The Totem Animals of the Medicine Cards

One of the very valuable tools in my recovery – as I say in this quote from my book – was the Medicine Cards.

The Dance

“When I was willing to hear and see the messages – and take action based upon them – I began to discover the Truth around me.  There were certain books of Truth that I was led to that were especially important in my consciousness raising, in my Recovery process.  I am now going to quote a story from one of those books which means a lot to me.  It is a story from a book called Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson.  This book deals with the Medicine Wheel, and the totem animals of the Medicine Wheel Spiritual beliefs of certain Native American tribes.” – All text in this color are quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Though I don’t actually use the cards themselves in my life very often now, the totem animals – and the messages that they symbolically represent – are still very important to me.  Those totem animals have been a factor in the calendars I have selected each year for many years.  When I lived in Taos New Mexico, I was able to get a calendar that had different animals of the Rocky Mountain Region for each month – and most of those animals were totems in the Medicine Cards, and thus would give me a message / theme to focus on for the month.  Once I moved back to California, it became difficult to find that type of calendar – and for several years I chose calendars that had one of my totems – the wolf – on them.  In this quote from my personal journal in the Joy2MeU Journal – in which I am talking about my relationship with a male friend during some processing I was doing about my relationships with other males – I mention the significance of calendars in my recovery experience.

“When we communicate by e-mail about golf, I call him Arnie (as in Palmer) and he calls me Tiger (as in Woods.)  In my replies, I found myself referring to myself as Tigger.   I believe I mentioned some place in my writing, how a couple of years ago, when it came time to buy a new calendar, I bought a Winnie the Pooh one.  The year before (I believe it was 1999) had been pretty rough, and I wanted to get a new calendar and mouse pad that was somewhat frivolous.  For several years I had gotten a wolf calendar to go along with a wolf mouse pad.  Wolf is one of my totems in the Medicine Cards – and symbolizes the Teacher.  The first line in the Medicine Card book about the Wolf is “Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine.”  Pretty appropriate for the role I seem to be playing in this lifetime.  Also, wolves mate for life – a connection to my romantic fantasy issues. 

While shopping for a calendar for 2000, I decided that, though wolf is a powerful totem for me that I honor and affirm, it was perhaps a bit too serious a theme for the coming year.  I decided I wanted to affirm “lightening up” for the coming year – put out a request to the Universe for a year without quite so many difficult opportunities for growth.  When I found the Winnie the Pooh calendar, it seemed to be a perfect symbol of having a lighter, more frivolous and happy year.  And I got a mouse pad to match.

I don’t really remember reading Winnie the Pooh as a kid.  I do have this feeling of connection to Tigger however.  I think it is because of that song he sings, about what a wonderful thing it is to be a Tigger – and about how he is the only one.  Something that a lonely, isolated boy could identify with – feeling different and unique, though I certainly didn’t think it was a wonderful thing.” Joy2MeU Journal:  The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul My Unfolding Dance 17 November 3, 2002 

I referenced the calendar connection again in some writing I did in early 2004.  In the processing I had done in my journal in November 2002, I had gotten honest with myself about how my acceptance of being isolated and alone was keeping me from being available for a relationship.  In this quote from my journal in January of 2004, I make reference to the efforts I was making to get more involved with other human beings – and talk about another of the totem animals that is very important to me.

“Well, I get to start this morning looking above my computer at my new 2004 calendar.  I had actually spotted the calendar I wanted before the end of last year – but was waiting for it to go on sale.  I have this thing about paying full price for a calendar when I know they are going to go on sale soon.  Probably a reaction to my old poverty consciousness.  Choosing to wait, meant creating some irritation for myself when I would look up and see December instead of January for the first week of the month.  Oh well.

I finally got a chance to get into San Luis on Friday and get the calendar I wanted – another Winnie the Pooh one.  I talked in one of these installments (I think it was here) about opting for Winnie the Pooh calendars the last couple years as symbol of wanting the year to be more on the light and whimsical side.  They actually had a Tigger one – Tigger being an “only one,” and thus the character I identified with the most because I felt so different and “not a part of.”  But I decided that since a large part of the focus of my recovery these days is to learn to interact and play with the other kids in the Enchanted Forest, that I should stick to the Winnie and friends calendar.

I don’t actually have any memories of reading Winnie the Pooh in childhood, but my inner children relate to Tigger.  In recovery I also relate to Winnie, who is after all a Pooh bear.  Bear is one of my totems in the Medicine Cards, and is described as going within to access Truth – which pretty well fits my mystic role.  It is in fact a West totem that is my East totem.  East being the place of the rising sun and illumination.  In other words, my illumination – my Awakening to the Light – comes primarily from looking within.

“The strength of Bear medicine is the power of introspection.  It lies in the West on the great medicine wheel of life.  Bear seeks honey, or the sweetness of truth, within the hollow of an old tree.  In the winter, when the Ice Queen reigns and the face of death is upon the Earth, Bear enters the womb-cave to hibernate, digest the year’s experience.  It is said that our goals reside in the West also.  To accomplish the goals and dreams that we carry, the art of introspection is necessary.

To become like Bear and enter the safety of the womb cave, we must attune ourselves to the energies of the Eternal Mother, and receive nourishment from the placenta of the Great Void.  The Great Void is the place where all solutions and answers live in harmony with the questions that fill our realities.  If we choose to believe that there are many questions to life, we must also believe that the answers to these questions reside within us.  Each and every being has the capacity to quiet the mind, enter the silence, and know.

Many tribes have called this space of inner-knowing the Dream Lodge, where the death of the illusion of physical reality overlays the expansiveness of eternity.” – Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson (link at bottom of page)

I will probably be talking some more about the Medicine Cards soon.” – Joy2MeU Journal:  The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul My Unfolding Dance 29 January 12, 2004 Monday 5:30 AM

It has been important for me in my recovery, to make choices and take actions in alignment with what I have been guided to focus on in my growth process.  Even something as small as choosing the Winnie and Friends calendar instead of the Tigger calendar has power on a metaphysical level – in terms of bringing Spiritual intention into everything I do.  Part of what I need to get clearer on in this processing, is the areas of my life that I need to bring more focused Spiritual attention to right now. 

The processing I did in my journal and Update Newsletters – from the May 2001 Update that I mention at the beginning of this Update (which actually threw me back into the Pandora’s box of my fear of intimacy issues that I opened with my October 2000 Update) through the November 2002 journal installments – lead to me taking the actions that have put me in the relationship situation I am in now.  In that same Dance 29 installment, I make clear reference to a lesson I am still working on learning today.

“It is very easy for me to write about how important it is to communicate in an intimate relationship – how vital it is to work through tough issues by talking about them.  It is much harder in practice.  The old theory versus actual experience conundrum.  The very thing – that emotionally intimate relationships get messy – which makes it is so important for me to be willing to play with the other kids in the Enchanted Forest.  The “messy” gift in my life today that has been made possible by the fear of intimacy processing that I have been doing here in this journal ever since writing my May 2001 Update put those issues in my face.

“The reality of my life circumstances right now, is that I am at a stage in my journey where I am pretty isolated and insulated.  I am doing a lot of writing and a lot of phone counseling – so that my life in many ways is like being in a 12 step meeting almost all of the time.  It makes it real easy to maintain a conscious contact Spiritually.  Having relatively little contact with other human beings, beyond the superficial, makes it much easier to stay in serenity.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but interacting with other people gets messy. ;-)” – Joy to You & Me and Joy2MeU Update – May 23, 2001

I am no longer living in comfortable isolation writing theoretically.  I am in the Enchanted Forest interacting with other human beings.  And it is much easier for me to focus on interacting with the 2 year old Darien kid than it is with the adult kids in my life.  Sigh. (Darien just turned 12 to give you some perspective on when I wrote this.)

Now about the importance to me of the deer totem in the Medicine Cards. 

“I just went outside and saw a hummingbird.  In the Medicine Cards hummingbirds symbolize Joy.  I stood telling him/her how beautiful she/he was – and it flew to a flower so close to me that I could hear it’s wings humming.  Majorly cool.  Anytime I see a hummingbird I take it as a direct message from my Higher Power to remember that Joy is the point, the goal, what healing is all about.  Joy and Love.

Animal totems have a very special meaning for me.  The place where I walk by the ocean, is a place we call locally the East West Ranch.  When I first moved to Cambria back in late 1989, it had been a ranch that went bankrupt.  It is something like 600 acres, and sits between two of the main residential sections of the town – on the ocean side of Highway 1.  Back then, it was posted with no trespassing signs, but there were spaces in the fence to climb over and get through – so the effect was that the signs protected the owners from liability but people could walk on the ranch as they pleased. 

I Love this ranch space.  When I was living in a place near the back edge of it in 1990, I would go for walks on the ranch all of the time.  Near where I would enter the ranch, I could cross a small stream and come to a meadow in the woods.  The meadow was a mound – and felt like sacred space to me.  I would commune with the meadow and then walk up the hill through the woods.  Coming out of the woods I could see the ocean and then walk down the hill to the bluffs overlooking the ocean. Along the part of the ocean that the ranch runs along there is no beach.  There are bluffs with rocks and tidal pools below.

It brought me great pleasure and serenity to walk through my meadow and up the hill – or though a passageway through the trees that came out in a different part of the ranch.  There was a place just after this passageway, where a tree stood alone.  A tree that was bent over almost double, creating what looked like kind of a portal.  I would visualize that being a portal to other dimensions or to the future where I was done with all the pain.

As I would walk through the woods, I would see deer.  Deer in the medicine cards are about gentleness.  Whenever I see a deer, I take it as a direct reminder from my Higher Power to be gentle with myself. I get to see lots of deer around here – to help me remember gentleness.  (My landlady doesn’t like it that they come into her garden at night and eat the flowers – but I think it is cool.)  As I came out on top of the hill where I could see the ocean, I would sometimes see whales.  A whale – again in the medicine cards – is the record keeper, the keeper of ancient knowledge.  It was symbolic for me because I felt that I was accessing ancient knowledge while writing my Trilogy.

1990 was a year before I first gave the talk that became the Dance of Wounded Souls.  The only book that I was working on then was my Trilogy.”  – Joy2MeU Journal:  The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul My Unfolding Dance 9 July 12, 2000

I don’t actually miss Cambria that much (I was telling myself that at the time, but I still miss it) – although I do miss my walks on the Ranch.  And I miss getting to see deer all the time.  That is the reason that I chose a Deer calendar this year.  The move to San Diego we made in September, is a perfect part of my Spiritual Path, and is working out quite nicely.  Getting to do the Intensives regularly is a very important to me – and I am sure the grief groups are going to be a perfect part of the journey also – but I do miss the deer.

Among the gifts that Susan has brought into my life is encouraging me to do the Intensives, and moving to San Diego.  I will be exploring more of those gifts on my fear of intimacy processing page.

Magnificent Buck Deer

In alignment with how this writing processing unfolds perfectly for me, the last line in that last quote mentions my Trilogy.  That work: The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” is A Magical, Mystical, Spiritual Fable which is a book that probably will never be finished – and certainly won’t be part of a Trilogy.  But it was the first writing that I did in 1988 after I had gone through treatment for Codependency.  That body of work is what I thought of when I looked at the calendar with the magnificent buck deer on it.  That Trilogy writing formed part of the foundation of what was later to become Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.

“I started writing my book (what I hoped was just going to be one book because I really did not like writing😉 The Dance of Wounded Souls in a cabin at 11,000 feet elevation on Taos Mountain in the fall of 1988. . . . . 

. . . . . .  That book evolved into being the first book of a Trilogy, and over the next few years I worked on it intermittently.  Meanwhile, I was working on my emotional healing, and started working with others in helping them to access and release their grief.

I was looking at the work I was doing on internal healing, and the work I was doing on the mystical book as being two separate things.  It never occurred to me to connect them.  And then suddenly in early 1991, they came together.  In some speaking engagements to talk about codependence, I heard myself answering questions with mystical statements that I had never even considered that I would make in public.” – Attack on America – Chapter 7 (Attack on America – A Spiritual Healing Perspective is an online book that I started writing a few days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.  I published it online as I wrote it – but subsequently moved the bulk of it to my Joy2MeU Journal.  It is also now available in the Dancing in Light pay to view section of the site.)

In my Joy2MeU Journal two part installment about publishing The Dance I talked about how the events unfolded.

“In the next month or six weeks, I also spoke publicly at a couple of other places.  One was at the County Drug and Alcohol satellite office in Cambria – and the other was at a Speakers meeting for CoDA for Helping Professionals. (This was a short lived version of CoDA for counselors, therapist, and various other helping professionals who thought it would not be okay for them to share honestly in regular CoDA meetings – a manifestation of the codependent programming of keeping up appearances in my opinion, which I shared with them when I spoke.)

It was in those public speaking engagements that the inner child work I was doing merged with the mystical information that I was writing for the Trilogy.  I can remember two examples of hearing “myself answering questions with mystical statements” – that I refer to in the quote from my Attack on America book above.  One was while speaking here in Cambria – which was not a meeting but an informational event the satellite office was offering for the general public.  In it, I shared my view that everything was unfolding perfectly from a cosmic perspective.  Someone asked me if that meant that I believed that everyone who died in a plane crash was meant to die that day.  I answered that yes that was what I believed.

The other one I remember was in the CoDA Speakers meeting in February.  I have a memory of talking about the clinging creatures story I paraphrase from Richard Bach’s Illusions in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.  The one where the creature that has learned to let go and go with the flow of the stream is viewed as a messiah by clinging creatures he flies over down stream. . . . . (I am going to include that quote from my book at the end of this blog entry.)

It was in those talks that the seeds of my book sprouted.

“In the spring of 1991, Robert Burney was asked to speak in several different venues on the subject of Codependence. In the course of those speaking engagements he heard himself making statements to a general audience that he had never considered saying in public because of their controversial nature. To his surprise he found that the practical process level tools and techniques that he utilized in his private therapy practice were merging with mystical and magical knowledge he had acquired writing a book that was an adult fable about the history of the Universe – the first book of a trilogy.

Although he experienced a great deal of fear about making such controversial statements in public, he was compelled to further explore this message that he felt coming through him. He arranged dates in June of 1991 to give a talk in Cambria and Morro Bay, California. He then found he was unable to write the talk. The message that he was formulating was multileveled and nonlinear so that he found it impossible to organize his thoughts into a coherent presentation. His anxiety mounted as the date for his talk approached until in a burst of inspiration born out of desperation he wrote almost continuously for the last 48 hours prior to the talk. The presentation was scrawled on yellow legal pages that first time he presented the talk.

As he got ready to give his talk, he was overwhelmed with feelings of dread and experienced emotional memories of being stoned to death by an angry mob. He was convinced the audience would not be able to hear his message because of the outrageously controversial aspects of it but was compelled to go forward with it because of his personal Karmic need to take responsibility and stand up for his Truth. To his amazement, the audience not only heard what he was saying but cried tears of Joy in recognition of the Truth he was sharing.

That talk formed the basis for the book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. The message evolved and expanded over the years as he refined the techniques he was developing to facilitate Codependence recovery, but the basic structure of the book was essentially born in those two days of desperation. Robert made a trip from Taos New Mexico, where he was living at the time, to the Central Coast of California in the winter of 1995 in an attempt to raise funds to publish a book based on the talk. Because of that trip (which was a real leap of faith) he did receive the financing to start the publishing process in the summer of 1995. He returned to Cambria to set up his publishing company, Joy to You & Me Enterprises, in the fall of 1995. The official publication date of the book was January of 1996.” – Biographical information page

That first time I did the talk, at the Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria on June 16th 2001 before a crowd of over 50 people, it was literally on yellow legal pages.” – Joy2MeU Journal:  The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul Leap of Faith ~ Publishing The Dance

The Trilogy alternates between a narrative story line and a History of the Universe told tongue in cheek (including a recently discovered transcript of God’s thought process in deciding to create the Universe.;-)  The narrative story involves my Higher Self appearing to me in the form of a unicorn running off a picture on my desk in Taos New Mexico in early 1989.   My unicorn / Higher Self then takes me on a journey through time and space to help me learn the things I needed to learn.   In one of the later chapters of that work, my Higher Self transforms from a unicorn to the form of a woman representing the Goddess Energy / Feminine Principle.  During the course of my interaction with my Higher Self, a doe and two fawns had been playing a part in the unfolding story.  After we had discussed some of the levels of healing that were affecting me and had caused my fear of intimacy, came this passage.

“Sorry about that,” I laughed.  It was wonderful to laugh about where I had been – and was going back to – and not feel any shame about it.  It was after all, only a part of my evolution.  There Truly is no need to judge where I have been, or am, because it was/is just a step in my becoming process.

Just then my attention was once again caught by the deer. The doe and both fawns had turned and were looking back into the trees at that south end of the meadow. And what came walking out of the trees at that point was the most magnificent Stag deer that I have ever seen.  He was tall and regal with the most magnificent set of antlers I had ever seen.  I counted fourteen points in his incredible rack.

I . . . . . . stood up, staring in awe at this magnificent male animal.  I was moved somewhere deep within my being, and tears sprang to my eyes from the emotions that the grandeur of his presence stirred up within me.

“Yes,” said my dream woman softly by my side, “he is magnificent.  And he is you, that is that he is a symbolic representation of the magnificence of your own masculinity.”

I turned and looked at her, feeling an emotional surge in my chest as her words sank in.

“You see,” she continued, “you have, up to this point in your recovery, put much effort into healing the feminine within and your inner children – which are symbolically represented by the doe and her two fawns.  But you have almost completely ignored the healing of your masculine.  Your relationship with your father, and your disgust over the sins of man-kind, have led you to disown to a large degree, your own masculine energy.  A very large part of your journey in the coming years will be to focus on the healing of your masculine so that you can own and honor what a magnificent male being you are.”

Tears were freely running down my face as I stood there looking at her.  Then I turned and gazed once again at the magnificent creature.  All four of the deer were standing there looking back at me with Love in their eyes.  I could feel the Truth of her words, and along with the Joy that I was experiencing from the sight of this regal animal, there was a profound sadness at the realization of the depth of my masculine wounds.  I was too overwhelmed with feeling at that point to speak.  I just stood there gazing at the buck and feeling the urgency of my need to own my masculine self.” – The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .”  Chapter 10

At this point I am breaking from what has been an excerpt from my Update Newsletter of March 2007.  I am going to include another quote from my Trilogy about the Medicine Wheel in this blog entry because I think it is apt and interesting.

(I used to write Update Newsletters in which I would share processing through my issues for my site 3 or 4 times a year until I actually got into a relationship and didn’t have much time to write any more.  The frequency dropped down to once a year – and now I haven’t done one for almost 5 years.  Once I got into a relationship and had a whole family that I was dealing with, I didn’t feel it was okay to share on the same intimate level because I felt a need to respect the confidentiality of the other people in the family.  And even though my wife (got married in 2010) Susan and I have been separated for over 3 years now, I still don’t feel comfortable sharing in the personal way I did in those early Update Newsletters.  I will insert a link here to my site index page where those Update Newsletters are listed for anyone who wants to explore them.  There are several million words in them at least.)

My unicorn / Higher Self communicates with me telepathically and in an irreverent manner from my point of view – by using words like bingo and calling me bucko, which is why I end up calling Her/Him by the nickname included in this quote.

“My unicorn chuckled, telepathically of course, as she continued. “Your memories of this journey will return to you gradually, and one day you will imagine the symbolic description – and then much later the other version.”

“I will imagine it,” I whined, “like memories of the future, right?  I suppose that you are going to tell me that you and this meadow, and this journey, are really someplace in the future – and that, as I write the book, I am just accessing memories from the future about what I am supposed to write.”

“Well, actually in the course of this journey we will be visiting both what you think of as the future and the past – but when you write this, much of the future we visit will be in your past because you will have already experienced it on this journey.”

And with a chuckle, she kicked up her heels, and was off and running across the meadow.

I tried to keep my pout going, but my heart just wasn’t in it. She looked so beautiful running and I felt such Love for her, that I had to start laughing at myself. I was being human again – and that was just fine because that is what I am here to experience. Even then I had come a long ways in not judging my own humanity.

As I watched, she jumped the stream and ran directly to the north end of the meadow. There, she turned east and galloped in a circle around the whole meadow – jumping the stream twice more as she went. When she reached the north again, she turned and trotted back towards me. She stopped on the other side of the stream and stood there looking at me with that silly grin of hers. I realized immediately that her grin, combined with the mischievous look in her eye, meant that it was time to bring something to awareness.

This is another thing that my Higher Self does to me all the time. He/She reveals some mind expanding information, or some emotional energy that I need to deal with, and then if I am starting to get all wound up in intellectual gymnastics about the information, or fear of the emotions – She/He puts something from an entirely different perspective right in front of me to remind me not to lose my awareness of the moment. It is my Higher Self’s way of reminding me that the whole point of healing is to learn how to be in the moment.

“Okay,” I laughed, “that little run was symbolic in some way, right?”

“Everything is symbolic in some way bucko,” she replied. “But yes, there was some particular symbolism in my run.”

“All right, bubba,” I said. I don’t know where the ‘bubba’ came from, but it seemed somehow appropriate, now that I was getting comfortable with being called ‘bucko’. “Let’s see what we can become aware of here.”

I stood by the stream and slowly turned around, scanning the whole meadow for some clue. In looking around, I noticed that the eagle cloud was still soaring overhead. That was all the clue I needed.

“Okay, my beautiful unicorn, I will tell you what you want to hear,” I said, rather grandly. “The meadow is circular in shape, just like the Medicine Wheel. And the Medicine Wheel religion contains as much Truth within it as any religion on Earth. Within the Medicine Wheel teachings, there is great significance in the four directions. The North, to which you galloped first, is the place of wisdom. It is the place you represent, the Higher Mind which contains all wisdom. From there you traveled to the East, which is the place of illumination. The direction of the rising sun which brings light to chase away the darkness, and is symbolic of the Light of Truth. It is the ‘sees far and wide’ place of the eagle. In other words, you lead me towards the Light by expanding my perspective so that I see things in progressively larger contexts. In this way, you teach me to see the Truth of how perfectly the pieces of the puzzle of life fit together when viewed from a large enough perspective.

“From the East, you traveled to the South,” I continued. “The South is the place of innocence and trust. One of the colors of the South is green, and that is one of the colors of healing energy. It is also the place of the child within. It was through surrendering to your guidance and trusting that my inner self was innocent, and not some horrible shameful monster, that I was able to access the healing green energy. It was in the South that my emotional healing began, because I was able to start accepting that God really is Loving – despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Once I started remembering enough to trust that God is LOVE, and that everything is unfolding perfectly, then I could access enough courage to open the ‘Pandora’s Box’ of repressed emotional energy that was caused by the trauma of my childhood.”

“From the South, you traveled to the West – the place of introspection. It is in this ‘looks within’ place that everything starts to make sense. For it is within that Truth exists. Only by looking within can Truth be found, and that Truth leads to God. For everything that we see around us is only a reflection of that which exists within. And if we cannot find God, and Love, within – we can never find it without. The Medicine Wheel is a mirror, and only by visiting all four directions can we become whole. The goal of the healing process is balance, and by visiting all four directions we can find the balance that allows the integration of the Spiritual and the physical”

“I would say that you are awakening very nicely,” she communicated with what seemed to be a rather self-satisfied look on her face.

