where you are right now. You can only affect the future.
When to invoke the magic words
You have been working yourself into a frenzy thinking of the time you wasted, how people your age have succeeded and you haven’t, how you will never make up for the things you have missed, how you are supposed to be much further along…and you can’t do a thing about it.
It is only your belief or your comparison to other people that is making your think that you are in the wrong place. And then there is reality.
Reality is, you are right where you are. Anything else is a belief. Supposition is totally up to you. The slogan unwinds the story you were tangling yourself in. Suddenly, you can choose to believe that you are right where you are supposed to be. Whatever you choose to believe, it doesn’t change the facts. But how you feel isn’t based on facts.
Belief is something many people relegate to religion. They assume that they walk around making decisions based on facts. They have opinions and feelings, but beliefs are for more superstitious folks. I do it. You do it. We all think we know more than we do and believe less. If you don’t believe me, you should read a little more about cognitive biases, for example the confirmation bias or subjective validation. The fact is, we don’t live in a world of facts, but a world of beliefs.
Beliefs have more influence on our emotions than facts. Most of our beliefs are unconscious, but we can become conscious of them. Even better, we can choose new beliefs. The more we uncover our unconscious beliefs, the more power we have to shape our mood, our attitude, and our experience.
So, it is up to you. Are you right where you are supposed to be?