Powerlessness & Empowerment – why the 12 steps work

“The Twelve Step Recovery process is so successful because it provides a formula for integrating different levels. It is by recognizing that we are powerless to control our life experiences out of ego-self that we can access the power out of True Self, Spiritual Self. By surrendering the illusion of ego control we can reconnect with our Higher Selves. Selfishness out of ego-self is destroying the planet. Selfishness out of Spiritual Self is what will save the planet.

It is because there is more than one level of reality that life is paradoxical in nature. What is True and positive on one level – selfishness out of Spiritual Self, can be negative on another level – selfishness out of ego-self. What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.

Humans have always had expressions that describe the paradoxical nature of the life experience. Every ending is a beginning. Every cloud does have a silver lining. For every door that closes, another door does open. It is always darkest before the dawn. Every obstacle is a gift, every problem is an opportunity for growth.

These are all expressions that refer to the paradoxical nature of life – the seeming contradictions that are a result of the multiple levels of reality. When we start to understand and recognize that there are multiple levels of reality, then we can begin to unravel the paradox and see how all of the pieces fit together perfectly.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

One of the many things which confused me in early recovery were some seemingly contradictory statements that I would hear at meetings and from other Recovering people. There were several areas where this came up but the one which I remember puzzled me the most had to do with the concept of “selfishness.” I would read or hear how negative self-seeking, self-pity, and self-will were, and how selfishness and self-centeredness were the root of my problem. But then I would also hear, in a positive context that this was a selfish program and “to thine own self be true.”

Luckily, it wasn’t important for me to figure out this paradox in order to stay sober. I was in my fifth year of recovery when something that I heard in a meeting reminded me of my puzzlement and started me thinking about this paradox again. Someone in the meeting talked about how there were three steps that mentioned power. The first tells me that I don’t have it; the second tells me where to find it; and the eleventh tells me how to access it – through prayer and meditation.

So the steps tell me that I am powerless and then tell me how to access power. Were these two different kinds of power? I was real clear that the moment I accepted my powerlessness to stop drinking and using I somehow got the power to do exactly that. How did this work? How can powerlessness lead to empowerment?

It was while writing a book (not the one that has been published – this was actually the first writing I did, a Magical Mystical Spiritual Fable that will never be published in book form, but which greatly expanded my Spiritual Paradigm) about Spirituality that I started to see why there was paradox in life. I started to understand that there were different levels of reality. These different levels were the reason that what seemed to me to be tragedy (quitting drinking) could in the larger perspective, on a higher level, actually be a great gift. It helped me start understanding why there is always a “silver lining” – there is always more than one level of reality at play in any life experience.

That was when I started to understand that there were two very different levels of “self.” There is my ego-self which was traumatized and programmed in early childhood. The ego-self got the message that I wasn’t lovable or worthy because my parents believed that they weren’t lovable or worthy. In very early childhood my ego-self got the message that there was something shameful about my “being” – about being me. So the ego tries to defend me against the pain of not being good enough by trying to keep me separate from other human beings so they won’t find out about my defective nature. My ego built up huge walls to defend me and keep me separate. The only ones allowed through those walls were the people that felt familiar – in other words the very ones who were wounded in such a way that they would recreate the messages I received in childhood.

So the very defenses that the ego adapted to protect me actually kept me replaying the old patterns. This is why Codependence is a dysfunctional defense system – it doesn’t work to defend me.

What the Twelve Steps did for me was to help me start letting go of the ego-self’s faulty programming. When I surrendered trying to control things out of ego-self and started looking to a Higher Power is when I started to access my Spiritual Self. My Spiritual Self is the part of me that knows that I am a Spiritual Being who is related to everyone and everything – that we are all ONE. Through my Spiritual Self I have access to all the power in the Universe.

So when I started praying and meditating I started to access the power to change my life. And it was very important for me personally to realize that prayer and meditation did not just mean formal prayer and formal meditation. What I came to realize is that prayer is “talking to” my Higher Power and other Recovering people, while meditation is “listening to” my Higher Power and other Recovering people. I learned to talk to and listen to my Higher Power all day long – to keep the energy flowing between the physical level and the Spiritual level – between my self and my Self.”

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls  A Cosmic Perspective of Codependence and the Human Condition b

Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective of Codependence and the Human Condition


This book is available through Robert’s website or from Amazon Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Also available in eBook format: Amazon Kindle Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls and Barnes & Noble Nook

New December 2012 Announcing that a new audio version of Codependence The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective of Codependence and the Human Condition is now available on audible.com

This is a literal audio book with another narrator – not the audio that I did myself which was slightly abridged. I think that the narrator did a good job – but of course it doesn’t have the passion and the points of emphasis that the one I did has. As one person’s feedback stated about my version:

“The audio version is absolutely a mind-blowing audio spiritual experience! You rock, man!! It’s one thing to read the articles on the clinically electric computer screen and completely another level of involvement hearing the man himself utter his own words of wisdom and spiritual alchemy. One can tell that you aren’t just mumbling through a book you’ve written; while listening it becomes certain that the message truly is your spiritual truth and not just some neatly packaged intellectual mind job disguising itself in spiritual language. An enormous THANK YOU for sharing your story and perspective for all the world to see, I truly appreciate it, man!” – The version that I did is for sale as an MP3 download.

Joy to You & Me Presents an Empowering & Life Changing Codependency Recovery / Inner Child Healing Workshop in San Diego (next Feb. 23rd):  A Day Long Intensive Training in Robert Burney’s Spiritual Integration Formula for Inner Healing


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