“Thank you,” I replied, feeling rather proud of myself. “It is your guidance in leading me to the four directions that has brought me some wisdom – which is where your little gallop ended.”

“Au contraire, mon amie,” telepathed my Higher Self, “I didn’t stay in the North, did I?”

“Well no,” I said, somewhat confused. “You came back here to the center of the meadow.”

“And in returning to the center, which way did I travel?” she asked, with that sly grin.

“You came south,” I answered, still not understanding.

“So, from wisdom, I headed back to the south?”

“Yes,” I replied. And then I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. If her heading back to the South was so significant, then it could only mean on thing – it was time to trust again. And if it was time to trust again, that meant emotions. I have learned that my growth process is a continuous series of upwardly spiraling circles through ever expanding levels of awareness. In relation to the Medicine Wheel, this means that I need to visit all four directions within each level, or in regard to each issue, in order to achieve the balance that is wisdom about that particular level, in relationship to that particular issue. And once I have gained enough wisdom and balance about a level, then it is time to head South again, to trust and feel. To peel another layer of the onion.

My understanding of this process is that each time I move upward from one level to the next, it requires a lot of trust/faith because that particular phase of the growth feels terrible. This is because each time I move to a larger level of awareness, I have to surrender some of my ego definitions of who I am and how I relate to everything around me. It is the most confusing and terrifying part of the process because I have to let go of the old definitions before I know what it going to replace them. This is the process of ‘the death of the ego’. This metamorphosis, death is a process of transformation not an event, occurs as I shed progressive layers of ignorance to bring my ego-self into alignment with Spiritual-Self. This journey to wholeness and Oneness within is how the process of healing brings me to consciousness of the ONENESS of ALL THAT IS.

However, just as my Higher Self had stated only moments before, it does not matter how much intellectual knowledge I have of the path – I still experience the primal fear of the unknown when it comes time to proceed down that path. And my ego fights the process because every time it has to give up some of it’s definitions, that is, it’s illusions of control, it feels like it is dying. My ego reacts with fear to the out-of-control feeling, not only of the process of redefining which is growth and to it’s terror of the uncontrollable unknown in general, but also to the grief energy which it is necessary to release with each successive layer of the ‘onion’.

This process translates in my experience in this way: just when I have reached a comfortable understanding of the level I am at, and start to think that I have it all together (that I have finally reached happily-ever-after) – then it is time to move up to a new level. And as I come out of the top of one level into the bottom of the next level, it feels like I am at the bottom of the whole thing once more. It feels like I am in a deep dark hole huddled in a fetal position in despair and pain, and that I have made no progress. I feel very confused, because of surrendering some of my ego-definitions, and it feels like my emotional reality has never been anything but pain-full.

So naturally, my human impulse is to resist the process of surrendering to the grief and the growth. And even though my experience of the process had taught me that when I get to the other side of the grief and the confusion it will feel wonderful, in my humanness I still resist, progressively less then I used to, but resistance nevertheless. And each time it becomes time to surrender once more, I get angry at the process.

There in the meadow, I started to feel the fear when my unicorn made her point about traveling towards the place of trust that is the South. I was not, at that point, intellectually reviewing my knowledge of the process – I was just feeling an overwhelming urge to resist.

“You didn’t think that we had forgotten our newly discovered layer of grief, did you?” She telepathed. Her smile, which only a moment ago had seemed so sweet and Loving, now felt as if it was mocking me.

“Well, I was kind of hoping…….” I started to reply, in a very weak attempt to defuse the situation with humor.

Suddenly the fear that I was feeling turned into stark raving terror as my conscious mind became aware of the words which my Higher Self had communicated while I was falling asleep – Atlantis and Mu. The terror washed over me in waves, pulsating out of my gut to every part of my body, causing my knees to go weak and my hands to start shaking.

That is when two of my human defenses against fear kicked in. I defocused – that is, I shifted my focus away from that which was scaring me – and I transformed the fear energy into anger energy.

I exploded like a volcano.” – The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” Chapter 6

Before I end this blog entry with the quote from my book that I mentioned earlier, I decided I want to share the story in my book from the Medicine Card book that the quote at the beginning refers to.  It is a story about the Swan Totem.

When I was willing to hear and see the messages – and take action based upon them – I began to discover the Truth around me.  There were certain books of Truth that I was led to that were especially important in my consciousness raising, in my Recovery process.  I am now going to quote a story from one of those books which means a lot to me.  It is a story from a book called Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson.  This book deals with the Medicine Wheel, and the totem animals of the Medicine Wheel Spiritual beliefs of certain Native American tribes.

The subject of this particular story is the Swan totem – Swan power:

As Swan looked high above Sacred Mountain, she saw the biggest swirling black hole she had ever seen.  Dragonfly came flying by, and Swan stopped him to ask about the black hole.  Dragonfly said, “Swan, that is the doorway to the other planes of imagination.  I have been guardian of the illusion for many, many moons.  If you want to enter there, you would have to ask permission and earn the right.”

Swan was not so sure that she wanted to enter the black hole,  She asked Dragonfly what was necessary for her to earn entry.  Dragonfly replied, “You must be willing to accept whatever the future holds as it is presented, without trying to change the Great Spirit’s plan.”  Swan looked at her ugly little duckling body and then answered,  “I will be happy to abide by Great Spirit’s plan.  I won’t fight the currents of the black hole.  I will surrender to the flow of the spiral and trust what I am shown.”  Dragonfly was very happy with Swan’s answer and began to spin the magic to break the pond’s illusion.  Suddenly, Swan was engulfed by a whirlpool in the center of the pond.

Swan reappeared many days later, but now she was graceful and white and long-necked.  Dragonfly was stunned!  “Swan what happened to you!” he exclaimed.  Swan smiled and said, “Dragonfly, I learned to surrender my body to the power of Great Spirit and was taken to where the future lives.  I saw many wonders high on Sacred Mountain and because of my faith and my acceptance I have been changed.  I have learned to accept a state of Grace.”

A “state of Grace” is the condition of being Loved unconditionally by our Creator without having to earn that Love.  We are Loved unconditionally by the Great Spirit.  What we need to do is to learn to accept that state of Grace.

The way we do that is to change the attitudes and beliefs within us that tell us that we are not Lovable.  And we cannot do that without going through the black hole.  The black hole that we need to surrender to traveling through is the black hole of our grief.  The journey within – through our feelings – is the journey to knowing that we are Loved, that we are Lovable.

It is through willingness and acceptance, through surrender, trust, and faith, that we can begin to own the state of Grace which is our True condition.

We are all beautiful swans who exist in a state of Grace, in a condition of being unconditionally Loved.  The dance of Recovery is a process of learning to accept and integrate the Truth of Grace into our lives.

Here is the Flying creature story from my book that I promised earlier.

The Dance

The prologue to Richard Bach’s Illusions contains a story about a colony of creatures clinging to the bottom of a stream.  Here is a paraphrasing of that story.

One day one of those creatures became bored with the life of clinging and decided to see what would happen if he let go and got swept up into the stream.  He wanted to see where the stream would carry him.”

All of the other creatures laughed at him and made fun of him. “You can’t let go of the rocks, you’ll just get battered and bruised!”   “It’s insane to let go of the rocks!”

This creature, though, wanted more out of life than just clinging to the rocks. He wanted to find out where the stream went.  So he let go of the rocks – and sure enough he got battered and bruised and had to grab ahold again.

All of the other creatures ridiculed and laughed at him.

But he said, “I am going to try again. I believe that the stream knows where it is going.  I want to see where the stream will take me.”  So he let go again – and he got battered and bruised again.   And then he let go again, and again, and again.

Each time he got a little less battered and bruised.  Each time he got a little closer to being swept up in the stream.

Then finally one day he had let go enough times that he did get swept up into the stream.  He was caught in the flow of the stream and swept forward.

He was flying!

As he flew along with his heart full of Joy and excitement he passed over another colony of clinging creatures that was downstream.

They looked up at him and cried, “Behold!  There is a creature like us and he is flying!  It must be the Messiah!”

He looked back at them and shouted as he was heading down stream, “No!  You don’t understand. You can fly, too, all you have to do is let go.   You are as much messiahs as I am.”

That is what this is all about!  The second coming has begun!  Not of “The Messiah,’ but of a whole bunch of messiahs.  The messiah – the liberator – is within us!  A liberating, Healing Transformational Movement has begun.  “The Savior’ does not exist outside of us – “The Savior” exists within.

We are the sons and daughters of God.   We, the old souls, who are involved in this Healing Movement, are the second coming of the message of Love.

We have entered what certain Native American prophecies call the Dawning of the Fifth World of Peace.  Through focusing on our own healing the planet will be healed.

We all have available to us – within – a direct channel to the Highest Vibrational Frequency Range within The Illusion.  That highest range involves consciousness of the Glory of ONENESS.  It is called Cosmic Consciousness.  It is called Christ Consciousness.

This is the energy that Jesus was tuned into, and he stated very plainly, ‘These things that I do, you can do also.” – by atoning, by tuning in.

We have access to the Christ Energy within.  We have begun the Second Coming of the message of Love.

The dawning of the Age of Healing and Joy is the dawning of the Fifth World of Peace when humans will learn to walk in balance and harmony.

Now that is some pretty wonderful news, wouldn’t you say?

Sacred Spiral

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There are probably at least 5 or 6 million words in the two subscription areas of my site that I quote from in this entry.  I just posted a page last week with special offers on lifetimes subscriptions to those password protected areas: Dancing in Light and the Joy2MeU Journal are for sale for $9.95 each or both for $17.95  Millions of words of content not available on Joy2MeU.

 

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My Update Newsletters are listed on my siteindex page.

The Medicine Cards (This link will take you to the page it is offered on Amazon.com) have been a very valuable tool in my recovery process.  Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls from: Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, copyright 1988, Bear & Co.  Reprinted by permission Bear & Co., P.O. Box 2860, Santa Fe, NM 87504. (Since the book was published they have moved to P.O. Box 3876, Gettysburg, PA 17325)

Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions  “The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc.   Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.

Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2

Honesty like any other arena in recovery is not a black and white issue.  There are a multitude of levels to honesty, of perspectives in which to view the concept of honesty.  Emotional honesty is the one we are focusing on in this article, but intellectual honesty with ourselves is necessary in order to start becoming emotionally honest.

It is necessary to start seeing ourselves with more clarity in order to recognize the attitudes, beliefs, and definitions that are dictating our emotional reactions.  Once we start achieving more honesty in our perspectives of ourselves, then we can get more clarity in our emotional process.

For instance, until I started to recognize how I had been programmed to have a dysfunctional relationship with my own emotions because I am male, I could not start giving myself permission to get in touch with feelings which I had been programmed to believe were unacceptable for a man in this society.

There are numerous levels, relationships, that I had to start seeing with more clarity – getting more intellectually honest with myself about – before I could start changing my relationship in those arenas.

“Attitudes, definitions, and beliefs determine perspective and expectation – which in turn dictates our relationships.  Our relationships to our self, to life, to other people, to The God-Force / Goddess Energy / Great Spirit.  Our relationships to our own emotions, bodies, gender, etc., are dictated by the attitudes, definitions, and beliefs that we are holding mentally / intellectually.  And we acquired those mental constructs / ideas / concepts in early childhood from the emotional experiences, intellectual teachings, and role modeling of the beings around us.” – The True Nature of Love-part 4, Energetic Clarity 

The key in this regard for me, was expectations.  I had to start realizing how my expectations were dictating my emotional reactions in order to start changing my relationships with my own emotions.

“By having expectations I was giving power away. In order to become empowered I had to own that I had choices about how I viewed life, about my expectations. I realized that no one can make me feel hurt or angry – that it is my expectations that cause me to generate feelings of hurt or anger. In other words, the reason I feel hurt or anger is because other people, life, or God are not doing what I want them, expect them, to do.

I had to learn to be honest with myself about my expectations – so I could let go of the ones that were insane (like, everyone is going to drive the way I want them to), and own my choices – so I could take responsibility for how I was setting myself up to be a victim in order to change my patterns.” – Serenity and Expectations

The process of recovery is a journey of continual growth to larger perspectives, higher contexts in which to view everything.  Consciousness raising / enLightenment is a process of peeling away layers of denial to get to a Higher Consciousness / expanded perspective / deeper level of honesty.  The focus of this article is discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and I just realized that I need to say a few words about why it is so important – about why emotions are important.

Emotions = energy in motion

Feelings, emotions, are energy.

The Dance

“Emotions are energy:  E-motion = energy in motion.  It is supposed to be in motion, it was meant to flow.

Emotions have a purpose, a very good reason to be – even those emotions that feel uncomfortable.  Fear is a warning, anger is for protection, tears are for cleansing and releasing.  These are not negative emotional responses!  We were taught to react negatively to them.  It is our reaction that is dysfunctional and negative, not the emotion.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Emotions have two vitally important purposes for human beings.  Emotions are a form of communication.  Our feelings are one of the means by which we define ourselves.  The interaction of our intellect and our emotions determines how we relate to ourselves.

Our emotional energy is also the fuel that propels us down the pathways of our life journey.  E-motions are the orchestra that provide the music for our individual dances – that dictate the rhythmic flow and movement of our human dance.  Our feelings help us to define ourselves and then provide the combustible fuel that dictates the speed and direction of our motion – rather we are flowing with it or damming it up within ourselves.

“Emotional energy is not only supposed to be in motion, to flow, it is also the energy that gets us in motion.  It is what drives us, what propels us forward through life.  When emotional flow is blocked and suppressed it does not go away.  Energy cannot simply disappear.  It can transform but it cannot disappear.  That is a law of physics.

Emotional energy that is suppressed still drives us.  It is what causes obsessive-compulsive behavior, it is what drives addictions.  Repressed emotional energy builds up pressure that has to be released. . . . . .

Human beings are not damned with an n.  We are emotionally dammed.  Dammed up, blocked up – which is what causes us to feel damned with an n.”

“The emotional energy generated by the circumstances of our childhood and early life does not go away just because we were forced to deny it.  It is still trapped in our body – in a pressurized, explosive state, as a result of being suppressed. . . . . As long as we have pockets of pressurized emotional energy that we have to avoid dealing with – those emotional wounds will run our lives.” – Feeling the Feelings

The reason that it is so important to clear up our relationship with our own emotions, to learn to be emotionally honest with ourselves is because emotions are such a powerful part of our being, such a vital and controlling influence in how we live our lives.  The key to learning how to clear up that relationship and start to get some emotional clarity is learning how to have internal boundaries.

“Then we can start setting internal boundaries within the mental, between the mental and emotional, and within the emotional levels of our being. . . . . . .Within the mental we can start discerning and separating the shaming messages that are coming from the disease / critical parent voice from our own wisdom, knowledge and intelligence. . . . . .By learning to set a boundary between emotional and mental, we can stop reacting to life based on the false belief that what we feel is who we are – that what we feel defines our reality. . . . . . Once we start having boundaries within the mental, and between the mental and emotional, then we can also start having boundaries within the emotional level of our being. . . . . . .start discerning between the emotional truth that is coming from our old wounds and the emotional energy that is Truth.” – Inner child healing – the process of processing

It is necessary to learn to have a boundary within the emotional component of our being because there are two primary transformers from which emotional energy is generated.  Our ego self and our Spiritual Self.  Our ego was traumatized in childhood and programmed very dysfunctionally. The ego is the seat of the disease of codependence.

“The key to healing our wounded souls is to get clear and honest in our emotional process.  Until we can get clear and honest with our human emotional responses – until we change the twisted, distorted, negative perspectives and reactions to our human emotions that are a result of having been born into, and grown up in, a dysfunctional, emotionally repressive, Spiritually hostile environment – we cannot get clearly in touch with the level of emotional energy that is Truth.  We cannot get clearly in touch with and reconnected to our Spiritual Self.”

Our Spiritual Self is the True Self, the Higher Self that is an extension downward vibrationally from the ONENESS of the Source Energy.  Recovery is a process of reprogramming the ego defenses so that we can bring the ego self into alignment with Spiritual Self.  Spiritual Self is our guide through the Spiritual evolutionary process.  Our Spiritual Self communicates with us through our intuition.  Our intuition is emotional energy – an emotional energy communication from our Spirit.

“Truth, in my understanding, is not an intellectual concept.  I believe that Truth is an emotional-energy, vibrational communication to my consciousness, to my soul/spirit – my being, from my Soul.  Truth is an emotion, something that I feel within. . . . . It’s that gut feeling, the feeling in my heart.  It is the feeling of something resonating within me.”

It is very important to start developing internal boundaries so that we can start discerning between the emotional messages that are being generated by the disease, by our wounded self, and the messages that are coming from our Higher Self.

“What we feel is our “emotional truth” and it does not necessarily have anything to do with either facts or the emotional energy that is Truth with a capital “T” – especially when we are reacting out of an age of our inner child.”

Healthy Guilt and Unhealthy Guilt

A good example of this discernment process is guilt.  Guilt is a feeling – an emotional energy whose purpose is to communicate with our consciousness about our behavior.  It is important to make a distinction between healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt in relationship to discernment and emotional honesty.

In my definition shame is a term that relates to being (feeling that something is wrong with who we are, that our being is defective) – while guilt refers to behavior.

“We do not need fixing.  We are not broken.  Our sense of self, our self perception, was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces, not our True Self. . . .

We are not broken.  That is what toxic shame is – thinking that we are broken, believing that we are somehow inherently defective.

Guilt is “I made a mistake, I did something wrong.”

Shame is “I’m a mistake, something is wrong with me.””

Guilt is something we feel to help us be aware of our behavior.

Healthy guilt is what we feel when we violate our own value system.  It is an important intuitive component in maintaining a healthy, honest relationship with ourselves.  Guilt helps us to be aware of areas that needs some more healing – behavior that is a reaction to old wounds and old tapes.  It is generated by our Spirit when we have acted in ways which we need to make amends for, when our humanness has caused us to act in a way that does not respect and honor that we are ONE with everyone and everything.

Unhealthy guilt is when we feel guilty for violating someone else’s value system.  We were programmed to react to life based on value systems that were dysfunctional, codependent, and unhealthy.  We had imposed upon us, and programmed into our intellectual perspective and emotional reactions, value systems we learned from the emotional experiences, intellectual teachings, and role modeling of the beings around us in childhood.  In order to survive, we adapted the value systems imposed upon us – even though they often did not make sense to us even then.

The critical parent voice developed in order to try to control our behavior and feelings using the same tools that were used on us – guilt, shame, and fear.  As a result of that programming, it is normal for us to feel guilty about violating those value system.  Thus in recovery when we start setting boundaries, saying no, speaking our truth, being emotionally honest, etc., feelings of guilt and shame are generated.

In recovery as we awaken to our power to make choices about our beliefs, we can start sorting out which values that we are holding resonate with Truth as we feel it intuitively – and which ones are a result of the old programming.  We can start practicing discernment in picking out the nuggets of Truth in the values we learned in childhood, from the twisted, dysfunctional, shame based beliefs.  Some of the values our parents held will also be our intuitive values.  Many will not because they were programmed in their childhoods.  Often we were taught values in theory that are Truth – but which in practice were not followed.  This was part of the crazy making inconsistency that caused us to think something was wrong with us.

“The teachings of all the Master Teachers, of all the world’s religions, contain some Truth along with a lot of distortions and lies.  Discerning Truth is often like recovering treasure from shipwrecks that have been sitting on the ocean floor for hundreds of years – the grains of Truth, the nuggets of gold, have become encrusted with garbage over the years.”

As we heal and awaken we get clearer on what our True values, the intuitive messages from our Spiritual Self, are – and can discern more often when we are experiencing unhealthy guilt so that we do not give it power.  As with any part of the process, our intuition is our guide.  Our minds have a great tendency to slip back into the polarized ruts of trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong – whereas our gut feelings will most often be coming from our intuition.

The more we are able to develop our observer self, the witness who is viewing our life and internal process from a recovery perspective, the easier it becomes for us to discern between guilt feelings that are healthy – and an important tool in helping us maintain some emotional balance and responsibility – and the unhealthy guilt of our old programming that we can let go of.

In her wonderful daily meditation book, Melody Beattie calls the unhealthy guilt and shame generated when we start to change to new healthier behavior “afterburn,” and talks about just letting it burn off without giving it power.  This is what I refer to as having a boundary between emotional and mental.  We can feel the guilt and recognize it as unhealthy so that we do not give the critical parent voice the power to get us into a frenzy of mental activity worrying if we have done something “wrong.”  We can talk to the child within us that is feeling guilty for setting a boundary and tell that child that it is good to set boundaries – that it is the Loving thing to do for ourselves.  (Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go is an absolutely phenomenal book that I think everyone in recovery should have.  The Loving Spiritual belief system that is the foundation for her practical recovery advice is one that aligns with what I believe better than anything else I have ever read.)

Worry is negative fantasy

When I catch myself worrying about right and wrong, it is a sure sign that my disease is up and running – that I have slipped back into that rut.  When I become aware that my mind has gone into a right and wrong type feeding frenzy, it is usually because I have some feelings going on that are making me uncomfortable.  Very often, I am afraid of what the consequences of my choice will be – the outcome of the actions I have set in motion.  Sometimes, I am sad that I had to set a boundary.  Whatever I am feeling, it is better for me to get in touch with the feeling than to be in my head in a frenzy of worry.

Worry is negative fantasizing.  It is a fantasy that is being created in reaction to feeling fear.  It is not real – it is something that is being created because my mind has slipped into the old familiar rut of right and wrong thinking.  Worry is not a feeling – it is a reaction, an negative emotional state, that is created by the perspectives of a belief system that empowers illusions like failure.  The sooner that we can pull ourselves out of that rut and start seeing the situation as part of a learning process – shift back into a recovery perspective – the less negative emotional response we will generate in relationship to the situation.

Emotions do not have value in and of themselves – they just are.  What gives emotions value is how we react to them.  We were programmed to react negatively to emotions and adapted defenses to try to keep from feeling emotional energy.  Being in our head worrying about the past or the future, is a defense against being in our own skin and feeling our feelings.  But it is dysfunctional – it does not work.  Reacting negatively to our feelings generates more feelings.   The more we worry, the more fear we generate.  We create negative feeling emotional states because we are empowering negative perspectives of life.

“We are talking about balance between the emotional and mental here again.  Blame has to do with attitudes, with buying into the false beliefs – it does not really have anything to do with the process of releasing the emotional energy.”

Worry, like blame (and such things as resentment, despair, and self pity), is a negative emotional state that is created by the intellectual paradigm that we are filtering our life experience through, that we are allowing to interpret and translate life for us.  The more we try to avoid the discomfort of feeling fear or sadness or anger, the more emotional energy we generate in relationship to whatever situation we are reacting to.  It is a really dysfunctional, viscous cycle if our goal is to be happy and at peace.  For the disease it is a functional cycle because it creates justification for rescuing ourselves by going unconscious using some self abusive behavior – which then creates more shame, which creates more judgment, which creates more fear, which creates more worry, etc., etc.

“As long as we are judging and shaming ourselves we are giving power to the disease.  We are feeding the monster that is devouring us.”

When I catch myself worrying then I know that I am not being emotionally honest with myself.  Worry is a symptom that tells me I am avoiding some feelings.

The key is to be aware of when we slip back into those ruts of right and wrong thinking so that we can use our recovery tools to pull us out of the rut and get back into balance.  We need to let go of the perspectives or expectation that are causing us more fear.  We need to own the feelings instead of trying to avoid them – because trying to avoid them just generates more of them.

When I catch myself worrying it is very important not to judge myself for it.  What I need to do is be patient and kind and compassionate towards myself.  I can catch myself, take a couple of deep breaths and say something to myself like:

Oh here I am worrying.  I must be afraid.  I am feeling fear about of the outcome of this situation.  I have bought into the belief that if this does not come out the way I want it to, I am not going to be OK.   It is time to stop and remember that I have a Loving Higher Power who is in charge of outcomes.  That everything will work out in the way which is best for my growth process.  I need to remember to be willing to surrender to the Divine Plan of my Loving Higher Power.  I need to let go of those old beliefs in lack and scarcity.  I need to remind myself that I don’t have the power to screw up the Goddess’s plan.  That whatever happens will be an opportunity for growth – not a mistake.

Then I may need to specifically deal with some inner child wounds – “How old am I feeling right now.” – letting the detective / observer part of me track down why this situation in particular is carrying a lot of charge for me.  There may be some grief work to do.  I may also need to own that I am angry at my Higher Power because I am in a situation again that causes fear – or sadness, or hurt.  A situation that resonates with the energy of one of my core issues – abandonment, betrayal, deprivation, abuse, isolation, etc.

Any time I am worrying, I am back into right and wrong thinking.  That tells me that I am not being emotionally honest with myself and that I have gotten out of balance, that my vision is being clouded by reactions from the past.  Balance is the key.  We are striving for a balance between mental and emotional, between intuitive and rational.  It is feeling clear that will show us our path, not deciding what is right or wrong.

“And once again here, I want to make the point that clarity with our self is not an absolute destination.  This healing is a gradual process of finding a sense of balance – a sense of what clarity feels like, so that we can look for and recognize when we have it and when we do not.   In order to do that it is vital to learn how to be emotionally honest with ourselves so that we can be discerning in our relationship with our own mental and emotional process. Through that honesty we will achieve some energetic clarity as well.

Through that energetic clarity we will be able to access Love from the Source – and we will learn to Love and trust our Self to guide our self through this boarding school that is life as a human.” – The True Nature of Love-part 4, Energetic Clarity  

Honesty with others

We need to strive for emotional honesty with our self and for our self – because being honest with ourselves is what works best to help us see our self and life most clearly.  It is the most Loving thing to do for ourselves.

It is also important for us to learn to practice discernment in relationship to how honest we are with other people.  It is almost always the best policy, the strategy that works best in the long run, to be direct and honest with others.  That does not necessarily mean emotionally honest.  And it does not necessarily mean we need to tell them the whole truth, be honest on all levels.

While I was writing this article I took a break to go for a walk by the ocean.  On that walk, my Higher Power presented me with a perfect example of the point I am making here.

I ran into someone I know from AA and had not seen for a couple of months.  This is a person that I like and I am happy to see when I run into her.  She has around thirty years of sobriety.  But she is not involved in the emotional healing, in codependence recovery.  She knows I have a book out, and asks me about it when we see each other – but I would never expect her to read it.

The AA community in the small town that I live in has a very high percentage of people with long term sobriety.   Many of them are people who retired here from Los Angeles or Fresno and other places.  They are old time AA people who are so black and white in their thinking that they get upset if someone mentions drugs in an Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  Needless to say, they do not think that codependence has any place in their lives or their meetings.  I can share in these meetings using AA language and people will tell me how much they get from my sharing – but if I use the C word (codependence) I can almost hear the snap of the minds closing around the room.

As a result I do not go to a lot of AA meetings here.  Inevitably, I walk away from a meeting here feeling sad about the level of emotional dishonesty I observe – or sometimes angry about rigid, judgmental statements or behavior.  My main meeting here in town – besides a CoDA meeting that I started and am secretary for – is a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in which it is OK to talk about anything and the people laugh a lot.

So, I ran into this woman from AA on my walk, and she said to me, “I haven’t seen you around for awhile.”  This is AA language for “Why haven’t I seen you at any meetings?”  And coming from many people in Alcoholics Anonymous carries more than a hint of accusation in it.

I told her that I was doing a lot of phone counseling and the appointments were often in the evenings.  I mentioned that the NA meeting was the one I made it to most often.  I said that I had been meaning to make it to the Friday night meeting – and I have, and will, one of these days.

I answered her honestly without telling the whole truth or being emotionally honest.  There was no reason to share my feelings about the meetings that she attends – because she had not asked for my opinion.  People in AA have the same uncanny ability that my family members and many other people out there in the world have – they have a way of avoiding asking direct questions whose answers might make them uncomfortable.   I have learned that part of having good boundaries for me includes not offering opinions to, or being emotionally honest with, people who do not want to hear it.

That AA person falls into the category of what I call a “friendly acquaintance.”  Someone who I am glad to see, feel some affection for, feel a bond to as a fellow recovering alcoholic – but someone who will probably never be a real friend.  If she were ever to come to me and ask for my advice or opinion – I would happily share with her.  The chances are that will never happen.

I have found it important to have boundaries in terms of how I view other people.  If I have one or two people in my life that I feel that I can truly communicate with and be emotionally honest with on all levels, that is an incredible abundance.  For much of my recovery I have not had anyone who fell into that category.  That is sad, but it is a reality that I have needed to accept.  As I have said elsewhere, an important part of empowerment is seeing reality as it is and making the best of it – rather than putting energy into wishing it was different.  If I get caught up in wishing it were different, in the “what if”s and “if only”s, then I am empowering a victim perspective which can lead to self pity.  (Grieving, owning the sadness, is very different from self pity which – as I mention above -is an emotional state based upon limiting victim beliefs.)

It has been very helpful to me, to accept that people are where they are at – and that it is OK.  I have learned to let go of my old pattern of sacrificing myself in the now for the potential of the future.  Often I can see who a person really is, and understand their potential – which on my deepest level of honesty usually means their potential to be an asset in my life – but need to accept that they are perfectly where they are supposed to be in their process.  I need to accept that, in order not to buy into the illusion that they are doing something to me – that I am the victim of the pace of their process, of their inability to be who I want them to be now.

This was especially important in terms of letting go of expecting my family of origin to change.  They are not who I want them to be, they don’t understand me and can’t see me.  It isn’t personal – they are just dancing with their wounds and following their path.  It is not for me to judge someone else’s path.  Letting go – especially in terms of doing the inner child grieving about letting go of the myth of family – and accepting, was a necessary component in being able to have a friendly, superficial relationship with my family today.  Superficial is what they are capable of – I needed to accept that and make the best of the situation.

In terms of friends, there are going to be people in my life, who I can share certain things with – but not other things.  Some people that I can relate to on certain levels, or about certain issues.  To expect that I can be emotionally honest with everyone in my life in a way that works (is safe, is heard, is understood) is an insane expectation in such a dysfunctional society with relatively so few people actually doing the healing work.

(I want to make a point here also, that when I say “safe” in terms of being emotionally honest, I am talking about what will work best.  In earlier recovery, when I was still giving a lot of power to the old wounds and old tapes, it could feel devastating to me to have someone judge and shame me.  Then safe referred to danger, to people who would judge and shame me.  It also meant people who would try to fix me.  Trying to fix someone else is not support, it is codependence.  When someone starts trying to rescue me it imparts a judgment on where I am at – it means they are not comfortable so they are going to try to change me to make themselves comfortable.  This is tied into the what I was speaking of above about offering advice or opinions to someone who hasn’t asked.  It can be a form of abuse.

As I have gotten healthier in recovery, with more capacity to be balanced and see life with some clarity – other people and life events have less power to effect me.  The more I am grounded in the Spiritual belief system I have integrated into my internal process, and have done my inner child healing – the less power any of my old buttons hold. The better I have become at letting go, the shorter the periods of time have become that I am giving others the power to rock my emotional boat.  The term safe for me transformed into meaning something more like: safe from wasting time and energy trying to communicate with someone who can not hear.  To get into an argument, a power struggle over right and wrong, with someone who doesn’t speak my language is dysfunctional – is actually, pretty silly.

Pay Attention

The primary purpose and most important reason for me to share my feelings with anyone is because I need to do it for me – to take care of me.  In order to be emotionally healthy I need to express and release my feelings – but that does not mean that I have to necessarily express those feelings to the person involved.  The farther along I get in recovery, the more I have the tools and resources I need to do my healing internally where it really matters, the less need I have to share my feelings with people who can’t hear me.

The secondary purpose of being emotionally honest with another person is to develop emotional intimacy with that person.  If the other person is not capable of emotional honesty, then I am setting myself up – empowering expectations that are not realistic.

Of course, when we first meet someone we do not have any data to base a discerning decision upon.  We gather data by paying attention.  The more we heal, the more ability we have to be in the moment and pay attention.  People give us signs and signals about themselves right from our first contact with them.  The most Loving thing we can do for ourselves, the most functional behavior, is to be present and pay attention.

So, we observe.  We pay attention not just to what they are saying, but also to their body language, their eye contact, the feelings we get in our gut while interacting with them.

As I state in the quote above, we are never going to meet someone who doesn’t have some red flags.  Everyone we meet is going to be someone who is a teacher of some kind.  By paying attention, it is possible to choose rather we want to explore our connection to them further or rather this is a opportunity to set a boundary with ourselves about where to expend our time and energy.

If we discern that we do not feel comfortable with seeing this person again, we can be direct and honest with them – without necessarily being emotionally honest.

We do not have to say, for example:  You scare me because it appears that you are not really hearing what I am saying to you, that you are unable to be conscious and present.  (This would almost certainly engender a defensive reaction from the other person and lead to more time and energy expended)

We do not have to lie to them either:  I am so busy this week.  Maybe later in the month. (This sets us up to keep putting them off.)

We can say something like:  Sorry, but I am very busy these days and just do not have time to hang out.

So, we tell a little fib by saying we are sorry when we probably aren’t – and we do not tell the whole truth which is:  I choose not to hang out with someone unless I see the possibility of a healthy relationship with them, or sense a strong connection that I feel a need to explore.

And then we do not have to explain.  We do not have to explain ourselves to anyone unless we choose to.  We have a right to make choices without having to justify them or defend ourselves.

This is, of course, one of those places where it is important to be able to recognize that any guilt feelings that might arise, and cause us to feel we have to explain, are most likely unhealthy guilt – codependent reactions to being programmed to feel responsible for other people’s feelings.

There are many people out there whose codependent defense system falls into what I describe in my book as bulldozers.  The will push and push and push.  They will demand explanations.

You do not owe them an explanation.  With bulldozers it is often necessary to get down right rude with them before they will hear us.  Anyone who pushes against a boundary we set is obviously someone that we may want to choose not to be around.  If someone gets pushy, then we can say something like: “I don’t want to see you again because you don’t respect the boundary that I just set.”

Confrontations

Many of us, of course, have a real terror of conflict – either because we have inner children who are terrified of someone else’s anger, and/or because we are programmed to feel responsible for other people’s feelings and have great fear of hurting others.

What is important is to start being honest with ourselves.  To say you didn’t want to tell the other person the truth because it would hurt their feelings is codependent.  The truth is we didn’t want to tell them because we wanted to protect ourselves from feeling codependently responsible for hurting their feelings.  It is not about them – it is about us.

To avoid setting boundaries because we are afraid of the other persons anger, is a set up to be a doormat and a victim.  It is deadly to our own self respect.  It usually means we are reacting out of an inner child wound.  As children we had to learn to not have boundaries in order to survive.  As adults, it is our responsibility to our self and to our inner children to start setting boundaries in order to become empowered in our life.

As I stated in my article on setting personal boundaries, we not only need to set them, we need to be willing to defend them.  Defending our right to set boundaries means knowing we do not have to justify or explain.  The chances are the other person will react defensively, take our boundary personally, and push for an explanation.  We do not owe them an explanation.  One of the reasons we learned to fear confrontations, was because of how unpleasant power struggles over who is right and who is wrong can be.  Defending our right to set boundaries, means learning (a gradual, stumbling process) to stand up for ourselves and say: “No!  I do not have to explain myself to you.” (This of course, also applies to our feelings.  We do not have to justify how we feel to anyone.)

People come into our lives to help us learn about ourselves.  The people who will feel hurt when we say no to them, are people who are helping us get in touch with dysfunctional beliefs about being responsible for other people’s feelings.  They are helping us get in touch with some inner child wounds, and practice letting go of unhealthy guilt.

People who are bulldozers, whose anger we are afraid of, are teachers that force us to learn to stand up for ourselves.  Without them we would never have to learn how to set and defend boundaries.

These types of confrontations are opportunities for growth.  The more we grow the more we have a choice to avoid these confrontations by being honest with ourselves so that we can employ the strategy that works best.  What works best – to help us keep from expending our time and energy on people that we choose not to invest our self in – is to set a boundary and be direct up front.

It takes a great deal of courage in recovery to start standing up for ourselves.  To start saying no straight out instead of making excuses and vague promises that we do not intend to keep.  Learning to be more honest in our interactions is a process that we evolve through – not something to judge ourselves about.

Sometimes we go through stages where we need to come from a pretty black and white extreme.  As I said, we go through stages in the growth process.

I had very powerful patterns of avoiding conflict.  Those arose out of the traumatic effect my fathers raging had on me, and the emotional incest from my mother that caused me to feel responsible for the feelings of others.

I had a great ability to intellectually rationalize away the need to stand up for myself.  There were always multiple reasons I could come up with to rationalize why the other person was acting that way – or why it wouldn’t do any good to stand up for myself.  The first instance was masked as unhealthy codependent “compassion” – which wasn’t really about them at all, but was about protecting me.  And the second was about manipulation – about what strategy would best protect me, get me what I wanted.

There was a stage in my process where I had to let go of trying to figure it out intellectually, let go of strategy, let go of trying to be discerning – and just make the first priority stopping the emotional and verbal abuse.  I needed to make protecting myself the first priority.  That meant that I shared my feelings anytime someone said something to me that felt abusive.  That meant that I reacted out of unresolved grief and anger from the past in my reactions to people.  That often meant I had to go back and make amends later.

It was an important phase in my process.  I went from having no honest boundaries – to throwing up boundaries and spewing my feelings everywhere with everyone – and then was able to move through that stage to a point where I had more choices.

It may be dysfunctional to share your feelings with your boss or a parent – but it might be a necessary part of owning yourself to do just that.  The more we heal the more discernment we can practice in where, when, and to whom we are emotionally honest.

As I have stated elsewhere, we need to own our feelings and set boundaries as a way of Loving ourselves, being a friend to our self – not to obtain a certain outcome.  When we set boundaries, we let go of the outcome.

Which doesn’t mean that we do not want the outcome – it means that we choose to take care of ourselves and take a risk that the outcome will not be what we want.  It is very important to take risks in recovery.  The purpose of getting emotionally honest with ourselves and owning our responsibilities is so that we can make better choices about the risks we choose to take.

Discerning strategy and letting go

As I said in part 1 of this discussion, we are learning how to live in balance, in the gray area of life.  We are learning that there are numbers 2 through 9 instead of just 1 and 10.

We need to learn to be emotionally honest with ourselves – and direct and honest with others – in a way that works for us.  Having a healthy relationship with our self involves living according to value system that we resonate with – living with integrity.

We want to own our feelings and release them in a healthy way that works to help us have some balance in our life.  We are learning how to stop giving power to the old wounds so that we do not behave in a manner which is harmful to us – the “I’ll show you, I’ll get me!” patterns of codependence.

That involves seeing ourselves and our lives as clearly and honestly as possible – and responding to other people and life events by making the best choices possible.

To be angry at your boss and be emotionally honest about that anger – could be dysfunctional to your well being.  Could get you fired.

It is important to own that anger and release it in a healthy way – through talking a friend or in a twelve step meeting, through doing anger release work, etc.  We also need to look at how we are setting ourselves up to generate that anger – take responsibility for our part in the situation.   We do that by getting in touch with any victim perspective we are empowering (the “I have to go to work” victimization we are taught in our society – Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice) and observing any childhood wounds that are involved so that we can focus on the real cause instead of just the presenting symptom.

We also want to own all of our choices, rather than just the 1 or 10 of being the poor self righteous victim or exploding in profanity and quitting.  We can look at our choices 2 through 9, and decide upon the strategy that will work best for us.  If we decide that we need to quit the job, we can choose to have another one lined up when we quit – choose the time that works best for self instead of reacting in a way that hurts our self.

We can learn to respond to situations with discernment that allows us to make choices about what is in our best interests.  We can choose a strategy that is most likely to have an outcome that will work for us.

We need to let go of thinking we can control the outcome.  We need to not allow our fear of the outcome to cause us to be emotionally dishonest with ourselves.  But letting go of the outcome does not mean abrogating our responsibility as co-creators of our life.  We have responsibility for the actions we choose to put in motion – and we want to be discerning and choose the best strategy possible to get us what we want – but ultimately we need to have faith that taking care of ourselves will lead us to someplace better.  We need to surrender to whatever outcome the Universal Plan has next for us in our lesson plan of Spiritual growth and emotional healing.

Recovery keeps getting different

While we are in the process of learning how to be emotionally honest and emotionally responsible we will go through different stages of growth.  And we will be in process for the rest of our lives – on progressively more advanced and usually subtler levels.  This process is why we are here, it is not something we do and then get on with our lives.  Growing, learning, healing, awakening to our True Spiritual nature so that we can integrate that Truth into our relationship with our selves and life – is what this adventure in body is all about.

When I first got into recovery I was told that “it keeps getting better.”  That has not been my emotional experience of recovery.  As I talk about in my article about Loving and Nurturing self,  the process of life involves falling apart, losing it, etc. – as we reach new levels of growth and have to surrender some of our old ego definitions.  So, from a higher perspective, a Spiritual growth perspective – yes, it does keep progressing and getting better once we start making the shift of seeing life as a growth process.  It sure doesn’t feel that way however.

A couple of other things that I was told in early recovery have more closely matched my experience of the process.  “More Will Be Revealed” and “it will keep getting different” are two expressions that have always been true for me.  Every time a new layer of the onion gets peeled, a new octave gets reached – more is revealed on a deeper emotional level with a higher degree of honesty.  That higher level changes my perspective of my self, of life, of the past, of other people -which changes my relationship to my issues. Surrendering my old ideas and old tapes does not just mean letting go of the programming from childhood – sometimes it means letting go of what I thought was truth 2 weeks ago.

We are a work in progress.  There is no destination.  We have different chapters to our story, different stages of our journey – but our relationships with everything keep evolving and changing.

That includes our relationship to our own emotions.  In early recovery, when I was trying to get in touch with and own my feelings, I would often say “That makes me angry,” or “That hurts,” – not because I was actually feeling the feelings, but rather because I knew that it was appropriate to feel a feeling in that situation.

Later, as I got in touch with the emotional energy that was in my body, it would often explode out of me.  So that I would say, “I feel angry” when I was really feeling, and expressing, rage.

It was progress for me to express that I was angry and actually feel the anger at the same time.  Because of that, I often expressed that anger in ways that were out of balance and inappropriate.  That was a stage of my growth process.

Getting in touch with the feelings eventually caused me to get in touch with my grief and rage.  It was impossible for me to start owning my feelings without eventually owning the repressed feelings from my past.  So there were times when my expression of feelings would be very out of proportion to the stimulus that was triggering those emotional releases.  That is an inevitable part of the path.

One of my ways of trying to control the feelings was to be in my head trying to figure out what was happening and how to express it in a healthy way.  In the process of pushing myself beyond the mental defenses of rationalizing, intellectualizing, analyzing, etc., it was impossible to be in balance and healthy in all of my expressions of emotion.

The more I did my grief and rage work, and changed the dysfunctional perspectives that were setting me up for emotional responses, the more emotionally balanced and responsible I could become.   But it is a process that evolves over time.

It was progress in early recovery for me to start vocalizing feelings even though I wasn’t actually feeling them.  To say, “I am angry,” to own my right to be angry – was a breakthrough.

It was progress to vocalize the feelings at the same time I was owning and feeling them – even though that caused me to overreact and explode at times.  To say, “I am angry” while sounding angry and really feeling angry was a breakthrough.

It was progress to take responsibility for my feelings so that I could use the tools I had learned to feel and release the feelings in my own way, at my own time – so that at times, I wouldn’t have to actually be angry when I was expressing those feelings to someone else.  To say, “That caused me to feel angry” without actually being angry while I said it – was a breakthrough.

See how things spiral around?  Vocalizing a feeling without feeling it – was in early recovery a symptom of my level of emotional dishonesty.  While as my recovery advanced, vocalizing a feeling without feeling it at that moment – could be a symptom of emotional balance.

The energy of those two examples, was however, very different.  Prior to having owned my rage, saying I was angry without feeling it did not carry much power.  After having done grief and rage work, and having owned the power that comes from owning my feelings, when I told someone that some behavior of theirs had made me angry, they heard me much more clearly.  By owning my feelings, I was owning and respecting myself.  The more I own and respect myself, the more clearly I can communicate.  Now when I set a boundary, I can usually do it firmly from a place of power and strength that lets the other person know that I will defend that boundary.  I can communicate strength without ever sounding angry.

Once we start to become grounded in the powerful energy of our True Self, once we start respecting ourselves and Knowing that we have rights, then we start to be capable of communicating from a place of power that does not require raising our voice to be heard.  The more we are centered and balanced in Truth, the more we are able to perceive the gray area where we can own our side of the street and hold other people responsible for theirs, the more we can communicate in a manner which maximizes the possibility of being seen and heard.  (Of course, we are powerless over others and need to be willing to let go of the outcome, so there is no guarantee about how the other will react/respond. Accept the things we cannot change – change the things we can, take responsibility for ourselves and our side of the street.)

Progress not Perfection

It is important to look at our process from the perspective of the progress we have made rather than trying to do it perfectly.  In making progress we have to breakthrough to new ways of doing things.  We need to explore new territory and give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves in whatever way is necessary.  That sometimes involves swinging to the other extreme so that we end up having to make amends for how we expressed ourselves.  It is important to celebrate our progress and not shame and judge ourselves for any mess that the way we breakthrough may entail.

An example of the point I am trying to make here, is the story of a client I worked with some years ago.  This person was a social worker who was very good at doing her job.  In the role she was playing at work she could be fierce and have strong boundaries.  In her personal life however, she had no permission to have any boundaries at all because of her childhood wounds.  My homework assignment for her was to tell someone to F___ off.  I chose something so harsh because it was so out of character for her.  She was appalled and horrified at the thought of saying something like that to someone.  It was not even conceivable to her because it was so contrary to the self definition she had adapted in childhood.

One of the reasons that I give people assignments is to expand their consciousness, to give them permission to act in ways they would never consider.   It took her about 3 months before she completed the assignment – and when she did, she said it to the biggest cop in town at a professional gathering.  She was horrified that she had done it.  I was very excited for her and heaped congratulations on her.  The point was, she had stood up for herself spontaneously.  I told her that she could go back and make amends for how she expressed herself – but that it was a wonderful breakthrough that she had defended herself.

That particular expression may be one that she will never in her life use again – and it certainly is not an example of the way in which we are learning to communicate.  The breakthrough was that she had started to respect herself enough to be willing to go to any length to defend herself.  She spontaneously set a boundary and communicated that another persons behavior was not acceptable to her.

The more we heal our core relationship with ourselves, the more we start to respect and Love ourselves, the more we start automatically and spontaneously owning our right to speak up and set boundaries.  Often when we are breaking out of the old patterns, jumping out of the old ruts, we will swing to the other extreme.  That doesn’t mean we are going to stay there.  It means we are doing a paradigm shift in our relationship with self and others.  It means we have broken through to a different way of doing things.

In recovery, our experience of life keeps getting different.

“When I talk about ways that we use to go unconscious – like workaholism, or exercise, or food, or whatever – I am not saying that you should be ashamed if you are doing some of these things.

We cannot go from unconscious to conscious overnight!  This healing is a long gradual process.  We all still need to go unconscious sometimes.  Recovery is a dance that celebrates progress, not one that achieves perfection.

A significant breakthrough in my personal process came when I was able to recognize, and give myself credit for, the progress that I had made – when I realized that a pint of Haagen-daz was lasting me three days instead of being gone within twenty minutes of when I bought it.

That was a very big breakthrough for me, to be able to give myself credit for the progress instead of judging and shaming myself for not being perfect, for still feeling like I needed the nurturing of ice cream.

We had to learn to go unconscious in order to survive!  Thank God for alcohol or television or romance novels.  Thank God for ice cream!

We need to stop judging ourselves – that means allowing ourselves to do whatever it takes, whatever works.  There are times when we need to go unconscious.  There are times when we need to stuff our feelings in the moment.  There are times when it is not safe to be vulnerable and emotionally honest.

This Recovery process is a gradual transition from using our old tool box to using the new tools.  The old tools – the ways we used to go unconscious so we could survive – are not  “bad” or “wrong.”  They were life savers – without them we would be either dead or mass murderers, or dead mass murderers.

We adopted the old tools because they were the best choices that were available to us at the time.  We adopted them in response to intuitive impulses that were right on.   Those impulses were “protect myself, nurture myself.”  It is the nature of the defense system that is Codependence that the ways we learned to protect and nurture ourselves are self-abusive in the long run.

So we need to stop shaming ourselves for the behaviors that we adopted to protect and nurture ourselves, at the same time that we are transitioning to behaviors that are less self-abusive.

Notice that I say less self-abusive.  We are talking progress, not perfection here.

If you have an image of what completely healthy behavior is, and you will not allow yourself to accept and Love yourself until you get there, then you are setting conditions under which you decide when you will become Lovable.  You are still buying into a concept of conditional love and by extension, the concept of a Higher Power that is conditionally loving.  You are still trying to earn, and become worthy of not only self-Love, but also God’s Love.  That small child inside of you is still trying to earn your parents’ Love and validation.

That is a natural, normal thing for humans beings on this Codependent planet.  Try not to judge and beat yourself up for it.  Try to observe it and say, “Oh, isn’t it sad that I am still doing that?  I think I will try to learn some ways that I can change it.”” – Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 5 Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2

Sacred Spiral

This is the fifth in a series of articles on Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility that I wrote in 2001 – 15 years ago, Wow. The first was Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility  The next three I have already published on this Blog: Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 2 – Uncover, Discover, Recover by learning boundaries,  Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 3 ~ Setting Personal Boundaries -protecting self, and Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 4 Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1.

The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site.  A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries. The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries – is something that I teach people through telephone counseling   (It is now possible to get phone cards for very cheap rates from many places in the world – and also to use Skype for free from anywhere.)  I talk about how the phone counseling can work to really change a persons life for the better in a short period of time on this page which includes some special combination offers.

Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls (links to all of my books in both hard copy, ebook, and audiobook format are on that page) really help people take their understanding to a whole new level. Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.

DancingIn the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth.Coversm-Arena I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this page.

I also offer periodic day long workshops to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula.  (There is now a downloadable MP3 recording available of my Life Changing workshop  – and I have a page with special offers for both the workshop recording and an MP3 download of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. )

Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend. Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.

Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1

The Dance

“Learning discernment is vital – not just in terms of the choices we make about who to trust, but also in terms of our perspective, our attitudes.

We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.

One of the core characteristics of this disease of Codependence is intellectual polarization – black and white thinking. Rigid extremes – good or bad, right or wrong, love it or leave it, one or ten. Codependence does not allow any gray area – only black and white extremes.

Life is not black and white. Life involves the interplay of black and white. In other words, the gray area is where life takes place. A big part of the healing process is learning the numbers two through nine – recognizing that life is not black and white.

Life is not some kind of test, that if we fail, we will be punished. We are not human creatures who are being punished by an avenging god. We are not trapped in some kind of tragic place out of which we have to earn our way by doing the “right” things.

We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience. We are here to learn. We are here to go through this process that is life. We are here to feel these feelings.” – Text in this color are quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

One Through Ten

When I first got sober in early 1984, my mind was mush. I couldn’t read and comprehend a page in the AA Big Book for months. After three or four months, one of the signs I got that my mind was coming back was that I was able to start working crossword puzzles. It was a tremendous relief to find out that tequila hadn’t killed so many brain cells that my mind couldn’t recover.

I mention this because it points out what a tremendous impact something that I heard in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in my first 60 days of sobriety had to have on me for me to have a very clear memory of it all of these years later. It was obviously something that resonated as Truth so strongly that it cut through my fog enshrouded brain to my core.

This was in Lincoln Nebraska where I had gone through a 30 day treatment program after an intervention by my family on New Years Day. What I think of as a grizzled old timer (although I really have no idea what the guy looked like or how old he was) shared a simile about how his mind worked. He said, “My mind is like a dirt road out in the country that got really muddy – with some really deep ruts in it – and then the ground froze. It is real hard to drive down that road straddling those ruts without slipping back into them. And once I slip into them it is hard to get out again.”

Having grown up on a farm on dirt roads in the part country where spring means lots and lots of mud – where snow storms and frozen ruts are common into May – I really knew what he was talking about. And obviously, the comparison to the way my mind works hit home with me.

The reason that this story has anything to do with Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility, is because those ruts are still there. They are not nearly as deep now, but my thinking will slip into some of the old patterns / ruts very easily without me noticing until something happens to draw my attention to it.

The old pattern/programming that pops up the most is the rut of black and white thinking. Slipping into a perspective that only recognizes the extremes of 1 or 10. (The black and white perspective is the foundation of the blame them or blame me, victim of them or victim of my own shameful defectiveness, extremes that govern the dynamics of the disease of codependency.)

A conversation with a friend yesterday caused me to realize that I had slipped back into that old rut again in relationship to the idea of having a romantic relationship. The rut for me in respect to romance is for my thinking to be either (1) I will never have another romantic relationship, or (10) we will move in together and be fully immersed in the relationship. A watered down, less powerful version of the choices I learned in childhood from my role models – either completely unavailable or completely enmeshed.

My thinking, in relationship to a relationship, is much healthier and more balanced than it used to be – but it still tends towards the extremes within the spectrum of what is possible. It feels more natural for me to completely let go of the idea of having a romantic relationship or to think in terms of what it is going to be like when we are living together then to think in terms of getting to know someone gradually. Kind of like, either pretend the water isn’t there, or dive into the deep end without looking first to see what may be just under the surface.

It is easier for me emotionally to not even consider going in the water than to gradually ease myself into the shallow water – because if I am even looking at the water it gets me in touch with grief about being alone. The abyss of wish-to-die pain and desperate loneliness from my childhood – the deprivation issues that I spent so much of my life either denying or allowing to run my life – do not have anywhere near the power they used to because of the healing I have done. It is relatively easy now for me to separate out the childhood feelings of loneliness – and they do not any longer have a life threatening feeling of desperation to them. But I also have been very deprived in my adult life – of Love, companionship, affection, touch, sexual fulfillment, etc. – because of the patterns caused by my fear of intimacy. So the grief around those deprivation issues still has some power because the deprivation is still happening.

The healthier we get, the more emotional healing we do, the less extreme our emotional reaction / response spectrum grows. The growth process works kind of like a pendulum swinging. The less we buy into the toxic shame and judgment, the less extreme the swings of the pendulum become. The arc of our emotional pendulum becomes gentler, and we can return to emotional balance much quicker and easier. But we don’t get to stay in the balance position. Life is always rocking our boat – setting our emotional pendulum to swinging. By not taking life events and other peoples behavior so seriously and personally, by observing our process with some degree of detachment instead of getting so hooked into the trauma drama soap opera victimology that is a reaction to our childhood wounds, we learn to not give so much power over our emotions to outside influences and events.

I have choices today in regard to how I am relating to myself, to other people, to life. I am able to accept the things I cannot change much more quickly, and change the primary thing which I have the power to change – that is, my attitude toward the things I cannot change – so that I do not get caught up in a victim perspective. By not buying into the illusion that I am a victim – of myself, of other people, of life – my emotional swings stay on a much evener keel and I experience a much gentler emotional spectrum in my day to day relationship with life.

But it is still a spectrum, and as such involves swings between extremes. Those extremes are less powerful reflections / reverberations of the wildly divergent extremes my process used to involve. To maintain some balance in my life, to keep owning that I am not a victim – that I do have choices – it is important to shine some Light onto the gray area between the black and the white extremes, to be aware of the 2 through 9 options.

Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility

The purpose of this article is to shine some Light on the gray areas of emotional honesty and responsibility. Until we get aware that there are choices in between 1 and 10, then we don’t have a choice. As long as we bouncing between black and white, we miss the gray area entirely. The gray area is where life takes place. It is important for anyone in recovery to become aware of all of their choices – of 2 through 9 – so that we can see ourselves and life as clearly as possible.

We all have a set of ruts in the pathways of our mind that cause us to slip back into old thinking patterns and perspectives, that cause us to give power to old tapes. Those ruts do not change as we heal – they get shallower and easier to get out of – but they don’t go away completely. As we heal our basic underlying patterns don’t change substantially, we just get healthier in those patterns.

“We are never going to meet someone who doesn’t have red flags, who isn’t wounded – the healthy behavior is to pay attention and take responsibility for our choices. To take calculated risks that will not be “mistakes” or “wrong” but lessons. The more conscious we get of our choices, the more we release the grief energy / take power away from the childhood wounds – the more we can trust our self to listen to our intuition instead of the disease yammering in our head.

And we are never going to completely change our basic patterns – we get healthier within those patterns. If you are attracted to alcoholics – then progress is getting involved with a recovering alcoholic. We are attracted to certain energies for reasons in alignment with The Divine Plan – our choices in the past felt like mistakes because we weren’t aware that we were at boarding school learning lessons.” – The Emotional Dynamics of Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships

“We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals – exactly the ones who will “push our buttons.”

This happens because those people feel familiar. Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most – were the most familiar – hurt us the most. So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it is not safe to trust ourselves or other people.

Once we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it is not safe to trust as long as we are reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods. Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds.”

Romantic relationships are one issue that can be discussed in relationship to the rutted perspective of black and white thinking. All of our issues can be discussed in relationship to certain dynamic patterns of the disease – polarized black and white thinking is the primary, foundation rut upon which the dynamics of codependence and recovery can be examined.

In my first attempt at this article it spiraled off into the realm of Metaphysics – specifically an explanation of the vibrational dynamics of the growth process from an energetic perspective. An explanation of how our repeating patterns are in fact a reflection of the Octave Principle (do, re, me, fa, etc.) in energy interactions dynamics. In our disease we keep repeating the same octave over and over again – and sometimes even descending to lower octaves. In recovery we are spiraling upward to new levels – so that each “do” feels somewhat like the “do” before it, but in reality reflects a higher vibrational level – a Higher level of consciousness, a more enlightened perspective.

Interesting stuff, that is a more complex, higher level perspective of the topic – but not really functional in relationship to the goal of this article. I want to communicate about some specific facets of discernment regarding emotional honesty and responsibility as clearly as possible in a web page of reasonable length. So, that information will be part of another web article about Higher Consciousness and Enlightenment. When I will finish it is in the more will be revealed realm, since I have so many different writing projects percolating.

The point that I want to make about this however, is that in recovery we are spiraling upward. We go through different levels, different stages in our growth process. The “do” I hit upon in my discussion of romantic relationships above, is probably quite a few octaves higher than where I was when I started recovery – but it still feels somewhat like, resonates with somewhat the same vibration, as the “do” from over 17 years ago when I got into recovery. (Actually, though the basis for my codependence recovery was laid in my first few years of recovery from alcoholism, my conscious codependence recovery began on June 3, 1986 – so it is possible that my relationship to romantic relationships didn’t start ascending until then.) I mention this to emphasis how important it is to not shame and judge ourselves for how we feel – because sometimes when we break through to a new level, a new octave, the familiar feeling / reverberation of it causes the critical parent voice, the old tapes, to feed us the lie that we have slipped backwards, that we are at the bottom of the whole process again and have made no progress. The feeling of shame, of having made a mistake, of failing because we feel like we are in the same place again emotionally, is a product of the old wounds and the dysfunctional perspectives of the disease.

We are Spiritual beings having a human experience. Life is not a test that we can fail. It is a process of learning to accept that we are Lovable and worthy no matter what we feel. Life is a journey that we are being guided through, not punishment for being unworthy – or something we have to do “right” in order to transcend. Recovery is a process of learning to own that who we are is Transcendent Spiritual Beings so that we can integrate that Truth into our emotional relationship with life.

“I needed to learn how to set boundaries within, both emotionally and mentally by integrating Spiritual Truth into my process. Because “I feel feel like a failure” does not mean that is the Truth. The Spiritual Truth is that “failure” is an opportunity for growth. I can set a boundary with my emotions by not buying into the illusion that what I am feeling is who I am. I can set a boundary intellectually by telling that part of my mind that is judging and shaming me to shut up, because that is my disease lying to me. I can feel and release the emotional pain energy at the same time I am telling myself the Truth by not buying into the shame and judgment.

If I am feeling like a “failure” and giving power to the “critical parent” voice within that is telling me that I am a failure – then I can get stuck in a very painful place where I am shaming myself for being me. In this dynamic I am being the victim of myself and also being my own perpetrator – and the next step is to rescue myself by using one of the old tools to go unconscious (food, alcohol, sex, etc.) Thus the disease has me running around in a squirrel cage of suffering and shame, a dance of pain, blame, and self-abuse.

By learning to set a boundary with and between our emotional truth, what we feel, and our mental perspective, what we believe – in alignment with the Spiritual Truth we have integrated into the process – we can honor and release the feelings without buying into the false beliefs.

The more we can learn intellectual discernment within, so that we are not giving power to false beliefs, the clearer we can become in seeing and accepting our own personal path. The more honest and balanced we become in our emotional process, the clearer we can become in following our own personal Truth.”

Stages in recovery

“Writing this article (which appears to require at least three web pages) has been difficult because of all the levels involved. I received some e-mails with some basic questions that I wanted to answer in as complete a manner as possible – but answering some of the basic questions takes me into some quite advanced levels of recovery. I realized that I had never really written previously – except for a line or two here and there in the middle of something else – about such issues as: the misconception of many recovering people that emotional honesty means we are supposed to be emotionally honest with all of the people in our lives; or, specifically about what our responsibilities are in relating to others.” – Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 1

Emotional honesty is the bedrock upon which codependence recovery is possible. Until we start learning to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we cannot began to see ourselves or life with any clarity.

The key here is learning to be emotionally honest with ourselves. That doesn’t mean that we need to be emotionally honest with all of the people in our lives. It is often not safe or functional to be emotionally honest with people who are not being emotionally honest with themselves, who are not on some kind of healing / recovery path. And even with people who are also in recovery it is often not safe to be emotionally honest.

If someone is in recovery from alcoholism/addiction, it is possible for them to focus on the black and white issue of rather or not they are drinking and using. This makes it possible for someone to be clean and sober for many years without being forced to become emotionally honest with themselves. Many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are not safe places to be emotionally honest. It is a sad fact that it is very possible to be shamed and judged in AA meetings by people who are reacting out of a rigid, black and white, right and wrong belief system.

It is also unfortunate that some people, who are involved in codependence or Adult Child recovery, use emotional honesty as an excuse to be abusive. I have encountered people who claim to have years of codependence recovery who will use a question like “Do you mind if I share something with you?” as a way of getting my permission for them to be verbally abusive. People who will say something abusive, shaming, and/or judgmental – and then say “Hey, I am just being emotionally honest.” These are people who think they are being emotionally honest but have no concept of emotional responsibility.

We need to learn to be emotionally honest so that we can take responsibility for our feelings – not so that we can inflict them on others. When I first got into recovery, I mistook being rigorously honest in working my program with being vigorously honest in sharing with others my insights into their issues. It took me several years in recovery to realize that sharing my advice or opinions with others – without being asked – can be abusive.

It is not healthy or appropriate in recovery to use being emotionally honest as an excuse to abuse other people – including the people who abused us. Going from being abused to being the abuser is swinging from one extreme to the other.

Now, we all go through stages in our recovery – as I mentioned in the first article in this series.

“Discovery, recognition, that we have been victims of abuse is vital. Rather that is emotional abuse, or any of the other kinds of abuse that also cause emotional abuse – physical, verbal, mental, sexual, spiritual. etc. It is vitally important to own our own victimization – and at some point start getting angry about it. Getting angry about how the behavior of others has wounded us is a vital step in owning ourselves – of honoring our Self.

I have often told clients that going from feeling suicidal to feeling homicidal is a step of progress. It is a stage of the recovery process that we will move into – and then at some later point will move beyond. An incest victim transforms into an incest survivor. Owning the anger is an important part of pulling ourselves out of the depression that turning the anger back on ourselves has created. It is often necessary to own the anger before we can get in touch with the grief in a clean and healthy way. If we haven’t owned our right to be angry, it is possible to get stuck in a victim place of self-pity and martyrdom, of complaining and gathering sympathetic allies – instead of taking action to change.

So, it is very important to own our right to be angry. That is a stage of the process that also needs to be moved through so we don’t get stuck in an angry victim place. In order to heal, it is usually not necessary to confront our abusers. For some people it is an important part of the process to confront their abusers with their anger. Hopefully this can be done in an appropriate therapeutic environment – although sometimes that is not possible. What is important to emphasis, is that we can heal without confronting our abusers directly – because the relationship that needs to be healed is within. To go to a place where we are lashing out at our abusers will often be just going to the other extreme – where we abuse the people who abused us.

There was a point in my codependence recovery where I would rage in AA meetings at old timers who were shaming and emotionally abusive out of their untreated codependence – their rigid, controlling, black and white thinking. That was a stage in my recovery that I outgrew – that I realized was not healthy. It was not bad or wrong (although the behavior was sometimes something I needed to make amends for afterwards) – it was a stage in a growth process. I learned to confront that kind of behavior in a gentler, kinder – and more effective – way as I grew.

Sometimes in our growth we find ourselves lashing out and being abusive. When that happens we can make amends for how we expressed ourselves – we never have to apologize for having the feelings. We cannot go from repressing our feelings and being emotionally dishonest to communicating perfectly in one step. Communicating in an appropriate way is something we learn gradually – and something we will never do perfectly every time.” – Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 1

Sharing my opinions and advice without being asked in early recovery was a stage I went through. Raging in Alcoholic Anonymous meetings was a stage I went through. Getting in touch with our feelings can be a messy process. It is vitally important to learn to own ourselves and our feelings. While we are doing that, there will be times when we express our feelings in ways that we later need to make amends for. We will sometimes need to apologize for the manner in which we expressed ourselves, and/or the timing of our expression – we do not have to apologize for our feelings.

We are not responsible for other peoples feelings. We do have some responsibility in how we communicate and when we communicate.

For example: if we use abusive language, profanity, or name calling in our communication; if we scream and yell; if we throw or break things; if we communicate in front of other people instead of to that person privately; if we express ourselves at a time when the other person is particularly vulnerable; etc.

We also have responsibility for the perspectives which we are empowering that are causing us to react emotionally to the other person. We have responsibility for separating out grief and rage caused by wounds from the past that the other person is triggering, from the part of our reaction that is about them now.

We may need to go back to that person and say something like these examples:

I want to make amends to you for how intensely I expressed my feelings to you. What you said to me was inappropriate and abusive – and was not acceptable to me, but the intensity of my reaction was caused by the fact that you triggered an old wound from my past. Thank you for helping me get in touch with the old wound that needs some more attention and healing – but also know that that saying things like that is not OK. I will not allow you to talk to me like that.

I want to make amends to you for reacting out of a victim place. Your behavior was unacceptable to me, and I had a right to be hurt – but I reacted by blaming you for my feelings and that is something which I am learning to stop doing. So, I am sorry my reaction came from such a black and white perspective because it was not helpful in communicating with you about why your behavior bothered me.

These are very general examples, and in actual practice it is best to use the guidelines that I talk about in my page on setting personal boundaries.  That is: describe the behavior specifically rather than our interpretation of the behavior – both their behavior and our own.

I am sorry I called you a ____ (profane name) when you told that joke about ____. I felt hurt, discounted, put down, violated, angry, and shamed. I found what you said offensive and unacceptable – but it was not appropriate for me to use that kind of language in expressing myself.

Responsibility

In early recovery, I used to refer to responsibility as the R word. It was a trigger word for me that carried shame and judgment. I thought of it as having chains hanging off of it because being responsible to me seemed to mean being what society (and my parents) wanted me to be. That I wasn’t living up to those expectations seemed to reinforce my feeling that I was unworthy and defective. It was only in my codependence recovery that I came to realize that such behavior as not getting the grades I could have in school was in reality a passive aggressive retaliation towards my parents – the “I’ll show you, I’ll get me” battle cry of codependence. And I came to understand that not fitting into society’s idea of how to live life and define success, was in reality being true to myself by not conforming to standards that did not resonate with me.

It was a big relief for me in recovery to encounter another perspective on the term responsibility that allowed me to change my relationship with the word and the concept it embodied.

“As long as we are reacting to old wounds and old tapes we cannot respond to the now. The more we heal, the more responsibility we have – that is, ability to respond. The ability to respond in the moment.”

As a little boy I got the message from my father’s perfectionistic standards and raging verbal abuse, and from my shameful inability to fulfill the role of surrogate spouse and protector for my mother, that there was something wrong with me. I was raised in a religion that taught me that I was born shameful and sinful, and if I did something “wrong” I would burn in hell forever. Because of my fear of doing it “wrong,” of making shameful mistakes, I did not want to take responsibility for my life. Because of my emotional wounds and all of the anger and rage I was suppressing, I was powerless to do anything but react to life. I reacted to expectations by passive aggressively sabotaging myself. I rebelled against society’s standards in ways that hurt me.

I did not trust myself for good reasons – because of the reactive way I was living my life. I did not want to take responsibility for my life, for my choices and the consequences of those choices, so I set other people up to make the choices. That way I had someone to blame.

Blaming others – or the system or whatever – was a defense. I was stuck in the black and white perspective of the disease.

Being honest with myself emotionally led me to wallowing in self hatred – blaming myself for being unworthy and defective, for being a loser and a failure. Focusing on something or someone outside of me, that I could blame for victimizing me or obsess about because it/she would fix me (relationship, money, success, etc.), was an attempt to avoid having to feel the incredible hole within me – the abyss of wish to die pain and shame, the pressurized Pandora’s box of terror and rage, that I had to keep suppressing and denying. Survival involved using whatever means I could to go unconscious and/or deflect the blame away from me. Unconsciousness was my main tool for protecting and nurturing myself – my only real escape from the emotional extremes spawned by the black and white thinking of codependence.

In my personal journey, I had to encounter the concept that I was not shameful and defective as a being but rather had a disease that I had been powerless over, before I could start to shine some light into the darkness of the abyss within me. Working a 12 step program of recovery taught me that it was necessary – and it worked much better – to take responsibility for my life, for my choices, for the consequences of those choices. Starting to be open to the possibility that perhaps there is a Loving Higher Power, that I wasn’t being punished but was rather being given opportunities for growth – helped me to start letting go of some of the fear of making choices and some of the shame about the consequences I had experienced.

When I got into recovery I was launched into an adventure of discovering and exploring the gray area that is life. I learned that it was possible to take responsibility over behaviors and choices that I had made from a place of powerlessness without taking blame for those experiences. I learned that there were choices in between blaming them or blaming me.

“We need to heal the wounds without blaming others. And we need to own the responsibility without blaming ourselves. . . . We are talking about balance between the emotional and mental here again. Blame has to do with attitudes, with buying into the false beliefs – it does not really have anything to do with the process of releasing the emotional energy.

We also need to own and release the anger against those whom we feel victimized us as adults – and we need to take responsibility for our side of the street, own our part in whatever dysfunctional dance we did with them.

We need to own, honor, and release the feelings, and take responsibility for them – without blaming ourselves.”

I learned that my emotional reactions were being set up by my expectations and perspectives – which in turn were dictated by the definitions, beliefs, and attitudes I was allowing to define my experience of life. I was horrified to discover that my behavior patterns were being driven by, my emotional reactions were set up by, subconscious programming from my childhood.

“Our experiential reality is determined by the interpretations of our mind – by the intellectual paradigm which we are using to define / determine / translate / explain our reality. The attitudes, definitions, and belief systems which we hold mentally dictate our emotional reactions.” – The True Nature of Love-part 4, Energetic Clarity

I started to become empowered to change my relationship with myself and life when I started realizing that I have choices about the beliefs I allow to dictate my relationships. Instead of living life in reaction to old tapes – I could change that programming.

By changing that programming, it was possible for me to start taking responsibility for the areas of my life that I can have some control over, that I do have the power to change – and I could start to let go of trying to control things which I don’t have the power to change.

“I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had no control – other people and life events mostly – and taking no responsibility (except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process – over which I can have some degree of control. Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional. It was very important for me to start learning how to recognize the boundaries of where I ended and other people began, and to start realizing that I can have some control over my internal process in ways that are not shaming and judgmental – that I can stop being the victim of myself.”

The areas over which I do have choices – and therefore also have responsibility – include these:

The timing and manner in which I communicate with others.

The attitudes, definitions, and beliefs that I allow to define me and my relationships.

My own emotions to a great extent. By being willing to change my relationship with my own emotions by changing my intellectual paradigm and becoming willing to face the terror of owning my grief – doing the grief and anger release work that took power away from my old wounds – I have a much greater deal of control over how and when I express myself emotionally. I also gain the ability to let go much more quickly of any expectations or perspectives that are increasing the intensity of my emotional reactions – therefore decreasing the power and magnitude of the emotional energy generated by day to day life events. Owning my power to change my attitudes towards the things which I cannot change (other people and life, being human and having feelings) gives me a degree of healthy control over how I respond emotionally. Our life experience will always include waves that rock our boat. Learning to accept, respond to, and go with the flow of the waves works to help us have more peace and Joy in our lives. Taking the waves personally and reacting out of fear and shame is dysfunctional if our desire is to enjoy life.

I have the choice to align my willpower with recovery so that I can take actions that are aligned with healing and recovery instead of engaging in behavior that empowers the disease. Recovery is a process of learning to take care of ourselves in Loving, healthy ways – of being our own best friend and ally – instead of being allied with, and giving power to, the self destructive reactions of the disease.

The people that I choose to spend time with. That includes family members. I have a choice about rather I have contact with my family of origin. If we don’t own we have a choice then we will feel like a victim of what we think we “have to” do. So, if I choose to spend time with my family (or anyone) knowing they are unhealthy, then I am responsible for the feelings I experience in our interactions – they are not doing something to me. In recovery I have choices – and choices have consequences. It is not a right / wrong, blame / mistake thing – it is about owning my side of the street, my part of the responsibility for the consequences that are manifesting in my life, so that I do not buy into a victim perspective and slip back into the rut of blaming them or blaming me. If I am blaming, then I am not seeing reality clearly within the context of my Spiritual growth process. Consequences are the Universe’s way of giving us feedback so that we can learn to make healthier choices. Consequences are messages from our Higher Power that guide us on our Journey home to Love.

I also have a responsibility to the people I choose to spend time with. I have a responsibility to communicate as clearly and honestly as possible. That does not just mean verbal or written communication. It also means the messages I am conveying by my actions. One of my old patterns was to have an emotional intimate friend who was a woman that I was not attracted to physically / romantically. I would be real clear in telling this person that I was not interested in that type of relationship and that I wanted to just be friends. Then I would feel betrayed when that person let me know that she wanted to be more than just friends. I used to fall back on the excuse that I had told them clearly and therefore I wasn’t responsible for their feelings. I learned that setting a boundary verbally was not enough to absolve me of responsibility of my actions. I was not responsible for their feelings, but in investing time and energy into the relationship, in exposing myself to them emotionally / being intimate with them on an emotional level, I was denying a basic reality of human interaction and setting myself up to feel like a victim. (The belief that our intense emotional hunger and incredibly powerful sexual energies will not come into play in an emotionally intimate relationship between individuals of the opposite sex – or same sex if homosexual – is an insane expectation as unrealistic as expecting everyone to drive the way we want them to. Denial is one extreme – letting our desires rule is the other. The gray area in between is where life takes place, is the arena we are learning to play in.)

Most importantly, I have some control over, and therefore responsibility for, the quality of my life experiences today. The quality of my life experience is directly related to the kind of Spiritual belief system that I choose to empower. By choosing to believe in a Loving Higher Power / Universal Force, I have been able to change my relationship with myself and life into one that is not defined by shame and fear. By choosing to empower the belief that everything happens for a reason in alignment with a Loving Divine plan, that there are no accidents, coincidences, or mistakes, I have accessed the ability to be more Loving to my self. To – some of the time – be accepting and patient and compassionate towards my human self. By choosing to have the faith to believe that there is a Loving meaning and purpose to life – despite all the seeming evidence to the contrary – I have dramatically changed the quality of my life experience from a hell to be endured to one that includes a great deal of Joy.

“One of the ironies of this whole business is something that physicists have learned from quantum physics. They have learned that the physical world is made up of energy fields that are temporary manifestations of energy interactions. All of the energy fields of the physical world are temporary. Some last for fractions of a second, some last for billions of years – but they are all temporary illusions.

This means that the Truest reality in the physical world is in the interaction. It is in our interactions that we can access Truth and Joy and Love. In other words it is in our relationships.

The most real thing here, the place where the highest Truth exists, is in the interactions: in our relationships. Our relationship with ourselves is a reflection of our relationship with our Creator, with the Great Spirit. And our relationship with ourselves is reflected out into our relationship with everyone and everything in our environment.

Spirituality is about relationships. God exists in the quality of our relationships.

When I look at a beautiful sunset – I am a temporary illusion and the sunset is also a temporary illusion – the most real, God-like quality is the energy of Beauty and Joy that I allow myself to access by being open and willing to experience the sunset. If I am caught up in one of my ego’s “trauma dramas,” then I will not be conscious of the sunset or open to experiencing the Joy and Beauty of the moment.

A very important part of this healing process is taking time to smell the flowers. Our job is to be here in the now and to do this healing.

I spent most of my life trying to become – perfect, loved, accepted, respected, etc., etc. It did not work because I was looking outside for something that can only be found within.

Now I know that I am not in control of this process and that what I am becoming is in the hands of a Loving (although somewhat slow-working) Great Spirit. I do not have to worry anymore about becoming – all I have to do is be. I just have to suit up and show up for life today and do what is in front of me. And everything will work out better than I could ever have planned it.”

Of course, we only have choices once we become aware that we have choices, and we can only start responding to life instead of reacting by being in recovery and doing the emotional healing. Our growth process evolves over time, and as we reach new levels we become empowered to have more choices. These are areas that we are learning to take responsibility for – not right and wrong standards to judge ourselves by. The disease will always take any new awareness on our part and try to turn it into something we can judge and shame ourselves for – it is important to own that we are in process making progress and to defend ourselves from the critical parent voice.

“It is necessary and healthy to take responsibility for our choices, to accept our consequences, and to try to make healthy decisions on a human level. Integration and balance involves a process of learning to accept healthy responsibility on a human level at the same time that we know we are being guided by a Loving Spiritual Force.”” – Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 4 Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 1

This is the fourth in a series of articles on Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility that I wrote in 2001 – 15 years ago, Wow. The first was Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility  The next two I have already published on this Blog: Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 2 – Uncover, Discover, Recover by learning boundaries and Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility Part 3 ~ Setting Personal Boundaries – protecting self 

I will publishing a blog of Emotional Honesty and Emotional Responsibility part 5: Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2 next week – however if someone wants to read it on my website here is a link to it.

The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site.  A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries. The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries – is something that I teach people through telephone counseling   (It is now possible to get phone cards for very cheap rates from many places in the world – and also to use Skype for free from anywhere.)  I talk about how the phone counseling can work to really change a persons life for the better in a short period of time on this page which includes some special combination offers.

Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls (links to all of my books in both hard copy, ebook, and audiobook format are on that page) really help people take their understanding to a whole new level. Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.

In the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth. I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this page.

I also offer periodic day long workshops to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula.  (There is now a downloadable MP3 recording available of my Life Changing workshop  – and I have a page with special offers for both the workshop recording and an MP3 download of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. )

Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend. Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.

 

 

Chapter 19 – Taking self worth out of the Romantic equation

The Dance

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“One of the false beliefs that it is important to let go of, is the belief that we need another person in our lives to make us whole. As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims.

A white knight is not going to come charging up to rescue us from the dragon. A princess is not going to kiss us and turn us from a frog into a prince. The Prince and the Princess and the Dragon are all within us. It is not about someone outside of us rescuing us. It is also not about some dragon outside of us blocking our path. As long as we are looking outside to become whole we are setting ourselves up to be victims. As long as we are looking outside for the villain we are buying into the belief that we are the victim.

As little kids we were victims and we need to heal those wounds. But as adults we are volunteers – victims only of our disease. The people in our lives are actors and actresses whom we cast in the roles that would recreate the childhood dynamics of abuse and abandonment, betrayal and deprivation.

We are/have been just as much perpetrators in our adult relationships as victims. Every victim is a perpetrator – because when we are buying into being the victim, when we are giving power to our disease, we are perpetrating on the people around us and on ourselves.

We need to heal the wounds without blaming others. And we need to own the responsibility without blaming ourselves. As was stated earlier – there is no blame here, there are no bad guys. The only villain here is the disease and it is within us.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

I state in my book that codependence is a lousy word to describe the phenomena it has come to be associated with. A more accurate term would be outer or external dependence. We are programmed to give power over our sense of self worth – over how we feel about our self – to external sources and outside conditions.

Nowhere is the result of this programming more disastrous on a personal level than in the area of romantic relationships. Our subconscious and emotional programming started with fairy tales that taught us that when we meet our prince or princess we will live happily-ever-after. Movies and books and songs reinforced the original programming that in order to be whole and happy we must be in a relationship.

The result of this programming is that we are set up to feel like failures in romantic relationships. When we give power over how we feel about our self to another person in a romantic relationship we are practicing toxic love – making the other person our drug of choice, our higher power.

A healthy romantic relationship is an interdependent relationship – not a codependent one. An interdependent relationship is one where two people who have a healthy sense of Self worth, choose to become partners, to form a union. Two whole individuals – or more accurately (since as I have stated, we are all wounded and learning to access a True sense of self/Self worth) two people who are in recovery from their codependency working on owning their inherent worth and wholeness as beings, working on learning to be emotionally healthy and honest – who form an alliance / partnership with each other, not two half people who come together to feel whole.

In a healthy interdependent relationship as I mentioned in Chapter 9, we give the other person some power over our feelings – not over our self worth. Giving another person some power over our feelings is a completely different thing than giving them power over our self worth.

When we choose to give power away over our feelings we give the other person the power to help us feel happy. That also means we are giving them the power to hurt us. Caring for anyone or anything means we have an emotional investment in our relationship with that person or thing. To emotionally invest in a relationship is to take the risk of getting hurt – of getting our hearts broken – if we lose that relationship.

But it is not having our heart broken – it is not pure grief / emotional pain – that can be so debilitating, paralyzing, and agonizing when a relationship ends. It is the loss of self worth that we feel – the level to which we have invested, are dependent upon, the relationship to feel good about ourselves – that causes us to feel like we are going to die, that can make us feel like we want to die. The blame and shame and judgment caused by our codependency creates artificial feelings of inadequacy, of trauma, of agony. The unresolved abandonment / rejection / betrayal issues from our childhood are triggered and throw us into a place where we feel the hopelessness and powerlessness that we felt as a child.

The critical parent disease voice – old tapes / subconscious and conscious intellectual ego programming – tells us what losers and failures we are. The wounded inner child places react out of pain and shame from our childhood – the places within us where we feel unlovable and defective. We blame ourselves for the relationship ending with codependent messages like: if only I had not said that; I should have done that; I will never have a good relationship; I will always be alone; etc. Or we go to the other extreme and try to blame it all on the other person. People stalk and murder ex lovers because of the blow they feel they have suffered to their self worth – because they feel they have lost the source / drug that was making life bearable.

Getting our hearts broken is a normal and natural part of life. Blaming our self or the other person is codependency. The emotional pain of a heart break is very painful, but it gets better over time. The blame and shame of codependency causes us to be bitter and resentful, causes us to avoid relationships or to pick another person who will recreate our wounds – another person to try to fill the hole we feel inside of our self.

“Loving and losing is better than never loving” when all we experience is a broken heart. It is the blame and shame of the disease that makes us feel like failures who are incapable of loving – like a victim of our own unworthiness.

At the end of 1998, when I had reached a place in my recovery where I was secure in my self/Self worth, the Universe presented me with an opportunity to experience a romantic relationship in which my worst fear of rejection seemed to manifest – and I did not blame her or me. It was an incredible experience – very painful, but also very liberating.

“It Truly is a completely different experience to have a relationship where my self-worth is not at risk . . . . . if my self-worth is not at risk then another person can only add to me, they have no power to diminish me. What a gift.” – An Adventure in Romance – Loving and Losing Successfully

As that relationship was ending, before it ended, I wrote what I think is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever written which I mentioned in a previous chapter and will include as the next chapter. It is called: A Wedding Prayer /Meditation on Romantic Commitment.

“You are not the source of each other’s Love. You are helping each other to access the LOVE that is the Source.

The Love that you see when you see your soul in the others eyes is a reflection of the LOVE that you are. Of the Unconditional Love that the Great Spirit feels for you.

It is very important to remember that the other person is helping you to access God’s LOVE within you – not giving you something that you have never had before.” – Chapter 20 A Wedding Prayer / Meditation on Romantic Commitment

Anytime we see another person as our source of love, we will feel a need to control and manipulate that person to be what we want them to be – to be there for us to feed off of emotionally so we can feel good about our self. There is nothing Loving about using another person emotionally because we do not know how to feed ourselves by accessing the True Source.

Love can feel magical and wonderful – can help us feel like we are soaring as the other person helps us to access the higher vibrational frequencies of Love and Joy. To have the opportunity to experience Love is one of the major reasons we have come into human body – but thinking a romantic relationship is what give us worth is codependent and dysfunctional. Romantic relationships can be wonderful opportunities for growth and Spiritual Awakening when we start seeing them realistically, when we stop allowing the perspective of the magical thinking romantic within us to dictate our relationship with romance.

“You are not going to live happily-ever-after once you find your prince or princess. There is no happily-ever-after on this plane of existence. You may find your prince or princess but they will have issues to deal with. Relationships are something that needs to be worked on – not some magic wand that makes everybody happy.” – Chapter 9 Interdependent, not codependent”

From Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth Chapter 19 – Taking self worth out of the Romantic equation

Sacred Spiral

If you live in Southern California and want to learn how to do relationships in a healthier way it would be really helpful for you to come to my Intensive Training Day workshop.   If you are alone this Valentine’s Day, this workshop can help you understand your patterns and fear of intimacy so that you can make better choices the next time you venture into the Romantic Arena. If you are in a relationship and find your self having problems with communicating and reactions – then it would be very helpful for you to come to my workshop together.  I have posted a page with special offers for my February 20th workshop.

If you don’t live in this area, there is a MP3 recording of my workshop that you can download.

Cover of book on romantic relationshipsI have special offers for Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth on this page. (which includes offers for my other books also.)

When you purchase Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth  Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior through Joy2MeU you get a personally autographed copy;-) but you can also purchase through Amazon.com, Amazon.UK, or Barnes & Noble.

The Greatest Arena is also available as two ebooks (each only$9.95) eBook 1: Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior (the first 20 chapters of The Greatest Arena) is available on Amazon, on Amazon UK, on Barnes & Noble, or in Kobo format.

Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth eBook 2: Deeper Within (emotionally) & Further Out (metaphysically) From Fear of Intimacy to Twin Souls (chapters 21 through 40 of The Greatest Arena) is available on Amazon and Amazon UK, on Barnes & Noble, or in Kobo format.

Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth eBook 1: Codependent Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics & Healthy Relationship Behavior now also available as an audio book on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life v Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional

Normal is Codependent

One of the reasons that I have been giving specific examples of the type of things that codependent parents say and do to try to control their children, is because it is so important for us as recovering codependents to start seeing more clearly that normal in society is codependent. We were wounded by behavior that is considered normal in the dysfunctional civilizations we were born into. The environment where we were first wounded was in our families. Our parents were our first abusers. They were / are not bad people, they were / are wounded codependents. The way they normally related to us in our childhood was codependent – is still codependent unless they are in recovery healing their wounds.

The Dance

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls

“The dysfunctional dance of Codependence is caused by being at war with ourselves – being at war within.

We are at war with ourselves because we are judging and shaming ourselves for being human. We are at war with ourselves because we are carrying around suppressed grief energy that we are terrified of feeling. We are at war within because we are “damming” our own emotional process – because we were forced to become emotionally dishonest as children and had to learn ways to block and distort our emotional energy.

We cannot learn to Love ourselves and be at peace within until we stop judging and shaming ourselves for being human and stop fighting our own emotional process, until we stop waging war on ourselves.. . . . .

. . . . . . . We experienced what is called “sanctuary trauma” – our safest place to be was not safe – and we experienced it on a daily basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield.

It was not a battlefield because our parents were wrong or bad – it was a battlefield because they were at war within, because they were born into the middle of a war. By doing our healing we are becoming the emotionally honest role models that our parents never had the chance to be. Through being in Recovery we are helping to break the cycles of self-destructive behavior that have dictated human existence for thousands of years.

Codependence is a very vicious and powerful form of Delayed Stress Syndrome. The trauma of feeling like we were not safe in our own homes makes it very difficult to feel like we are safe anywhere. Feeling like we were not lovable to our own parents makes it very difficult to believe that anyone can Love us.

(Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

Our parents did not have the resources when we were children to do things any differently. It was not their fault. They are not to blame. They were victimized by the conditions that caused the human condition.

The human dilemma has been feeling disconnected from our Source. The human condition has evolved in reaction to the pain of that feeling of disconnection. It was in the late 1980s that a shift took place that has made it possible to start healing the human condition.

“A Transformational Healing Process has begun on the planet Earth. Due to a profound change that has taken place in the energy field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness, resources are now available to us to do healing that has never before been possible in recorded human history. Human beings now, for the first time, have the capacity to directly address the core issues of the human dilemma.”

It is only in recent history that human beings have acquired the ability, the knowledge, and access to Spiritual guidance, that is allowing us to change the human condition. We are no more than a generation or two removed from societal beliefs that allowed children – and women – to be treated as property. Most of us grew up in societies that did not include such things as: healthy parenting classes; wide spread knowledge and information about alcoholism and child abuse; the concept of personal boundaries and information about the grief process; etc., etc. Most of us grew up in societies where we were taught that the choices are between right and wrong, and wrong is shameful.

Our parents were trapped in the beliefs they grew up with. They were doing the best they knew how with the tools and knowledge they had. They did not have the choice – when we were children – to live their lives differently. We do have choices.

Things are different today. Not that much different for the majority of people – but that is changing. Children are now getting the message in school, from television and movies, that it is okay to have boundaries and say no. That it is okay to have feelings. No one taught me that in my childhood. I did not see any male role models who were able to cry or admit to being afraid – not in my home, not in the movies or on television. Things are changing. Those of us who are doing the healing are still a small minority, but there are millions of us. We are the pioneers who are leading the way to changing the world into a better, more Loving place – into a place where life among humans is not lived in competition out of belief in scarcity and separation.

Dysfunction as the norm is no longer mandated by planetary conditions. We now have access to the power to change the human condition by healing our relationship with self.

Cause and Effect

The law that governs life for human beings is cause and effect. Our adult patterns were the result, the effect, of how we learned to relate to life and self in childhood. We were powerless to change those patterns as long as we did not know there were other choices besides right and wrong – as long as we were stuck in a black and white perspective of life.

Our parents were our first, formative, most powerful role models. Our family of origin was the arena where we learned how to relate to self, to life, to other people. It is where we learned how to relate to being human, to our own emotions, minds, bodies, and souls.

“We are set up to be emotionally dysfunctional by our role models, both parental and societal. We are taught to repress and distort our emotional process. We are trained to be emotionally dishonest when we are children.”

Our parents learned to relate to self the same place we did – in their childhood, from their family of origin.

“Early in my recovery, it was vital for me to start realizing how emotionally crippled I had been by the role modeling and messages I had experienced growing up in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional culture. I had to become conscious of how dysfunctional my relationship with my own emotions was, in order to start healing the dysfunction in my relationship with my self and life.

The single most important influence in the development of a person’s relationship with their own emotions is role modeling. Mom and Dad were our primary role models for how a male emotional being and female emotional being behave, for how they relate to, and express, their emotions. (As well as for how male and female relate to each other.) The cultural role models that we were exposed to – through books, movies, television, etc., – play an important factor also, but our primary role models were our parents.” – Chapter 3

We learned how to relate to our own emotions from our parents. We learned how to do relationships from watching how they related to each other – and to other people. We learned how to relate to life in reaction to how they related to life.

We might have reacted by going to the other extreme from what they role modeled for us – but as long as we are in reaction we are not living our life, we are living in reaction to our childhood wounding.

“The Truth is that the intellectual value systems, the attitudes, that we use in deciding what’s right and wrong were not ours in the first place. We accepted on a subconscious and emotional level the values that were imposed on us as children. Even if we throw out those attitudes and beliefs intellectually as adults, they still dictate our emotional reactions. Even if, especially if, we live our lives rebelling against them. By going to either extreme – accepting them without question or rejecting them without consideration – we are giving power away.”

It is so vital for us to start seeing our own internal process more clearly, so that we can understand our wounding and how it has impacted our lives. It is absolutely vital to start seeing our self with more clarity in order learn who we really are – to get in touch with our True Self. Living life in reaction causes us to be a prisoner of our past and to sabotage our ability to be present in the now. We cannot start to change our core relationship with self and life until we start to see where we came from with more clarity. As long as we are still buying into the myth that we came from a healthy family, we will be unable to see our self clearly.

The disease voice will say something to this effect: “Quit whining, you didn’t have it so bad as a kid.” Or react to horror stories of child abuse with a message like: “See, look how awful they had it, you have no right to feel sorry for yourself.” We need to start telling those voices to shut up and start telling our inner children that we are sorry that it was so painful to be a human child in a dysfunctional environment. We do have reason to feel sorry for the child that we were – and for the adult who was trapped in dysfunctional behavior patterns and attitudes. It is very sad. There is a lot of grief in recovery. Melody Beattie, in one of her books, says, “Learn the art of acceptance, it is a lot of grief.”

We need to start seeing reality clearly so that we can let go of the myth we have been carrying about our families – rather that myth causes us to discount our own pain or causes us to blame our families. We need to take the blame out of the process – to stop seeing life in black and white extremes. If we are blaming everything on our self, or blaming some external villain, we are not seeing reality clearly. We need to own our grief and recognize the ways in which our parents behavior wounded us.

It is very important to start seeing ourselves as separate from our families so that we can stop giving power to the illusion that our individual self worth has anything to do with our family of origin.

We need to let go of old beliefs in order to heal our relationship with self, in order to find our Self. As a young child I had no discernment, no perspective, that would allow me to realize that my parents weren’t healthy. I thought the pain I felt was my fault. I thought that the reason I felt so bad was because I was abnormal – that something was wrong with me. My family was normal to me, and part of feeling good about myself was to see my family as better than other families – because I was taught to look outside in comparison. I developed my own personal myth about my family. When I got into recovery at age 35, I would tell people that I came from a pretty good family and it was just me that was messed up. When I first started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings as I was opening up to the possibility that my family – though not alcoholic – was dysfunctional, I did not speak for weeks because my family had not been as overtly, blatantly dysfunctional as all those other people’s families had been.

My families dysfunction was not as overt, so my wounding was of a more subtle nature than people who had been beaten by drunken fathers and mothers. As I got further into recovery and learned more about codependency, I saw that the dysfunction in my family wasn’t really subtle at all, that it was actually quite blatant – but that it was normal in a dysfunctional culture.  I started to realize that it was my view of it as normal, as better when compared to other families – my childhood investment in my myth about my family – that was causing me to discount and minimize my own wounding.

I used to know a therapist who to make a point would say, “The sliver in my finger hurts me more than your broken back hurts me.” The point being, my pain is my pain – and it hurts me more than anyone else’s pain. Comparing the circumstances in which we were wounded does not serve us, does not help us to see our self with any clarity. Many children who grew up in poverty received more love than children who grew up with great wealth. Those of us who grew up in “normal” middle class families may not have experienced the outrageously abusive behavior of people who grew up in families afflicted with alcoholism or mental illness, but that does not mean that our hearts were not broken, our souls not wounded. The emotional pain of our childhoods, growing up in emotional and spiritual wastelands with wounded parents (or without parents), crippled us in our relationship with our own heart and soul – with our self / Self.

I need to own my pain because that is a crucial element in owning me. The critical parent voice in our head wants to minimize, justify, and rationalize away our childhood experiences – or to not take any responsibility for our lives and blame it all on our parents. It wants us to stay stuck by blaming them or blaming ourselves – to keep us from taking the risk of believing we are lovable and worthy.

Until I got into recovery I was incapable of seeing my life without blame being involved in my perceptions because of the black and white perspective of life I had been taught in childhood – which of course included my parents role modeling because they were programmed to relate to life out of a polarized perspective.

When something was not working in my life, I was limited to blaming myself or blaming something / someone outside of me. Since I was taught to look outside of myself for definition and worth, since I believed that other people and life events controlled my emotional reactions, I would put a lot of energy into blaming others to keep from falling into the painful abyss of shame and pain I experienced when I blamed myself.

In order to stop blaming, I needed to start seeing the cause and effect dynamic in my life with more clarity. As long as I was shaming and judging myself for my patterns and issues, I was incapable of seeing clearly. As long as I was blaming what I was feeling and experiencing in life on people and events in my life now, I was focusing on the effect without seeing the cause.

My adult patterns were effects, symptoms. Part of the dysfunction of society is to focus on symptoms and ignore cause. We have a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on terrorism – without looking at the causes of those phenomena. It is vital to start focusing upon, and healing the cause. It is vital to stop judging ourselves for the symptoms.

In order to see our self and our issues with more clarity, we need to start learning to accept where we are at – without the judgment and shame which distorts and pollutes our perceptions. We are on a journey – involved in an unfolding process. We are works in progress.

Our issues, our patterns did not come out of nowhere. They are not a result of inherent defects in our character. The are the effect of having grown up in dysfunctional families / environments. We need to stop blaming and shaming ourselves for our wounding.

It is when we start realizing that we were powerless to do life differently as long as we were reacting unconsciously out of our childhood wounding and programming, that we can start to change our patterns and heal our wounds. Then we can become a detective who can sort through the layers and levels of our programming. As we sort through those layers and levels we can start healing the emotional wounds and bringing compassion to the wounded parts of us. It is only through learning to forgive our self that we can Truly forgive our parents. By doing this healing work – taking action to stop the shame and judgment of the critical parent voice, learning to be compassionate and nurturing to the wounded parts of us, learning to take healthy responsibility for our lives – we are making amends to ourselves. As we make amends to, and learn to access Love for, our self, we are healing the human condition.

“Any single soul’s evolution, its awakening, affects all souls because we are all connected.”

Through learning to see the cause and effect in our human experience with clarity, we can start seeing reality as it is and making it better – instead of holding onto myths, false beliefs, and dysfunctional definitions. As we awaken to the reality of how dysfunctional human civilization has been, we can change our perspective of, and our relationship with, our self. By learning to stop allowing our sense of self worth to be enmeshed with our emotional relationships to external sources, we can start learning to access Love.

This recovery process is a journey of awakening to Love. The concepts of, and experience of, love that we experienced in childhood is not real Love, is not a healthy concept of Love.

“We live in a society where the emotional experience of “love” is conditional on behavior. Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behavior because parents believe that their children’s behavior reflects their self-worth.

In other words, if little Johnny is a well-behaved, “good boy,” then his parents are good people. If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents. (“He doesn’t come from a good family.”)

What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child – the family hero role – who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat – is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family. Backwards again.

In a Codependent society we are taught, in the name of “love,” to try to control those we love, by manipulating and shaming them, to try to get them to do the right things – in order to protect our own ego-strength. Our emotional experience of love is of something controlling: “I love you if you do what I want you to do.” Our emotional experience of love is of something that is shaming and manipulative and abusive.

Love that is shaming and abusive is an insane, ridiculous concept. Just as insane and ridiculous as the concept of murder and war in the name of God.

These ridiculous, insane, reversed, and dysfunctional concepts are what civilizations are based upon on this planet.”

Recovery is a process of learning to be emotionally and intellectually honest with our self so that we can stop looking to others to determine who we are. We can stop being care “takers” – that is, taking our feelings of worth / ego-strength from what we do for/get from others, and/or in comparison with others. As long as our self worth is enmeshed with external sources, as long as how we are feeling is in reaction to dysfunctional attitudes and false beliefs, we are set up to be emotional vampires trying to suck feelings of worth from other people – either overtly from them, or covertly by comparing ourselves to them. We need to learn to take responsibility for our emotions so that we can start becoming empowered to stop being a victim of other people, of life, of self worth based upon comparison. Learning to separate our self worth from our emotional reactions is how we can start opening up to Love so that we can stop being emotionally anorexic.

Dysfunctional Concept of Family

It is vital to start seeing that normal is codependent. It is vital to start seeing clearly the dysfunction and emotional dishonesty in the families we grew up in, so that we can let go of our myth of family. Our dysfunctional families were an effect of the dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest, Spiritual hostile (belief in separation), cultural environments in which they existed. It is not personal. It does not have anything to do with us. Just as the way our parents treated us in childhood wasn’t personal. They were incapable of seeing who they really were, so they couldn’t see us with any clarity. They were looking at us through the filters of their fear and pain, they projected their shame and lack of self worth onto us. They tried to control our behavior with fear, guilt, and shame to protect their egos. They were dancing with their own wounds to the music of shame and fear – which made them incapable of meeting our needs, of demonstrating love for us in a healthy way. It was not their fault. It was not our fault. It was an effect of the families and culture they grew up in.

I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as a separate, isolated entity is dysfunctional in it’s essence. I don’t believe it is healthy to raise children in an environment separate from a sense of close knit community / clan / tribal identity. I don’t believe that two parents as a cultural entity separate from community can possibly provide healthy, balanced parenting. Certainly one cannot. But children are wounded and traumatized by parents inability to separate their self worth from their emotional reactions to external forces rather there is one parent or two. Parents who were taught to take their ego strength from external comparison cannot avoid having an unhealthy emotional investment in children whom they – and society – see as an extension, a possession, that reflects their worth as individuals.

I have no idea what Hillary Clinton’s book is about, but the concept that it “takes a village” to raise a child contains some fundamental Truth in my opinion. I do not believe that children are meant to be raised by two adults separate from community – and certainly not by a mother alone most of the time. The American Dream, a nuclear family living in isolation in the suburbs – with the father gone most of the day – is a dysfunctional ideal in my belief. Our normal societal model for what constitutes an ideal family is dysfunctional in its impact on the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of children raised in those families.

Here is an excerpt from a page in my Joy2MeU Journal – bracketed by a quote from my book to put it in context with my views.

“I want to make a couple of points of clarification at this time.

One is that I am referring to civilizations around the world, but most of the examples or specifics I am mentioning have to do with Western Civilization and specifically American society. That is just for my convenience and your identification. (I am using the word “civilization” here in the Western sense of the term – that is, urban-based and believed to be superior to “less advanced” peoples.)

All civilizations are dysfunctional to varying degrees, as are subcultures within those civilizations. They just have different flavors of dysfunction, of imbalance.

As an example: In much of Asia the individual is discounted for the good of the whole – whether that be family or corporation or country. The individual takes his or her self-definition from the larger system. That is just as out of balance and dysfunctional as the Western Civilization manifestation of glorifying the individual to the detriment of the whole. It is just a different variety of dysfunction.

The goal of this dance of Recovery is integration and balance. That means celebrating being a tree while also glorying in being a part of the forest. Recovery is a process of becoming conscious of our individual wholeness and our ONENESS with all.

The other point I want to make is that I am saying “civilized” society for a reason. It is in urban-based industrialized civilization that the optimum dysfunction has been manifested in this world.

Many so-called primitive or aboriginal tribal cultures, such as the Native Americans, had far more integrated and balanced cultures for their place and time than any “civilization.” They were not totally integrated and balanced by any means. They were, however, closer to the rhythms of nature and had respect for nature and natural laws, so were more aligned with universal laws than urban-based civilizations.

In fact, many of the primitive societies were far more functional in terms of the Spiritual, emotional, and mental health of the individual members of the society, and had far more respect for the individual members, than any so-called “civilized” society on this planet.”

The Baby Otter: A Mother’s Day Story (an excerpt from the Joy2MeU Journal)

“I often look to aboriginal cultures who were more in touch with nature to see examples of more balance behavior. (The Native American culture that I am most familiar with, is that of the Plains Indians. There can be some big differences between different regions, but when I cite Native American culture it is the Plains Indians I am talking about.) The cultural norms that came to mind while writing this were two specific ones. One was that, it was not the father who taught the son to be a man – it was an uncle. The tribes knew better than to have the father’s ego involved with the son’s training. The other has to do with mothers and sons. When a boy was around 5 or 6 there came a point where he and his mother could no longer speak directly to each other – they would communicate through a third person – and they could not look into each others eyes. The effect of this tribal wisdom was to prevent emotional incest. When the boy became a man, they could once again communicate directly. (There were also restrictions in terms of the relationships between father and daughter.)

Reminds me of Robert Bly’s book Iron John. (link to Amazon.com info about book) He talks about how, ever since the industrial revolution pulled fathers out of the home a great deal of the time, boys have been primarily learning how to be men from women.

I believe that the concept of the nuclear family as an isolated entity is inherently dysfunctional and traumatic. I am going to include here a passage I wrote some time ago, and never found anyplace to use in my writing.

“Of course, we have almost completely lost the real sense and idea of community – of a group of people who are interconnected and interrelated for their collective welfare and mutual benefit. In Western Civilization, and especially in the United States, the individual is glorified to the detriment of the whole (this is the opposite extreme of imbalance for much of Eastern Civilization which glorifies the whole to the detriment of the individual.) So separation is the rule rather than connection.

Some can have millions while others are starving and homeless – and this is looked upon as normal and natural. Society teaches us to believe that we are separate – that another persons suffering is that persons own fault. That the individual is separate from, and in competition with, others.

This applies on multiple levels. It is also true in the dysfunctional myth of the individual nuclear family. The concept of the nuclear family with it’s sense of possession (my children) and comparison with other families carries with it inherent emotional trauma in my view. I believe that the healthiest parenting came in societies where the whole tribe or clan had a sense of community and connection. Where everyone knew they were individuals but also knew they were important parts of the whole. Where people lived so close together that there were no family secrets and social mores dictated that physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse were not acceptable.

Now, I am not saying that aboriginal societies were completely healthy or balanced cultures. But they did have a healthier balance than modern societies because they had to in order to survive. The had more respect for nature and natural cycles because it was necessary to live. They had a sense of community because without it they would perish.”

“I believe that historically there has been a direct correlation between the level of advancement – of “progress” – and the level of dysfunction in terms of the individual being’s level of fulfillment and happiness. In other words, the more “advanced” the society became (that is, the farther it removed itself from respect for, and alignment with, natural laws and cycles), the more dysfunctional it became in terms of the individual being’s feelings of self-respect and fulfillment.

[The historical inverse relationship between progress and individual emotional health was somewhat altered in accordance with the Divine Script so that we could reach this Age of Healing and Joy that we have now entered. This alteration was accomplished through the efforts of a series of mystical messengers who taught the importance of individual rights. These messengers laid the groundwork for a group of mystics, with names like Jefferson and Franklin, to create a society where individuals could pursue Spiritual Truth despite the disapproval of the government and the majority of the society. (Of course, because of the dysfunctional nature of the society, that right was honored in theory rather than practice much of the time – but the right was inherent in the framework of the society.) This inherent right is what made it possible for the United States to became the spawning ground for the Transformational Healing Movement that has begun on the planet. A great acceleration of this process took place with the national trauma/gift that was the sixties and Viet Nam. This period forced individuals to start questioning the traditional value systems, the traditional perspectives, on a massive scale. All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly when we look at them in a large enough perspective.]

Another reason that some of these so-called “primitive” cultures were more functional is that they also had a much more benevolent idea about a Higher Power. They actually believed that the God-Force had a Loving purpose for putting us here instead of it being some kind of punishment which was shameful.”

So the more advanced, the more civilized, a society became, the more dysfunctional it became in terms of serving the emotional, mental, and Spiritual needs of the individual members of the society. Sounds kind of backwards doesn’t it?”

I will be discussing different levels of this dysfunction, the normal codependency of civilization in coming chapters. First however I am going to address an area where we were set up to be abused because of our experiences in childhood. Our experiences with our parents set us up to expect abuse from authority figures. The dysfunctional school systems reinforced this set up. It is no wonder that we end up being abused by medical and mental health authorities that are part of dysfunctional cultural systems.” – This is an excerpt from Chapter 10: Normal Families are Dysfunctional of Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Sacred SpiralCodependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light

A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.

The first two chapter of this online book is available through my regular website: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!

I have published some other chapters of this work as blogs including: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)

Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce

In December 2015 I am starting to work on preparing an online book I wrote in 2002 and 2003 for publication as an eBook and possibly as a hard copy book as well. I mentioned this in my last blog which was a chapter from this online book: Chapter 5: Codependency = conditioned reactive programming ~ Pavlov’s Dog.

I am going to start that process by sharing the second chapter of that online book in this blog. It is an online book in which I found myself exploring new levels and perspectives – both dissecting the dynamics of codependency and recovery on more sophisticated and subtle levels (both psychologically and historically) and discussing different facets of the phenomena in more concrete, practical, and hopefully understandable, terms. I wrote it in response to an online article The codependency movement is ruining marriages! by a marriage counselor who was calling the codependency recovery movement a monster – the first chapter of it is here: Chapter 1 The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!  Here are a few quotes from my Update Newsletters about the online book that grew out of a response to this guy’s article.

“The work grew to something quite a bit beyond what I envisioned . . . . – and includes 15 chapters as of May 2003. I very happy with, and proud of, the chapters that grew out of this initial source. It has since grown into an in depth look at the phenomena of codependency on multiple levels – which in my opinion, is really much larger and more important than just a response to the silly article by Dr. Harley. . . . . .

. . . . . . . There are some places in these pages where I use some quite harsh language in reference to Dr. Harley and his beliefs – and I am going to leave that language as I wrote it. It doesn’t have anything to do with Dr. Harley personally, but rather with the type of ignorant and arrogant white male attitudes that he represents to me. Over a year later, and farther along in my recovery process, I probably would tone down that language some if I wrote these two pages today – not because my beliefs and views have changed, but because I wouldn’t be quite so reactive out of my own personal wounds. Sometimes it takes some harsh language to make a point however, and at this time I do not feel compelled to change the language as I originally published it.” – Robert May 2003

Sacred Spiral

Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce

The Dance

“This dance of Codependence is a dance of dysfunctional relationships – of relationships that do not work to meet our needs. That does not mean just romantic relationships, or family relationships, or even human relationships in general.

The fact that dysfunction exists in our romantic, family, and human relationships is a symptom of the dysfunction that exists in our relationship with life – with being human. It is a symptom of the dysfunction which exists in our relationships with ourselves as human beings.

And the dysfunction that exists in our relationship with ourselves is a symptom of Spiritual dis-ease, of not being in balance and harmony with the universe, of feeling disconnected from our Spiritual source.

That is why it is so important to enlarge our perspective. To look beyond the romantic relationship in which we are having problems. To look beyond the dysfunction that exists in our relationships with other people.

The more we enlarge our perspective, the closer we get to the cause instead of just dealing with the symptoms. For example, the more we look at the dysfunction in our relationship with ourselves as human beings the more we can understand the dysfunction in our romantic relationships.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

At the CoDA meeting I am the secretary of here locally, one of the people sharing last week made one of those perfect Freudian slips while sharing. She talked about inter-reacting with someone. That is codependency: two people inter-reacting, each reacting out of their emotional wounds and childhood programming.

If we are inter-reacting, we are incapable of being honest in relating to other people. If we are not seeing ourselves with any clarity and emotional honesty, then we cannot see the other person with clarity – let alone the relationship. No true communication can take place between two people who are reacting to the past instead of being present in the moment – inter-reacting. (I like that word.😉

And of course, the type of relationship this dynamic impacts the most is romantic. As I say elsewhere in my writing: romantic relationships are the greatest arena for Spiritual growth available to us – because they are the relationships that mean the most to us, that we have the most at stake emotionally. It is in romantic relationships that our buttons are pushed – that our deepest wounds are triggered. It is in romantic relationships that our core fear of intimacy (Fear of Intimacy – caused by early childhood trauma) is activated. And the problem with far too many romantic relationships – which of course, includes marriages – is that they are inter-reactions, not interactions.

“The single biggest problem with most relationships is that there are too many people involved. A romantic relationship is supposed to be two people in partnership sharing of who they are, sharing their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls with each other.

Anyone who has not done their emotional healing is bringing a plethora of people into any relationship they get involved in. Some of these people include: parents, siblings, relatives; ministers, teachers, the junior high school bully; everyone that they have ever had a romantic relationship with; the Prince and Princess of fairy tales, the lyrics of songs, and the characters from books and movies; etc. Just to think of how many ghosts are in the room, when two unconscious people are interacting, is mind boggling.

Anyone who is unconscious to how the people and events of their past have shaped who they are today, is incapable of being present in the now and having a healthy relationship. When we are reacting unconsciously to the emotional wounds and old tapes from our childhood, we are being emotionally dishonest in the moment – we are mostly reacting to how we felt in a similar dynamic in the past, not clearly responding to what is happening in the present.

As I said in the last article in this series, the single most important component in a healthy relationship is the ability to communicate. We cannot communicate clearly when we are in reaction because we are not being emotionally honest with ourselves.

We all learned to see life and self from a dysfunctional perspective – from a perspective that taught us it was shameful to be bad or wrong. We learned to blame. Since the perspective of life which civilization is founded upon is black and white, right and wrong – we got the message that if we could not figure out how to blame someone else, then it must be our fault. Toxic shame is the feeling that I am somehow defective, that there is something wrong with who I am as a being. That feeling of being defective is so painful that we are willing to do almost anything to avoid sinking into that abyss of pain within.

So we blame someone or something outside of ourselves to protect our self. A dysfunctional civilization which teaches us to look outside for our self worth, also teaches us to look outside for a villain.” – Healthy Romantic Relationships – part 3, Emotional Honesty Necessary

In that last line from this quote – “A dysfunctional civilization which teaches us to look outside for our self worth, also teaches us to look outside for a villain.” – lies the crux of the problem in so many romantic relationships. When we look to a romantic relationship to give us worth, we give another person the power to make us feel good about ourselves, to feel worthy and lovable. The person who we have given that power to, usually becomes the person to blame when we do not feel good.

The prince or princess who was going to rescue us becomes the villain who is abusing / oppressing / abandoning us. The type of love that we learned growing up in dysfunctional societies is toxic love. (Toxic Love)  That codependent, addictive toxic variety of love involves giving another person power over our self esteem – empowering another wounded human being to be our higher power who determines if we have worth. It is a set up to end up feeling like a victim – with the other person as the villain, or our own perceived shameful defectiveness making us the villain who deserves to be abused.

In a healthy interrelationship, we make a choice to love another being – and we give them some power over our feelings – we do not give them power over our self worth. (Codependence vs Interdependence – healthy relationship vs dysfunctional)

Sacred Spiral

and they lived Happily Ever After

We are subconsciously programmed and emotionally set up in early childhood (by fairy tales which are later reinforced by books, movies, songs, etc.) to believe that a romantic relationship will lead us to “happily ever after.” This makes us feel like failures when it does not happen. Because we feel like failures and are codependent, we go to one of the extremes: we try harder to change the other person, to earn their love, to make them available; or we blame. (And trying harder is really about blaming ourselves, thinking that it is our fault, that we are not doing it “right.”)

There is no happily ever after in this lifetime, in these bodies – it is a misconception, a misinterpretation of Metaphysical levels of reality. Knowing that consciously, intellectually, does not help us stop feeling like a failure. It is vital to heal our emotional wounds and forgive ourselves for expecting life – and romance – to be something it is not.

“We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.”

Consciousness raising is a process of enlarging the intellectual paradigm which we base our relationship with life upon. As I have stated previously in this series, our beliefs, attitudes, and definitions determine our expectations and perspectives – which in turn dictate our emotional relationships to everything and everyone in our environment. And when I say everything, I am not just talking about objects. Everything includes ideas, concepts, opinions, etc.

In order to have healthier romantic relationships it is very important to examine our concept of romantic love. If we do not have a healthy concept – realistic definitions and beliefs about – romantic love, then we do not have much chance of having a healthy relationship. If our concept of romance is based on the fairy tales and books, songs and movies, from our childhood, then we are set up to be disappointed in our romantic relationships.

Read the quotation above and substitute “love” everywhere it says “life” and you might better understand why you have felt like a victim in romantic relationships. We were set up to be victims in romance because we were taught that it is a magical paradise where we will have all of our needs met – and live “Happily ever after”. We were taught that getting the romance was the goal and that after that everything was smooth sailing.” – Healthy Romantic Relationships – part 6, Romantic Love as a Concept

We were set up to feel like failures in romantic relationships by dysfunctional societal beliefs. Feeling like a failure is emotional – buying into the belief in failure is mental: two different levels of our being. It is very important in recovery to start being able to practice discernment in relationship to our own inner process. A major component in becoming empowered to take responsibility for being co-creators of our life experience is being able to recognize when our feelings are a direct result of the beliefs we are empowering. Becoming conscious of how our subconscious programming from childhood is still affecting us today is the only way we can change that programming. Consciousness can lead to empowerment when we are willing to focus on the things we do have the power to change – and own our power to make choices instead of being the victim of dysfunctional programming.

The intellectual paradigm we are empowering to define our lives determines our perspective of life and our emotional reactions.

“One of the biggest problems with relationships in this society is that the context we approach them from is too small. If getting the relationship is the goal, we will end up being the victim. If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment – it is a lesson. As long as our definition of a successful relationship is one that lasts forever – we are set up to fail. There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship that will last forever, expecting it to last forever is what is dysfunctional.”- Romantic Relationships and Valentine’s Day

When the intellectual paradigm which we are allowing to define our lives – the context in which we are relating to life / love / romance – is based upon the belief that if we do it “right” we will reach the destination of “happily ever after,” we are set up to feel like failures when we are not magically transformed by a relationship.

Sacred Spiral

Codependency in Romantic Relationships for Men and Women

I have been using the pronoun we – in this discussion of being set up to feel like failures if we do not reach a destination where we live “happily ever after” – because both men and women are programmed with this unrealistic delusion in early childhood. It is women however, who traditionally were brainwashed to believe that their self worth is dependent upon reaching this destination. As I mentioned in part 1, traditionally women in this society were taught to be codependent upon their relationships with men – while men were taught that their self definition and worth comes from what they do. Additionally, men were taught to be shut down to their emotions.

“In this society, in a general sense, the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the “John Wayne” syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive. But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing martyr. . . . . . .

When the role model of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive – that is emotional dishonesty.”

Both men and women had their relationships with their own emotions twisted and distorted by the messages and role modeling of a dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest, patriarchal culture. The traditional societal standards for appropriate female behavior included the belief that it was not appropriate (not “lady like”) for a woman to be angry or assertive – which not only makes it virtually impossible to set boundaries but also precludes real emotional intimacy. It is not possible to be emotionally honest and intimate in relationship to anyone with whom it is not okay to be angry. True emotional intimacy requires sharing all of our emotions. Someone who does not have permission to own anger is forced to use other methods to try to get their needs met, learns to manipulate in emotionally dishonest ways – crying when they are angry, or using sex manipulatively to gain power in a relationship, for instance.

And, though the traditional societal standards set men up to be “John Wayne” and women to be martyrs, this role was in reality reversed in many families due to the reactive extremes of codependency. In other words, some men who hated the abusive behaviors of their father / male role models would react to the other extreme, would suppress their own anger and become more passive and martyr like – and would then usually end up marrying a woman who was like their father. While a woman who could not stand the “doormat” role modeling of her mother, would become the angry abusive one in a relationship with a man who would be the doormat. Twisting things even further, in most cases, though the roles were reversed within the relationship inter-reaction, the couple would then try to look “normal” out in society – in other words, they would attempt to keep up appearances and be seen by others as a “normal” couple. Normal in this dysfunctional society meaning the man was the boss and the woman was his helpmate.

Men got the message from societal role models that it was not “manly” to be emotionally vulnerable. Someone who cannot be emotionally vulnerable is truly incapable of any level of emotional intimacy. Both men and women in this dysfunctional society were set up to feel like failures in romantic relationships, but it was women who were taught that their self worth depended upon success in the relationship. It is normally women who seek counseling because their self esteem is invested in the relationship. It is not possible to work out problems in a relationship without dealing with emotions – and a man is taught not to deal with emotions. A man focuses on the work that his self worth comes from and ignores problems in the relationship, and/or blames the woman for them. It is a double set up for women in this dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest society.

“We learn who we are as emotional beings from the role modeling of our parents and the adults around us. I have never had an emotionally honest male role model in my life. I am having to become my own role model for what emotional honesty looks like in a man.

Romance means nothing without emotional intimacy. “In – to – me – see” We can not share our self with another being unless we can see into our self. As long as I couldn’t be emotionally intimate with myself, I was incapable of being emotionally intimate with another human being.

It is absolutely vital to learn how to be emotionally honest with ourselves. It is impossible to have a Truly successful Romantic Relationship without emotional honesty. (Truly successful being used here to mean: in balance and harmony between the physical, emotional, mental, and Spiritual levels of being.) Sex can ultimately be an empty, barren animal coupling – involving physical pleasure but really having little to do with Love – without emotional & Spiritual connection.

This results in one of the major problem areas of many relationships. Without emotional intimacy many women get turned off to sex and withhold because their emotional needs aren’t being met – and men get angry because they don’t even have a clue of what women are asking for.

“Traditionally in this society women were taught to be codependent – that is take their self-definition and self-worth from their relationships – with men, while men have been taught to be codependent on their success/career/work. That has changed somewhat in the past twenty or thirty years – but is still part of the reason that women have more of a tendency to sell their souls for relationships than men do.” – Relationships & Valentines Day

It is a double set up for women in this society. First of all the men were taught that it was not manly to be emotional and that what makes them successful as a man is what they produce – and then women were taught that they needed to be successful in romantic relationships with emotionally unavailable men in order to be successful as a woman. What a set up!

It is not women’s fault. It is also not men’s fault. It is a set up.” – The Heart Break of Romantic Relationship – part 2

Men were programmed to be emotional cripples whose only acceptable emotional outlet was anger, and women were brainwashed to feel they had worth only in relationships to men. Truly a set up! Women were brain washed into defining themselves so completely in relationship to men that they give up their name for their husband’s name. (Of course, the name they give up was their fathers – a symbolic transfer of ownership.)

I will be addressing in more depth the traditional male and female roles in society – and the historical context in which our beliefs have been molded, including some recent changes brought about by the Feminist Movement – in a later chapter, but I wanted to make the point here of how our early childhood experiences and programming set us up to feel like failures. It is vital to start becoming conscious of this so that we can change the intellectual paradigm we are allowing to define ourselves and dictate our emotional relationship with life and love.

Sacred Spiral

right and wrong is a dysfunctional dance

Failure and success, winning and losing, right and wrong are part of the polarized belief system – the black and white thinking – that is the foundation, and cause, of codependency. Anyone who is thinking in terms of failure and success according to dysfunctional, delusional definitions is being codependent. They are exhibiting the programming – the brain washing – that results from growing up in a codependent culture.

When we believe in the deepest levels of our being, at the core of our programming, that we have to have a romantic relationship to be whole, to be happy and fulfilled in life, we are making that dream / delusion our higher power which determines if we have worth – which is a set up to feel like a failure. And because failure, being wrong, is considered shameful – a sign of unworthiness, of being defective – we end up putting a great deal of energy into blaming and/or denial. (Blaming is a manifestation of denial – and is only possible because of a polarized belief system.)

When our self esteem is dependent upon reaching “happily ever after,” we are set up to give away power over how we feel about our self to a delusion, a fairy tale. We look outside of ourselves and see other codependents – who were taught to keep up appearances and wear masks – who seem to have reached happily ever after. We feel like something is wrong with us because other people seem to be happy and successful and we feel like failures. We judge how we feel on the inside against how they look on the outside. And when those people that we put up on pedestals as having it made, prove to be human – get arrested, get a divorce, commit suicide, etc. – we are shocked (and sometimes secretly pleased) but we go right back to judging our self in comparison to someone else whose life looks better than ours feels.

As magical thinking children we were brainwashed / programmed to believe that love will magically transport us to happily-ever-after. We had that delusion reinforced by songs and books and movies. We are constantly being bombarded with advertising that uses our desire to be loved “happily ever after” to manipulate us into spending money on the magical ingredient that is missing – the right beer / car / clothes / makeup / medication / whatever – that will transform our lives.

It is a false belief, a dysfunctional concept, that sets us up to feel such desperate need for our dream to come true. When our feelings of self worth are dependent upon an illusion, we will put a great deal of energy into convincing our self that the dream has come true. Our investment in the fantasy, the dream, is what can make it so hard to let go of a relationship.

“It is letting go of the dream, the idea / concept, of the relationship that causes the most grief in every relationship break up that I have ever worked with. We give power and energy to the mental construct of what we want the relationship to be and cannot even begin to see the situation and the other person clearly.

Far too often – because of the concept of toxic / addictive love we are taught in this society – it is the idea of the other person that we fall in love with, not the actual person. It is so important to us to cast someone in the role of Prince or Princess that we focus on who we want them to be – not on who they really are. In our relationship with our self, we attach so much importance to getting the relationship that we are dishonest with ourselves – and with the other person – in order to manifest the dream / concept of relationship that will fix us / make our life worthwhile. Then we end up feeling like a victim when the other person does not turn out to be the person we wanted.” – The True Nature of Love – part 4, Energetic Clarity 2

What makes relationship break ups so difficult in a codependent society is not the pain of the romance ending – although there is certainly a lot of pain and grief about such endings – it is the shame that our disease beats us up with for: being “failures;” or for being unworthy and unlovable; or for being so “stupid” as to make such a “wrong” choice. Very often we hang onto a relationship long after it is empty and dead because we feel that ending it will prove that we were “wrong” – or that something is wrong with us. This is especially true in instances where our family or friends warned us that the person wasn’t good for us – then we have a great deal of ego investment in proving them wrong. This kind of attempt to avoid “failure” – to avoid admitting “defeat” – has caused many a person to stay in relationships that were abusive long after they knew it was hopeless.

The subconscious programming is so strong that it overrides common sense, intellectual knowledge, and conscious awareness – and keeps us putting a great deal of energy into rationalizing and denying reality. It is that subconscious programming – which can not be substantially changed without becoming emotionally honest, which includes releasing the repressed grief energy from childhood – that makes us powerless to live life in any way except reacting to the extremes of codependency. It is powerlessness over that programming that has caused us to be our own worst enemies.

“Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves. It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child – and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.

The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves. That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works.

The battle cry of Codependence is “I’ll show you – I’ll get me.””

It is a sad reality that many codependents spend their whole lives living in reaction to their childhood wounding. Whether we are trying to earn our parents love and respect by being what they wanted us to be, or going to the other extreme rebelling against them, we are living in reaction to childhood – we are not living our own lives. Many women, and men, have stayed in marriages – that they knew were a mistake on their wedding day – for 20 or 30 or 40 years because they were trying to prove their parents wrong, or trying to avoid the shame of “failing.”

As long as we are reacting to some arbitrary, absolute standard – a marriage that lasts is a success, one that ends is a failure; a man who is emotionally vulnerable is unmanly; a women who gets angry is not a lady; etc. – we are set up to live our lives in reaction. We are set up to feel like a failure, or to blame someone or something for how we live our lives. We are set up to feel like a victim. It is only by seeing our self and reality with more clarity that we can start to own our power to make choices instead of reacting. We become empowered to take responsibility for being a co-creator in our lives by owning our power to make choices. (Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice)

Until we start becoming conscious of the power of this subconscious emotional programming, we are powerless to do anything in our life except react. We do not have the ability to respond – response ability – if our choices are limited to right and wrong according to some arbitrary, dysfunctional cultural beliefs.

“We must start recognizing our powerlessness over this disease of Codependence.

As long as we did not know we had a choice we did not have one.

If we never knew how to say “no,” then we never really said “yes.”

We were powerless to do anything any different than we did it. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools that we had. None of us had the power to write a different script for our lives.”

A woman who stays in a marriage because she does not believe she has a choice to leave it, is not making a choice to stay. We can only Truly commit to a course of action by owning that we have a choice in the matter. Staying because we “have to” / it is “wrong” to leave, is not a choice.

Sacred Spiral

Traditional Family Values – patriarchal supremacy

It is people like Dr. Harley who trumpet the sanctity of “traditional family values” – the sanctity of the institution of marriage. The traditional context for family values and marriage in this society is patriarchal supremacy. To speak of marriage without acknowledging the historical reality of the treatment of women in society is not just ignorant, it is downright stupid – in my opinion.

“For all of the so called progress of our modern societies, we still are far behind most aboriginal cultures in terms of respect for individual rights and dignity in some kind of balance with the good of the whole. (I am speaking here of tribal aboriginal societies – not urbanized ones.) Nowhere is this more evident than in terms of our relationship to our children.

Modern civilizations – both Eastern and Western – are no more than a generation or two removed from the belief that children were property. This, of course, goes hand in hand with the belief that women were property.” – Inner child healing – Why do it?

Marriage has not been a full partnership, a Sacred Union, for most women in this society. It has historically been a form of indentured servitude. It is probably an appropriate irony that marriage is referred to as an institution – since in modern day usage that term is most often used to refer to places where people are locked up.

The first paragraph in Dr. Harley’s article is a very revealing one.

“Those of us in the business of trying to save marriages struggle daily with cultural beliefs and practices that make our job difficult. The sudden surge of divorces in the 1970’s, that has made America the country with the highest divorce rate, has a great deal to do with changes in our basic beliefs. More to the point, it has to do with a major shift toward self-centeredness. Beliefs that encourage self-centeredness destroy marriage.”

The “sudden surge of divorces in the 1970’s” for those unconscious souls like Dr. Harley who are not able to understand historical context, coincides with the rise of the Feminist Movement. What Dr. Harley identifies as “self-centeredness” is actually about the liberation of women – women starting to own their right to make choices. What so changed the basic beliefs that this man holds dear, is the empowerment of women to have a self – to be an individual with self respect and rights as a person, instead of an extension of men. Women being so “self-centered” as to want to be liberated from the codependent bondage of being defined in relationship to men, has definitely challenged the traditional marriage of indentured servitude.

He is no different than any small minded bigot or racist. He bemoans the changes in society that led “those people” to forget their rightful place in the white male patriarchal system. In this case, “those people” are women. Women have forgotten their place as the servants of truly self-centered, immature, emotionally crippled little boys masquerading as men. Those same immature men who run the world and are always going to war to protect their right to keep raping the planet and trying to steal all the toys away from the other boys.

“History has been, and is being, made by immature, scared, angry, hurt individuals who were/are reacting to their childhood wounds and programming – reacting to the little child inside who feels unworthy and unlovable.” – Loving the Wounded Child Within

When someone in a relationship is hanging onto to it for dear life to try to avoid feeling like a shameful “failure” – what could possibly be worse scenario for them than to go to a counselor who believes that relationships that end are failures. The “expert” who is supposed to be helping a couple resolve problems in their relationship has an agenda because the expert’s self esteem is invested in saving the marriage. That type of situation is, too often in a dysfunctional society, a sad reality when the people who are supposed to be helpers in the healing process are still unconscious to their codependency.

Any therapist who describes divorce as a disaster and believes his/her job is to save marriages, is empowering black and white, dysfunctional, codependent thinking.

“Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. has saved thousands of marriages from the pain of unresolved conflict and the disaster of divorce.”

Dr. Harley defines divorce as disaster, and believes that it is his purpose as a marriage counselor to save marriages. That is the belief system which he empowers. That is the perspective he will bring to any couple that comes to see him. It is impossible for him to see the relationship dynamics clearly as long as he has an agenda that he is projecting onto his clients. He is set up by his own beliefs to try to manipulate and shame people into staying in a marriage – no matter how dysfunctional that relationship may be – because it is what he bases his ego strength upon. Saving marriages is what he does – what he believes makes him successful, gives him worth.

What makes many divorce experiences feel like “disasters” is not the end of the relationship – it is the blaming that goes on to keep from feeling the shame of being a “failure.” It is the battle over who is “right” and who is “wrong” that causes so much emotional trauma. It is trying to identify – and punish – the villain, that makes divorce lawyers rich and emotionally wounds the children who get caught in the middle of this codependent dance of blame and shame.

On the day I was finishing this chapter 2, a man I had never met before came to our CoDA meeting. In the course of sharing, he started to talk about his parents. This man was probably around 50, and was going to visit his parents the next day. He started crying – struggling mightily to control his emotions, gulping shallow breaths and holding them as his body quivered. He choked out that he wished his parents hadn’t behaved so horribly in his childhood.

He recounted how his mother had said to him recently, “Oh, but our family wasn’t dysfunctional. Your father and I stayed together.” He cried as he said in a strangled voice, “That was a big part of the problem.”

Children are damaged just as much by parents who stay together in a dysfunctional marriage as children whose parents divorce. Sometimes it is even more damaging in the long run because the delusion that the family was successful is so strong that it makes it hard for the adult children to understand why they have lived their lives so dysfunctionally – after all, they came from a happy family. The happy family myth was the higher power the parents sacrificed themselves to maintain. Keeping up appearances to avoid shame, to avoid “failure.” Parents who stay together for “the children’s sake,” or to keep up appearances, are disasters as role models for what a romantic relationship looks like.

Any counselor or therapist who does not see a connection between the emotional wounds and intellectual programming of early childhood and problems manifesting in a marriage / romantic relationship, is not going to be able to help the people involved deal with the cause of the problems. Focusing on symptoms will not heal the cause.

For a marriage counselor to believe his purpose is saving marriages, without any consciousness of the cause of marital / relationship dysfunction, or of the historical context in which our beliefs about marriage have been programmed – is very diseased, codependent thinking, in my opinion.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce

Sacred Spiral

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light

A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.

The first two chapter of this online book is available through my regular website: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!

I have published two other chapters of this work as blogs: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)

I am going to be preparing Book 2 for publication in the coming months.

Chapter 5: Codependency = conditioned reactive programming ~ Pavlov’s Dog

Dr. Ivan Pavlov, a professor of physiology (the science of organic functions/processes,) won the Noble Prize in Medicine in 1904 for his study of the physiology of digestion. His study of the physiological process of digestion in dogs led him to studying the link between digestion and the autonomic nervous system. He found that he could train dogs to associate the ringing of a bell with food so that they would start salivating – which gave the stomach the message to start the digestive process – every time a bell would ring. Thus the term “Pavlov’s dog” entered language referring to conditioned reflexes that are learned as opposed to innate and natural.

The work of Dr. Pavlov formed the foundation for work of psychologist’s such as B.F. Skinner, who studied and refined his theories and in the process founded the field of behavioral psychology.

This branch of psychology ignores the unconscious which traditional psychoanalysis focused upon, in favor of behavior modification. Behavior modification uses positive or negative reinforcement to train animals or people to change their behavior into that which is more acceptable to whomever has power over that animal or person.

Behavior modification techniques are used extensively in institutions – prisons, mental hospitals, juvenile facilities – to control behavior and attempt to change behavior patterns.

Some years ago, I worked for a period of time in a Boys Home that employed behavior modification techniques. As much as I needed the money at that time, I couldn’t do the work for long (although long enough to be able to afford to buy my first computer.) It broke my heart to see wounded boys being treated like animals who needed to be trained.

Unfortunately in a dysfunctional society, behavior modification has it’s place because the medical and mental health systems are out of balance and dysfunctional.

The Dance

“Our mental health system not only does not promote healing – it actually blocks the process. The mental health system in this country is designed to get your behavior and emotions under control so that you can fit back into the dysfunctional system.” – Text in this color is used for quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

That a person’s behavior doesn’t fit into the accepted norms of the dysfunctional society is identified as the problem that needs to be changed. The underlying causes of that symptomatic behavior are not really addressed in institutions that structure their programs to rely on behavior modification techniques.

Behavior modification can be functional in terms of bringing about a temporary change in a person’s behavior but unless the causes are addressed there is no real fundamental healing that takes place. Psychoanalysis focused upon an intellectual understanding of cause – and it is ultimately dysfunctional because emotional healing is not a component of the work.

“What the researchers were beginning to understand was how profoundly the emotional trauma of early childhood affects a person as an adult. They realized that if not healed, these early childhood emotional wounds, and the subconscious attitudes adopted because of them, would dictate the adult’s reaction to, and path through, life. Thus we walk around looking like and trying to act like adults, while reacting to life out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of childhood. We keep repeating the patterns of abandonment, abuse, and deprivation that we experienced in childhood.

Psychoanalysis addressed these issues only on the intellectual level – not on the emotional healing level. As a result, a person could go to psychoanalysis weekly for twenty years and still be repeating the same behavior patterns.”

Focusing on symptoms and intellectual understanding while discounting the emotional trauma at the core of the programming, are manifestations of the dysfunctional perspectives of codependent cultures. Emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional cultures do not produce medical and mental health systems that are holistic – that treat the whole person.

I will discuss in more detail in later chapters the emotional component of human beings and the dysfunction that is manifested in human systems – including medical and mental health – at all levels by the false beliefs and masculine feminine imbalance caused by planetary conditions. The main point I want to make in this chapter, is that codependency is an effect of behavior modification.

Sacred SpiralCodependency = conditioned reactive programming

Awakening from the bondage of ego programming

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder / Brainwashing / Behavior Modification / Conditioned Reflex

Codependency is a conditioned reflex. It is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Codependence as Delayed Stress Syndrome.)  It is an effect of brainwashing, the result of behavior modification. Codependency is condition, or dis-ease, that is caused by environmental conditions and conditioning rather than a phenomena which is genetic or innate to human nature. (Disease = a disturbance in a natural process, an abnormal condition which disturbs normal organic structural integrity / process.)

The forms of behavior modification that cause codependency are both intentional and unintentional. Parents use some behavior modification techniques in teaching children how to behave. These are not inherently bad or wrong in and of themselves. Some of them may be useful tools in teaching social and survival skills to children. The intentional behavior modification techniques can also be abusive depending upon the intellectual paradigm / beliefs that are providing the standards for judging what behavior is acceptable. (i.e. If a parent believes that children should be seen and not heard they will be abusive in attempting to get the child to behave “properly.” On the opposite end of the reactive codependent spectrum, a parent who does not want to abuse their children in the ways they experienced in childhood, will often go to the other extreme, giving the children too much power and not setting proper boundaries for their behavior – this is a form of unintentional behavior modification and is also abusive.)

It is the unintentional behavior modification that is normally the most damaging. I spoke of the most powerful form of unintentional behavior modification in the third chapter of this work – role modeling.

“The single most important influence in the development of a person’s relationship with their own emotions is role modeling. Mom and Dad were our primary role models for how a male emotional being and female emotional being behave, for how they relate to, and express, their emotions. (As well as for how male and female relate to each other.) The cultural role models that we were exposed to – through books, movies, television, etc., – play an important factor also, but our primary role models were our parents.

The direct messages we got – both verbal (big boys don’t cry, little ladies don’t get angry, there is nothing to be afraid of, etc.) and behavioral (punishment for expressing emotions) – and indirect messages (the ways we interpreted and internalized the behavior of other people – parents, teachers, peers, etc. – as being personal punishment, as being our fault) we got both from our parents and from society play a part in that development, but role modeling has the greatest impact.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 3: Emotional Honesty

“If a culture is based on emotional dishonesty, with role models that are dishonest emotionally, then that culture is also emotionally dysfunctional, because the people of that society are set up to be emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional in getting their emotional needs met.

What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest. Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents. “Do as I say – not as I do,” does not work with children. Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting.”

Both intentional and unintentional behavior modification experiences play a part in creating codependency. A codependent society – that discounts the emotional and spiritual components of a human’s being and evaluates worth based upon external conditions (money, property, and prestige) and comparison to others (prettier than, smarter than, etc.) within a polarized (black/white, right/wrong) framework that defines wrong as shameful – conditions the people who grow up in that society to feel ashamed of their feelings and their humanity.

We were conditioned to “keep up appearances,” to keep our defectiveness secret. What would the neighbors think? Keep the family secrets – deny the elephant in the living room. (Referring to a metaphor about the power of denial in alcoholic families – denying the effect that alcoholism has on a family is like ignoring an elephant standing in the middle of the living room.)

We saw how our parents denied reality – and how much power they gave to what other people thought (or came from a family that lived the other extreme of rebellion and flaunting outrageous behavior in which case we felt ashamed because our family was different) – and we formed attitudes and beliefs based upon what we were feeling and hearing, seeing and experiencing. The reality we experienced in our homes – which were supposed to be our sanctuaries – was the only reality we knew. Those environments were where we learned how to live life and how to relate to other people. The conditions in our families dictated the behavior modification we experienced and internalized.

“We grew up having to deny the emotional reality: of parental alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, rage, violence, depression, abandonment, betrayal, deprivation, neglect, incest, etc. etc.; of our parents fighting or the underlying tension and anger because they weren’t being honest enough to fight; of dad’s ignoring us because of his workaholism and/or mom smothering us because she had no other identity than being a mother; of the abuse that one parent heaped on another who wouldn’t defend him/herself and/or the abuse we received from one of our parents while the other wouldn’t defend us; of having only one parent or of having two parents who stayed together and shouldn’t have; etc., etc.

We grew up with messages like: children should be seen and not heard; big boys don’t cry and little ladies don’t get angry; it is not okay to be angry at someone you love – especially your parents; god loves you but will send you to burn in hell forever if you touch your shameful private parts; don’t make noise or run or in any way be a normal child; do not make mistakes or do anything wrong; etc., etc.

We were born into the middle of a war where our sense of self was battered and fractured and broken into pieces. We grew up in the middle of battlefields where our beings were discounted, our perceptions invalidated, and our feelings ignored and nullified.

The war we were born into, the battlefield each of us grew up in, was not in some foreign country against some identified “enemy” – it was in the “homes” which were supposed to be our safe haven with our parents whom we Loved and trusted to take care of us. It was not for a year or two or three – it was for sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years.

We experienced what is called “sanctuary trauma” – our safest place to be was not safe – and we experienced it on a daily basis for years and years. Some of the greatest damage was done to us in subtle ways on a daily basis because our sanctuary was a battlefield.

It was not a battlefield because our parents were wrong or bad – it was a battlefield because they were at war within, because they were born into the middle of a war. By doing our healing we are becoming the emotionally honest role models that our parents never had the chance to be. Through being in Recovery we are helping to break the cycles of self-destructive behavior that have dictated human existence for thousands of years.

Codependence is a very vicious and powerful form of Delayed Stress Syndrome.”

Sacred Spiralrelationships horizontal and vertical

It is the nature of organisms of every living species on the planet to survive and propagate. The definition of “organism” is “an animal or plant internally organized to maintain vital functions.” (New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary, 1992) (I also believe that the planet Earth itself is a living organism – Gaia – but that is another discussion.)

There is some element within all living things that strives for survival. The higher up the evolutionary ladder an organism is, the more mental capacity it displays. This mental capacity – intelligence – gives it the ability to process information and adjust it’s behavior to maximize chances for survival.

The vital difference between human beings and even the most intelligent of animals is consciousness. Consciousness for human beings includes not only a capacity for self awareness – the ability to have a conscious relationship with self – but also a consciousness of something larger than self. This consciousness of something larger than self is what has driven human beings throughout history to seek some kind of supernatural force / higher power which gives meaning and purpose to life beyond mere survival.

“Codependence and recovery are both multi-leveled, multi-dimensional phenomena. It is very easy for me to write hundreds of pages about any single aspect of codependence and recovery – what is very difficult and painful is to write a short column. No facet of this topic is linear and one-dimensional, so there is no simple answer to any one question – rather there are a multitude of answers to the same question, all of which are True on some level.

So in order to facilitate writing a short column on this month’s topic, I am going to make a brief point about two dimensions of this phenomena in relationship to empowerment. These two dimensions are the horizontal and the vertical. In this context the horizontal is about being human and relating to other humans and our environment. The vertical is Spiritual – about our relationship to the God-Force. Codependence is at it’s core a Spiritual disease and the only way out of it is through a Spiritual cure – so any recovery, any empowerment, depends upon Spiritual awakening.” – Empowerment

“We are not animals – not that there is anything wrong with being an animal – but we have a consciousness of something larger, something beyond ourselves. We have a memory of some other place – of some place kinder and gentler and more Loving.

We are Spiritual Beings.”

As I say in this quote from my book, there is certainly nothing wrong with animals. Animals are a perfect part of the conscious living energy that is The Great Spirit. They are connected to the Spirit just as humans are. Your dog or cat or horse or whatever, may in fact be a part of your Self. Everything is part of the energy of ALL THAT IS. Everyone and everything is experiencing the Spiritual Evolutionary process. All human beings in reality have experienced not only being animals, but being part of the elemental forces of the planet.

“You have experienced being wind, rain, and fire as well as mineral, plant, and animal and can in special moments access emotional memories of those experiences. So you are not crazy for feeling at One with a tree or a bird or a speck on the wall.” – The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy History of the Universe Part I

I am not going to get into metaphysics or quantum physics in this chapter. I just want to make the point, that believing that one can communicate with the spirit of a loved animal – either alive or dead – is not necessarily crazy. That animals spirit may be some aspect of your Self that you have manifested in this life to help your self in your journey of Spiritual Awakening.

I am going address the phenomena of consciousness in relationship to the horizontal human experience – consciousness of self – in the remainder of this chapter and the vertical, Spiritual component, consciousness of Self in the next chapter.

(For anyone who has issues, is triggered, by references to spirituality or a higher power, please stick with me long enough to investigate what I have to say in the coming chapters – or you can check out my web pages Spirituality for Agnostics and Atheists or spiritual integration by clicking on these links. It is important to start awakening to how our childhood experiences have impacted our lives, so if the term Spiritual Awakening is causing you problems, think of it as what it also is, an intellectual awakening – an expansion of awareness.)

In a holistic approach to healing, it is vital to address both dimensions for a multitude of reasons. The most important in terms of this chapter, has to do with innate reflexes as opposed to conditioned reflexes. On the horizontal level, the innate programming for human beings carries the same priority for humans as does the innate programming of animals – survival. On the vertical level, survival is not the first priority. Our first priority on the vertical, in relationship to our Source – as Spiritual beings having a human experience – is to reconnect with Love, with our Source.

The survival programming that is innate to our nature as human animals in relationship to the horizontal has been in conflict with our vertical, Spiritual yearning to return home to Love – because planetary conditions caused the illusion that we were disconnected from our Source. This conflict has been at the core of the human dilemma. Planetary conditions have changed in a significant manner in recent history, making it possible for the first time in recorded human history for us to start learning how to integrate the vertical into the horizontal.

“A Transformational Healing Process has begun on the planet Earth. Due to a profound change that has taken place in the energy field of Collective Human Emotional Consciousness, resources are now available to us to do healing that has never before been possible in recorded human history. Human beings now, for the first time, have the capacity to directly address the core issues of the human dilemma.”

The purpose of codependency recovery and inner child healing is to clear up our relationship with the horizontal – with self and how we relate to everything and everyone in our human environment – so that we can learn how to integrate the Spiritual into the physical and bring some balance and higher meaning to this human dance we are doing. We are here in body at this time to manifest Love into this human experience. We cannot do that without first learning how to access Love for our self. In order to do that, it is necessary to awaken to how the environments we grew up in conditioned us to live life in a way that is dysfunctional in relationship to the Spiritual / vertical component of our being – in a way that does not work to help us reconnect with Love.

Sacred SpiralAnimals are trained – Human Beings are emotionally traumatized

Dr. Pavlov showed that repeatedly ringing a bell right before feeding a dog could result in a conditioned reflex. That a dog could be programmed in a way that caused an alteration in the dog’s internal processes, in it’s relationship with eating. He also showed that if the dog experienced the bell ringing without being fed enough times, it would revert to it’s normal digestive processes. In other words, conditioned reflexes can be unlearned.

This true in human beings also – which makes recovery from codependency possible. However the process – both of the programming and of recovery from the programming – is much more complicated and complex in human beings.

Human beings are only in part animal. Human beings are a composite of four essential elements / dimensions of being. Those four are components are mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Mind, body, and soul are three parts of a four part equation.

Animals do not have the intellectual capacity to define themselves in relationship to their environment. They do not have consciousness of self. Animals are not capable of self awareness. They live life in reaction to innate and/or conditioned reflexes / instincts.

Human beings have the ability to define self individually in relationship to their environment. Human beings have the capacity to remember the past and envision the future. Human beings have a relationship with self that is defined by their perspective of self in relationship to life, to other human beings, to everything in their environment. The quality of this relationship to both self and external stimuli is characterized as the person’s self worth or self esteem.

An animal does not have a sense of, or capacity for, such a relationship with self. Animals do not have self worth. Animals just are. They live in the moment being perfectly the animal that they are. Their life experiences – the intentional or unintentional behavior modification that life brings their way – can alter, distort, change their reactions to their innate reflexes / instincts but they adapt and go on surviving / maintaining their vital functions.

A dog can be abused so that it cringes and grovels – or so that it attacks and kills – but these are conditioned reflexes that are expansions of / adaptations of / distortions of their innate natural reflexes / instincts. A dog in the right environment can unlearn these conditioned reflexes over time. It does not cringe and grovel because it has low self worth, or attack and kill because it believes it is better than whatever life form it is attacking – it is reacting to distortions of it’s natural instincts. The behavior modification training it has been subjected to, the conditioning that it has experienced, has taught it to react in a certain way to certain stimuli (the ringing bell) in alignment with it’s survival reflexes.

Animals with higher intelligence can also have distinct, individual personalities and a capacity for emotional attachment. Animals have the capacity for emotional reaction.

Dogs are certainly capable of emotional reaction and attachment. And this emotional attachment can be so great that it will sacrifice it’s survival for the person / people it has that attachment to – but this is true rather the dog has been treated lovingly or abusively because part of it’s innate reflex programming is loyalty to it’s pack, which is part of it’s survival programming. Dogs have been selectively bred for centuries to see humans as their pack leaders. Dogs have been bred to be codependent upon humans – to see humans as their higher powers.

(This brings to mind an old joke. God made dogs to be a companion to humans. After a period of time, one of the angels came to God and said, “We have a problem. The human beings experience the dogs behavior and look into the dogs eyes and start thinking that they are god.” God said, “Well, I’ll fix that.” And God created cats.;-)

A dog who was abused as a puppy will cringe and shrink back (somewhat similar to internal feeling which causes the classic codependent form of codependency) or snarl and bite (one of the counterdependent flavors of codependency) when anyone attempts to touch it. This is a conditioned reflex. This can be seen as the result of emotional abuse, but it is not the result of the animal having a damaged self image.

An animal can be emotionally abused, but it does not have a conscious relationship with self that can be affected by that emotional abuse. When a human being is emotionally abused (and any type of abuse – physical, sexual, verbal – is also emotionally abusive Emotional abuse is Heart and Soul Mutilation) it is traumatizing because of the effect it has on the being’s relationship with self. It is because humans have the capacity for self awareness that emotional trauma has such a huge impact on our lives.

For a human being, any kind of abuse is doubly traumatic. The abuse itself – and the effect that the abuse has on the person’s relationship with self, their self image. The effects of childhood abuse are more long lasting and traumatic than the incidents of abuse in and of themselves. The capacity which human beings have for self awareness – a relationship with / perspective of self – dictates that any emotional trauma suffered in early childhood, when we are forming the foundation of our relationship with self, is internalized and integrated into our perspective of self. That core relationship with self then dictates how we relate to life and other people.

Emotional trauma directly affects one’s relationship with self – ones self worth and self image. Emotional trauma is internalized and becomes a part of the emotional, behavioral defense system adapted by the element of a human’s being that is responsible for helping a human survive on a horizontal level – the ego.

Ego – consciousness of self

The ego is the part of our being whose job it is to help us survive. It is a part of our internal structure that is organized to maintain vital functions, that fights for survival. It is the ego that defines our relationship with self according to it’s survival programming and to the conditioning it experienced in early childhood. The ego is the part of us which determines our perspective of self – our self image.

A dog who was abused as a puppy can unlearn their conditioned reflexes by spending enough time in a safe and loving environment. Although a safe and loving environment can be very valuable to a human being who is healing from their childhood wounding – the emotional trauma they experienced because of behavior modification experiences in early childhood – love from external sources is not enough to heal a person’s relationship with self.

“It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only way to do that is to own that child’s experiences, honor that child’s feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around.”

Intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior, experiences of a spiritual nature, faith in a Loving Higher Power, can help a person change their relationship with other people and life to a certain degree. It will not however, change the way a person reacts in the relationships that mean the most to them – it will not help them to open their heart to love and to being loved on the most intimate levels. Romantic relationships are the arena where our buttons get pushed, where our deepest wounds are triggered – which activates our emotional defenses.

We are not capable of having a Truly healthy romantic relationship, a Loving emotionally intimate relationship with another human being, until we start healing our childhood wounds in relationship to the trauma we experienced from the people we first opened our hearts to. Our parents were our first loves – and we were wounded in our relationships with them because they were wounded. We internalized and incorporated the conditioning from those initial experiences of opening our hearts to emotional intimacy into our relationship with self.

It is not our relationship with our parents that we need to heal in order to open to Love, it is our relationship with our self – the self image we formed because of our relationships with them. The healing we need to do is internal, in our relationship with self. Our ego adapted defenses to protect us in the environment we grew up in. In order to change our relationship with self we need to change our childhood ego programming.

“Codependence is an emotional and behavioral defense system which was adopted by our egos in order to meet our need to survive as a child. Because we had no tools for reprogramming our egos and healing our emotional wounds (culturally approved grieving, training and initiation rites, healthy role models, etc.), the effect is that as an adult we keep reacting to the programming of our childhood and do not get our needs met – our emotional, mental, Spiritual, or physical needs. Codependence allows us to survive physically but causes us to feel empty and dead inside. Codependence is a defense system that causes us to wound ourselves.”

The ego is not a bad thing, it was just programmed very dysfunctionally in early childhood. Our ego defenses are set up to protect us from the pain and shame of feeling unlovable and unworthy. The subconscious ego programming from my childhood was heavily invested in trying to protect me from the shame of admitting that I felt fear – or any other emotion that I thought made me less of a man.

“The ego is the part of us that is charged with responsibility for our survival. The ego is the seat of the disease of codependence.

Being born into an emotionally dishonest, fear and shame based, Spiritually hostile environments (based on separation rather than connection), caused us to be emotionally traumatized in childhood. In response to that emotional trauma our egos adapted some very dysfunctional programming. (Functional in terms of survival, but dysfunctional in terms of helping us to be happy and at peace within.)

For some of us, the wounding started in the womb where we: incubated in our mother’s fear and shame; or got addicted to adrenaline because of the emotional volatility of our mother’s life; or could feel our mother’s waiting for us to arrive to give meaning and purpose to her life; or felt how unwelcome we were because she had already had too many children and was feeling overwhelmed; etc.

We exited the warm nurturing cocoon of our incubator into a cold, harsh world. A world run by Higher Powers (parents and any body else bigger than us – siblings, grandparents, hospital or orphanage personnel) who were wounded in their childhood. Gods who were not emotionally healthy, and did not know how to Love themselves. Our egos were traumatized – and adapted programming to try to protect us from the pain of emotional trauma that felt life threatening.

The people we Loved the most – our Higher Powers – hurt us the most. Our emotional intimacy issues were caused by, our fear of intimacy is a direct result of, our early childhood experiences. Our lives have been lived in reaction to the intellectual paradigms our egos adapted to deal with emotional trauma.

The part of a child’s brain that is logical and rational, that understands abstract concepts (like time or death), that can have any kind of an objective perspective on self or life, does not develop until about the age of 7 (the age of reason.) As little children we were completely ego-centric and magical thinking. We did not have the capacity to understand that our Higher Powers were not perfect. We watched their role modeling, experienced their behavior as personal, and felt the emotional currents of our environments – worry, frustration, resentment, fear, anger, pain, shame, etc. – and were emotionally traumatized.

Our ego adapted itself to the environment it was experiencing. It developed emotional and behavioral defense systems in reaction to the emotional pain we experienced growing up with parents who were wounded codependents.

If you have ever wondered why it is so much easier to feel Spiritual in relationship to nature or animals, here is your answer. It was people who wounded us in childhood. It is people who our egos developed defense systems to protect us from.” – Reprogramming our dysfunctional ego defenses

The human left brain (logical, rational) is on one level – in it’s relationship to the ego – a rationalization computer, capable of rationalizing any behavior that the ego deems necessary for survival. (Even if this rationalization results in death. A suicide bomber for instance, is someone whose damaged ego perceives a martyrs death as preferable to a life of feeling like an oppressed and powerless victim. This is a wounded human being who has been forced by cultural programming / conditioned reflexes to channel a great deal of their emotional (and sexual) energy into self righteous victimization – into anger, rage, and religious fanaticism.)  It is possible for wounded humans to rationalize committing monstrous acts because the ego’s damaged programming. “Death before dishonor” is not such a noble cry when you take into account that dishonor for a man could mean admitting fear or crying. When one understands the emotional dynamics of codependency, it becomes readily apparent why emotionally dishonest patriarchal cultures manifest a lot of war and violence.

Our ego desperately fights to hang onto denial and rationalization – because to the ego it feels like a fight for survival, literally a life and death struggle. No one wakes up one morning and says, “Hey maybe I will do some emotional healing today – that sounds like fun.” We start doing this healing work because we are in so much emotional pain. We start doing it because we have hit an emotional bottom where rationalizations and denial no longer work. We start doing it because we have reached a point where emotional dishonesty is killing us – literally.

As long as we allow our ego programming to dictate our relationship with life, we will live life based upon fear.

“This human experience is a process that involves inherent conflict between the continuously changing nature of life and the human ego’s need to survive. In order to insure survival (which is the ego’s appointed task) the human ego needs to define things. What is food? What is friend or enemy? Who am I and how do I relate to them? What can hurt me and what brings me pleasure? It also learned that it is healthy to have a fear of the unknown (it was important to check an unknown cave for saber toothed tigers before strolling into it.) As a result, the ego fears change and craves security and stability. But because life is constantly changing, security and stability can only be temporary.” – Loving and Nurturing self on your Spiritual Path

“Fear of the unknown is a natural, normal part of being human. It has a purpose – and deserves to be honored as something which serves us. But, like our relationship with all the aspects of our being, our relationship with that fear is dysfunctional.

The damaged ego responds to it’s programming by generating fear of the things we learned to fear as a child: making mistakes; doing it wrong; being emotional; speaking our Truth; taking risks; being alone; not being alone; whatever. We then empower the fear by focusing on it, magnifying it, and generally giving it the power to define us and our life – or by denying it, which also gives it power because in denying our fear we are denying our self and reality. Going to either extreme results in the inability to see the situation clearly.

Because our ego was programmed to react to life from fear, negativity, scarcity, and lack (again due to emotional trauma we experienced, and the messages and role modeling of the adults around us) the disease focuses on and magnifies fear – and then it scrambles around trying to find something to cover up and repress the very fear it is generating. The disease blows the fear way out of proportion and then leads us to addictive and/or compulsive behavior as a way of stuffing the fear.

This is the essence of the dysfunction. We live our life reacting to fear, and the shame, that the disease empowers and then “helps” us avoid by causing us to focus on something outside of ourselves as the cause and/or the cure for the core place within us where we feel empty – where we feel unlovable and unworthy.” – The Recovery Process for inner child healing – through the fear

Allowing fear and shame to define and dictate our life experience is not a pleasant way to experience being human. Living life in reaction to our conditioned reflexes, to the programming our ego’s adapted in early childhood, does not work to help us relax and enjoy life. It is dysfunctional if we want to become free from the past and have the capacity to experience happiness, inner peace, and Love.

The way I found to start having some freedom from the past is to consciously start changing my ego programing and become willing to heal my emotional wounds. I was led into this conscious healing process by working a twelve step program to help me quit living in the emotional hell that alcoholism had created in my life. I did not get conscious that this was what I was doing until I started my conscious codependency recovery on June 3, 1986 – at two years and five months clean and sober.

Getting into recovery from alcoholism saved my life and led me to codependency recovery. Codependency recovery taught me how to live life in a way that allows me some freedom from the conditioned programming of the past – that allows me to have a great deal of serenity and Joy in my life today.

“It is the process of striving for integration and balance of masculine and feminine within (integration of Spiritual Truth into our relationship with our mental, emotional, and physical levels, balance between mental and emotional, between rational and intuitive, between feeling and thinking) that allows us to find some balance and harmony in our relationships with ourselves and with life. This striving for integration and balance (which working a Twelve Step program brings to an individual’s life – even if one is not conscious that that is what is happening) allows us to reach a place where we can be happy in the moment the majority of the time – happy, Joyous, and free.”

Unfortunately, there are many people in twelve step programs who have not been willing to get emotionally honest with themselves – who are scared of feeling the feelings because they haven’t changed the subconscious programming that keeps them in denial. That denial and emotional dishonesty keeps them stuck in bondage to the ego’s false self image.

One of the reasons that I feel compelled to keep writing more about this process is because there are so many wounded codependents out there who do not know how to do the integration and reprogramming work that will help them open up to Love. Hopefully, some of the ways that I am explaining the wounding and recovery process in this online book will speak to some of those wounded codependents – especially to all of the suffering codependents in Alcoholics Anonymous.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 5: Codependency = conditioned reactive programming ~ Pavlov’s Dog

Sacred SpiralCodependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light

A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.

The first two chapters of this online book are available through my regular website – the first chapter is a response to an online article about codependence that I found very codependent (thus the title of the first chapter): The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!

I have published two other chapters of this work as blogs: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.

Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light  Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)

I am going to be preparing Book 2 for publication in the coming months.